Coronavirus | Lockdown innovation makes Assam’s iconic headgear foldable

Student’s start-up on handicraft and wildlife conservation designs a portable japi

May 01, 2020 06:02 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:20 am IST - GUWAHATI

(Rupankar Bhattacharjee with the foldable japi he designed during lockdown. SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

(Rupankar Bhattacharjee with the foldable japi he designed during lockdown. SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

A Guwahati-based student’s start-up has designed a foldable japi , a farmer’s protective headgear whose decorative avatar underlines Assamese culture and hospitality.

Rupankar Bhattacharjee had registered Earth Craft, a start-up, six months ago for blending handicraft with nature conservation. The innovative aspect of the venture took off after the world beyond his home shut down because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The temporary break from assignments related to his academic pursuits — he is a member of Help Earth, an Assam-based NGO focussing on biodiversity conservation — made the 22-year-old come up with the foldable japi .

“Conservation work makes me meet people from abroad and other parts of India who want to take a japi home but are dissuaded because it cannot be put in luggage without being damaged. It is also not allowed at the airport security check,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

This made him think of a technique that would make the japi damage-proof and allow it to be folded and packed in a bag easily.


He worked on biodegradable scrap and medium-density fibreboard, an engineered wood product, to fold a larger japi , 3-6 ft. in diameter, in half and an average japi to one-fourth its size.


The traditional japi is made of bamboo and leaves of tokou , a local variety of palm decorated with pieces of colourful, patterned cloth.

“The foldable japi can be made with any material provided it is made piece by piece to fit onto the base plate designed to fold. We may go for commercial production but we are experimenting more to ensure the technique is fail-safe,” Mr. Bhattacharjee told The Hindu .

He added that Earth Craft was floated as a non-profit to plough earnings from handicraft sales into the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife, specifically reptiles and amphibians.


Jayaditya Purkayastha of Help Earth hoped the student’s innovation would remove the constraints the large japi encounters for global outreach.

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