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Khada production - a leading small-scale industry in Kalimpong

Khada production - a leading small-scale industry in Kalimpong
Khada production - a leading small-scale industry in Kalimpong - Kalimpong has always stood tall in its own when it comes to small-scale industry. Be it locally made ‘Phing’ or the Bhutia incense sticks and even the sweet and milky lollypop, they all add to the flavour of the tiny but resilient hill town. Thukpa for a quick bite and locally made papers used by lamas in monasteries to write manuscripts also add to the variety of items manufactured in Kalimpong. The other important traditional item produced in Kalimpong is the Khada, or the silk scarf used for felicitations and greetings in almost all occasions. Khada industry is one of the oldest industries in Kalimpong and is arguably the biggest.
When a visitor reaches Kalimpong and asks for the area’s speciality, they all are awed by the answer they get and also get confused on what they should choose. A traveller’s bag will never be empty when they return from Kalimpong, some will have packets of ‘phing’ or lollypop while others will have beautifully embedded Khadas , thukpa, incense stick packets and other items which are locally produced. All these items are part of Kalimpong’s small-scale industry.
The trend of being a business hub of the hills started before the Indo-China war of 1962. Traders from Tibet used to travel to Kalimpong and sell their products, elevating the region as the centre of Tibetan goods. Items including wool, watches, herbal medicines and others were among the key items traded in Kalimpong. Although the trade subsided after the war, the small-scale industries started to flourish in the region.
The manufacture of Khada dates back to the same period and is one of the first items produced in Kalimpong. Earlier, Khadas used to be symbolic gift exchanged by the Tibetan and the Buddhist communities, but over the years the exchange of Khadas has become synonymous to many other communities across the hills of Darjeeling, Sikkim and to a large extend in the plain areas. Khadas are used in every occasion, be it wedding, birthdays, intellectual and cultural programmes and even when someone passes away. No wonder Kalimpong’s noted Nepali dramatist CK Srestha has christened its name as ‘Shraddha’ or respect.
In Kalimpong, the Khada industry is dominated by the Marwari community. “There are about 30 different verities of Khadas which are manufactured in Kalimpong,” Khada business owner Bajrang Aagarwal says. Normal, colourful, designer, Namjo, Dhaka, Sartan and Sada are among the many different types of Khadas manufactured in Kalimpong, he informed. “Kalimpong is the centre of Khada industry and almost the entire supply is covered from here,” Aagarwal further said. There are about a 1000 different families in the region who are into Khada manufacturing business. Agarwal also informed craftsmen who are into this business are in a lot of demand these days as its manufacture has also started in Nepal, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
There are more than 10 Khada printing houses in Kalimpong and women dominate major portion of the industry. Apart from Khadas, these printing houses also manufacture Lungda and Dhajas. Apart from being domestically sold, the Khadas manufactured in Kalimpong are also shipped to Sikkim, Ladakh, Bhutan, Nepal, Arunachal Pradesh and other Buddhist dominated regions.(EOIC)

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