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Sikkim’s bamboo hat maker Jordan Lepcha to receive Padma Shri award

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Jordan Lepcha Padma Shri

Gangtok: Jordan Lepcha, a craftsman of Sikkim who makes bamboo hats with stories of historical events and family values inscribed on them, was one of those selected for the Padma Shri award this year.

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The 50-year-old craftsman hailing from Lower Lingdong in Mangan district has been nurturing the cultural heritage of the Lepcha tribe for the past 25 years.

"The hats are worn during important events and formal functions. These hats are the identity of the Lepcha tribe," said Lepcha.

He has preserved the ancient craft of weaving traditional Lepcha hats, called "Sumok Thyaktuk", and bamboo crafts. He is one of a handful of skilled artisans involved with it.

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Only natural materials sourced locally are used in making of the hats, said Lepcha.

Stories of historical events such as the wedding of kings, bonding of family members or popular Lepcha folktales are inscribed in the hats created by the master craftsman.

The bamboo hats cost anywhere between Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 and takes about one and a half months to complete one.

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"Six or seven hats can be produced in a year. It is labour-intensive work which requires time, skill and concentration," he said.

Lepcha said he started this trade in 2003 when he realised that crafts that preserve the identity of a community should be protected and carried further for the upcoming generations.

He said he has imparted his knowledge to over 150 youths from different parts of Sikkim, many of whom now sustain themselves by creating their own bamboo craft items.

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"These hats have given me an identity of my own in society," Lepcha smiled.

Other than hats, the artisan makes items of everyday use like mugs, hair clips for women etc.

He adds that he has not advertised and marketed his craft on a large scale but fulfilled the demand from his community members.

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Lepcha said the preservation of this craft requires the Geographical Indication (GI) tag as it will help secure the art of hat making for the future.

The GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.

Lepcha said the process of GI registration has been initiated by the Sikkim government.

Happy to be honoured with the Padma Sri, he expressed hope that this award will bring more focus to this traditional craft.

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