Ply-splitting, one of the simplest forms of textile structure, is a commonly used technique the world over for the weaving of animal trappings; in Nepal, however, it is attached as a headband or tumpline to the traditional carrying-basket, dhoko, which is carried by porter(s) on their back(s). The namlo is strong and firm, yet flexible, and moulds itself comfortably over the porters forehead. It is also frequently used as a back strap as it serves the additional purpose of helping to balance evenly the load on the back. These headbands are made of varied fibres, including allo, jute, and sisal or bark, though allo produces the strongest bands.
The broad width of the namlo rests comfortably on the porters head; its importance can estimated from the fact that often porters are required to carry twice their own weight of load in the baskets that they lug uphill along sleep inclines. The Imperial Gazetteer of India (Provincial Series) on Nepal in 1908 states that:
The Bhotias carry enormous loads. It is by no means uncommon for a man to take two maunds, though one maund (8 lb.) is the regular load, and this has to be carried over hills several thousand feet in height where the paths are of the most primitive construction. The Bhotias always carry loads on their backs supported by a strap across the forehead....
Being porters - like trading and army service - offers a way of earning the supplementary income that is so essential in areas of scarce subsistence-level farming.
Share on Facebook