In the serene landscapes of Manipur, a 27-year-old innovator, Bijiyashanti Tongbram, has turned the humble lotus stem into a source of inspiration and economic opportunity.
Her unique venture, ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal,’ has not only caught the attention of local leaders, including Chief Minister N Biren Singh, but has also received acclaim from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during one of his Mann Ki Baat radio program.
This article delves into Bijiyashanti’s journey, her innovative approach, and the transformative impact of turning the flower’s stems into exquisite yarns and apparel.
Bijiyashanti Tongbram’s Pioneering Innovation of Lotus Threads
Bijiyashanti, a graduate in botany honors, hails from Thanga Tongbram village near Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast region. In 2014, after graduating from GP Women’s College Imphal, her initial vision of establishing agro-tourism faced challenges due to resource constraints. Undeterred, she explored the medicinal properties of the flower’s stems, leading to the inception of her unique venture in May 2019.
The Yarn Creation Process: Merging Tradition and Innovation
At ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal,’ Bijiyashanti and her team break the flower’s stems at thumb-length intervals, carefully extracting fibers. With traditional hand techniques, they hand-roll and spin these fibers into delicate yarns, showcasing a process akin to the craftsmanship of muga silk. The lotus thread, although not as robust as muga silk, boasts a comparable finish, making it suitable for crafting scarves, stoles, neckties, and other apparel. Ayingbi, a weaver at the enterprise, notes that due to the delicate nature of lotus threads, the use of traditional handloom is currently more feasible than machines.
The Global Appeal of Lotus Fiber: Demand from Foreign Countries
Bijiyashanti’s innovative endeavor has garnered international attention, with clothes made from stem fibers experiencing high demand in foreign countries. This unique craftsmanship is a rarity globally, with similar work found in places like Myanmar and Cambodia. The global interest has not only provided a platform for showcasing Manipur’s traditional artistry but has also opened new avenues in lotus farming and textile production.
Recognition from Leaders: Chief Minister and Prime Minister Commendation
Bijiyashanti’s exceptional work has not gone unnoticed by local leaders. Chief Minister N Biren Singh has acknowledged her contribution to the field, recognizing the transformative potential of her venture. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann Ki Baat radio program, applauded Bijiyashanti for her innovative ideas, placing her on the national stage and inspiring others to explore inventive avenues in traditional practices.
Journey Beyond Yarn: ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal’ as a Catalyst
What started as an experiment with lotus’s medicinal properties has evolved into ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal,’ an enterprise that goes beyond creating lotus yarn. The venture, recently selected for Start-Up Manipur, now involves ten women, including Bijiyashanti, and has become a catalyst for empowerment and economic upliftment in the region.
Challenges and Future Aspirations: From Agro-Tourism to Textile Innovation
Bijiyashanti’s journey has been marked by challenges and resilience. Her initial vision of agro-tourism faced hurdles, leading her to explore the potential of lotus stems. Despite resource constraints, she has successfully transformed traditional practices into a flourishing textile venture. Looking ahead, ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal‘ aims to continue its upward trajectory, contributing to the revival of traditional craftsmanship, sustainable textile practices, and economic growth in Manipur.
Conclusion: A Floral Symphony in Threads
Bijiyashanti Tongbram’s innovative journey from the flower’s stem to delicate threads encapsulates the essence of blending tradition with innovation.
Her venture not only contributes to the global appeal of Manipur’s craftsmanship but also serves as an inspiring example of leveraging local resources for economic empowerment. As ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal’ continues to weave its story, the lotus threads crafted by Bijiyashanti resonate as a floral symphony, connecting tradition, innovation, and economic resilience in the heart of Manipur.