Fascinating traditional head-gears of India

Theer are various forms of head-gears -  hats, caps, turbans, etc., worn by people world over. They serve various purposes. They protect  the head of the person, identifie  the groups or community and serve as a symbol of respect. Wearing a headdress is deeply associated with the culture and tradition of natives and the communities that belong to them. Native American tribes consider the presentation of an eagle feather to be one of their highest marks of respect. India is home to  a lot communities and hill tribes and each having its own distinctive style and tradition of wearing the head gear. Across India people belonging to various states have their own traditional headgear. The design and style of Indian topis or caps may vary from state to state and from community to community, but they give them a proper identity  and underline their cultural ethos.  Briefly given below are the types of interesting and colorful  headgear commonly worn in India  and their significance.

 01. The Jaapi or Japi, a traditional  hat from Assam:

The jaapi or japi, a traditional conical hat from Assam, India  is made from tightly woven bamboo and/or cane and tokou paat (Trachycarpus martianus) a large, palm leaf. The word jaapi derived  from jaap refers to  a bundle of taku leaves. In the early days,  plain jaapi leaves were used by  Indians for protection  against the scorching sun, Some Assamese wear ornate Jaapi which is symbolic of status, nobility and royalty.  The use of decorative  jaapi has been around for a long time since  the time of Xuanzang.  The hats are attractive and are  made with intricate cloth designs (primarily red, white, green, blue, and black) that are integrated into the weaving.  Visitors  are normally welcomed with colorful jaapi. It is worn during the traditional  Bihu dance and conducting ceremonies. It is believed it is a sign of respect in the conduct of ceremonies and, further, wearing the hat is said to protect the community  against negative forces.  Jaapi is displayed  around the house as a decorative item and is considered  a sign of hospitality.

02. Naga tribe's Warrior hat:

The Nagas wear ( made of Rattan, Goat Hair & Boar Tusk) the Warrior’s hat on the days of festivals along with lots of jewelry. Naga's hat, conical in form,  has a fine patina and clear age. It is made from woven un-dyed cane base over which is fixed a mat of thin, red-dyed  cane interspersed with the dried yellow cane which itself has an excellent, deep patina. A plume of red-dyed goat's hair is attached to a curved bamboo sliver that is covered in the dress of a Naga man. Size of hat: height: 34cm, length of base: 20cm

There are many Naga tribes living in NE India and their hat is suggestive of their place of residence.  Hemi Naga people of Western Burma & North Eastern India follow similar tradition.

03.  Sikh’s Dastaar or Pagri:

The name of the headgear worn by the Sikhs is called  turban or "pagri" which is compulsory for  all Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh men and women. It is  associated with Sikhism and is an important part of the Sikh culture.The style of the turban may vary, depending on the orders being followed by them and the groups. Even some orders prefer a particular color for their turban.

As for the Sikhs, the Dastaar is a symbol  of faith that represents honor, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. The Khalsa Sikh men and women, who keep the Five Ks, wear the turban partly to cover their long, uncut hair (kesh). The Khalsa Sikhs regard the Dastaar as an important part of the unique Sikh identity.

04. Marathi’s Traditional Turban- Petha:

World  famous cricket players Dhoni and Tendulkar. ekmarathimanoos.blogspot.in/
Marathis of certain sections wear a headgear called Petha. It is commonly worn by them  when participating in festivals and ceremonies. The length of the traditional Phetha, a long piece of cloth,  may be measuring 3.5 to 6 meters long and 1 meter wide. The color of the headgear suggests the name and nature of  the occasion. There are different kinds of  pethas and among them - the puneri, the kolhapuri, the mawali petha are well-known..

05. The Traditional Mysori Turban - Peta:

Mysore head gear. postagestamps.gov.in/

Maharaja of Mysore Jayachamaraja Wodiyar.Wikipedia

Among the head-gears of South India, the traditional headgear worn in the state of Karnataka, particularly, in the Mysore and Kodgu region is called Mysori Turban, Of late, considered as a heritage symbol, Mysori Peta is a popular one. Distinguished guests who visit these places are honored  with it and a shawl. The name Mysore is synonymous with  Indian sweet item called Mysore Pak, Mysore peta (Topi), Mysore silk (saris) and Mysore sandlewood paste (perfume). Mysore rasam is part and parcel of  south Indian meal(lunch).

Mysore Peta (in Kannada Peta means turban) is a classical headgear worn by the erstwhile rulers of Mysore - the Wodeyars' Royal family. They used to wear rich bejewelled turban made of high quality silk and jari (gold threaded lace) befitting their royal status. 

Yet another fact is the administrators closer to the ruler such as Dewan, chief engineers, judicial officials and others had the privilege of wearing the Mysore peta, thus displaying their status and power associated with the royalty. Even after Independence, , the traditional Mysore peta has been retained as a symbol and legacy of princely status. 

06. Imamah- The Muslim Turban:

Imamah, a turban typically worn by the Muslims in India may have common colors such as  white, black, gray and green. As for the design and the material used to make the headgear, they  may vary among the regions. The cloth measures  normally  142 inches long  and 26.5 width. The following are the attributes:

The tying of the turban is a “Sunnat-e-Mustamirrah” (perpetually adhered to the practise of Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam).“Tie the turban. It will increase you in forbearance” (Fatḥul Bāri),“Wear the turban as it is a sign of Islām and distinguishes between a Muslim and Kāfir”

 For every fold of the Imamah that a Muslim wraps around his head, he will be given one Noor on the Day of Judgement. [Suyuti, Al-Jami’ as-Saghir, Page 353, Hadith 5725]

My nation will remain steadfast on truth as long as they tie turbans on hats. [Daylami, Musnad Al-Firdows, Vol. 3, Page88, Hadith 4247.

Whoever wears an Imamah; he gains one virtue for every fold . [Jam’ al-Jawami', Vol. 5, Page 202, Hadith 14536].

 Tie the turban, your tolerance will increase. [Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn lil-Hakim, Vol. 5, Page 272, Hadith 7488].

 Offering Salah whilst wearing an Imamah is equivalent to 10,000 virtues. [Daylami, Firdaus bima’ Saur al-Khattab, Vol. 2, Page 406, Hadith 3805].

07. Unique Naga Headgear- Tsula:


The North Eastern  State of Nagaland has a unique headgear  and the  natives wear it  for various reasons. It is neither a skull cap nor is it a simple hat worn by westerners or others. The unique Naga headdress is synonymous with position, status and power one is wielding in the society. Nobody is allowed to wear the Naga headgear just  for the heck of it. In the Naga community, head-gears are either inherited  from the family or have to be  earned  by doing something worthwhile or something great not tried before. In such cases, the headgear is more or less like a trophy to be used by the user and his heirs, The Naga headgear is different from others. They are  are adorned with horn bill bird’s beak, boar tusks and feathers, animal skulls, etc and these decorations make them unique and attractive. Also included is a special kind of hat decorated with the feathers of a horn bill which is a rare bird. In tune with the English expression " adding a new  feather to the hat" the number of feathers on the  cap will symbolize the number of achievements made by the Naga member.

08. Himachali Cap:
In the state of Himachal Pradesh, certain regions have different topis  and in this respect Kully valley is different then Chamba, Lahaul people have red, Kinnaur Green whereas people from  Spiti wear traditional hat. A peculiar aspect of this state is the topis have some political overtones. Young people also relate the topi color with political parties; for example   Green is for Congress and Red for BJP.

Topis of Kumaon (nehru topi) and Garhwal  are more or less similar. Kinnaur topi is very traditional, and has been around for a long time.

09.. The Colourful Safa From Rajasthan:

Rajasthan is a colorful state, so are the turbans, native to the state. Turbans worn by Rajasthanis are called Pagari or safa. The most impressive feature of Rajasthani turbans is their assorted, pleasing colors that will touch your heart and mind. With the desert in the backdrop, they will never fail to grab your attention. Yet another interesting fact is each color of the turban signifies  something unique. For example, the Ocher is the color of the mendicant, saffron color is preferred during  weddings and other auspicious occasions. In some places, saffron color is indicative of valor and wisdom.

10. The Nepali Topi- Birkhe from North East India:

Nepalese cap. www.pinterest.com
The traditional caps of Nepal  called Nepali topi, the dhaka topi or the birkhe topi  are worn in certain part of North India and invariably, they are made of common fabric with assorted colors. These traditional caps come in different prints, and more often than not, they are worn on important occasions like weddings and religious festivals. Young people do wear the topi on important occasions.

11. Perak- The Fine Headgear of Ladakhi Women:

Ladakhi woman with ahead gear
Native women of Ladakh  wear an attractive headgear called perak. Unlike many head-gears of other states, that are made of fabric, 
etc., Perak is unique in appearance  and is made of black lamb skin and is studded with semi precious turquoise stones. The  perak covers the woman's head like a cobra's hood and gently tapers to a thin tail reaching down the back,When a Ladakhi woman wers Perak, it gives her stunning look and  attracts the attention of other people.
Ladakhki men's cap.postagestamps.gov.in/

12. The Colorful  Kullu- Pahari Topi:

Pahari Topis are  native to Kullu and it reflects the artistic talent of the local people. The common colors  available are  maroon and green. Invariably, guests visiting the state are their presented  with traditional headgear which is the  pride of Himachal region and this practice has been in vogue for a pretty long time. Such topis are known to be worn on the wedding and festive occasions. 

13. Angami Tribal Cap:

Angami tribe lives in the sate of Naga land, NE India and it is one among the 20 tribes living there. Their population may be around 12 million. They mostly live in the district of Kohima.Their woodcraft and artwork are known all over India and they are good at producing attractive pieces of artwork in bamboo. The women wear a hat with wide brim, using bamboos, etc. They eat rice, vegetables and pork. Mostly they are followers of Christianity.

14. Karakul (or qaraqul) hat:

A karakul (or qaraqul) hat (Pashto/Persian) is a hat made from the fur of the Qaraqul breed of sheep, often from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses. The triangular hat is worn by native people of Kabul and has been around for  many generations. It is popular among men in Afghanistan. Pathans living in India wear this cap. The hat is peaked, and folds flat when taken off of the wearer's head. It was was worn by the former king of Afghanistan, Amanullah Khan in 1919. The karakul, in the last century, for unknown reason, became less popular in Afghanistan.



A Sikh’s Dastaar or Pagrirobertharding.com

The Traditional Mysori Turban - Petashopclues.net

Imamah- The Muslim Turbankangaswad.files.wordpress.com


The Colourful Safa From Rajasthanflickr.com- Cécile C

The Nepali Topi- Birkhe from North East Indianotonthehighstreet.com

The Colourful Caps from Kullu- Pahari Topipintrest.com
Jacobs, J., The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India, Thames & Hudson, 1990.