Bijiyashanti Tongbram’s unique take on sustainable fashion finds mention on PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat

Mann ki Baat’s 100th episode: Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to his monthly radio broadcast Mann ki Baat on its 100th episode to look back at some of the highlights of the show’s iconic more than eight years run. As such, he spoke to Manipur’s Bijiyashanti Tongbram, from Thanga village near Loktak, Bishnupur, of using lotus stem fibre to weave delicate mufflers, stoles and facemasks.

Turning a completely unused part of the lotus plant, which is found in abundance in the Loktak freshwater lake, into beautiful garments, she has made a mark for herself, the Indian Prime Minister noted.

According to an exclusive report from 2021, in May 2019, Bijiyashanti started spinning yarn from lotus stems and weaving neckties, mufflers, etc., with the help of a handful of women from her locality. Subsequently, she set up an enterprise ‘Sanajing Sana Thambal”, which now has 30 women, including her. “I want to expand with 100 women,” she told Modi in a telephonic conversation on the show.

On the Prime Minister’s question on whether everyone knows about lotus stem fibre, Bijiyashanti said, “Yes, sir…now it is very popular. I have got a market…from USA also…they want to buy in bulk also. From this year, I plan to export my products as Made in India lotus fibre. I want to make sure my products reach all over the globe.”

What is lotus fibre?

Fashion designer Gaurav Gupta who has been working with such lotus and rose fibre made fabrics and will soon be out with his collection told, “It is quite a beauty in terms of the feel and look. It is a fact that a fabric can be made from rose and lotus, which are natural bast micro fibres made from the stems.”

Explaining that sustainablity is an indicator of its biodegradability, Gupta said that such fabrics don’t contain polyester and synthetic yarns, which makes it eco-friendly.

“Since it is made from waste (of the plant), it becomes a part of the circular economy just as bamboo, aloe vera and banana,” Gupta added.

As per, stems of lotus plant are collected when the flowers of the lotus are in full bloom. The deep pink flower consists of best quality fibres.

From the petals, the fibre is extracted and then from the fibre, yarns are spun into fabrics either in the mills or by humans, Gupta mentioned.

“As the count is low, one has to interlace it well to make it usable,” Gupta mentioned, stressing that handspun fabrics even cost 2-3 times the actual cost owing to the human efforts.

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