Dr. Gautam Chatterjee  




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Head-dress Culture of India 



Head-dress or Pugree, as a concept of costume, had come down to us from hoary past.In the pre-historic era the primitive man fell in love with himself and started cultivating an aesthetic aspiration of self projection! The very feeling of self-beautification and protection against natural odds was the pivotal hinge whereupon the gradual evolution of costumes started.

Long before the primitive man could weave clothes for himself, he conceptualized the girdle though it was meant to be used as a suspender or holder of costumes as it is in vogue today. But this was merely tied around the waist with no cloth around and it served as a pocket to keep the stone-age man’s ingenious gadgets. This girdle was of plant bough or stem which enabled the ancient man to keep his hand free and movement unhampered. Nevertheless, this was the conscious beginning of the evolution of costumes.

Similarly, the pre-historic man found his head and hair as natural suspender for self-pleasing decoration. So he hung leaves,flowers and feathers from his head and continued to satisfy his inner cravings for beautification. But this initial head decoration could not meet his material need of protecting his head for Sun ,weather vagaries etc. Thus perhaps the primitive man improvised his headdress and developed some kind of a head-gear which served the purpose of decoration and protection as well. A parallel to this can be found in many near-extinct aboriginal of the world today, who had developed consciously beautiful natural head-wraps which served as a sound protection system against natural odds.

Academically speaking, the first reference of head-dress is found in the pre-historic rock paintings which were created by hunter-gatherers some ten to thirty thousand years ago. In the Indian rock art sites of Kumaun,Bhimbetka or in Rock art sites in Kerala one can find enormous reference of ‘the then’ activities of those era. Those visual records depict mainly hunting and dancing,wherein head-dress remained important. Those headgears were mainly of animal horns or mask-like animal faces over their head. They sported those during amusements or on a hunting spree ! While hunting,with animal face head-gear they used to get mixed up with the target animals,this perhaps eased the process of hunting. Thus we see head-dress remained an important aspect even in the pre-historic India.

In the Rg Veda we find the reference of Head-gear which were sported during Yagnya and those are of varied colours. Similarly,in the Mohnejodaro and Harappan culture we find ample references of head-dresses. Thus we find that from pre-historic times the headdress culture manifested in different forms which are still in vogue. Before,we delve further the development of Head-dress in India we should try to understand why head-dress is called Shirostran in ancient times. Shir means head and tran means protection. Thus, head-wrap or pugree means head-protection apart from being an object of veneration which underwent graded glorification down the ages.

However, while tracing the historical development of head-dress one can find that Indian society used head-wraps centuries before the European world took to wearing hats as a part of its regular costume. During the Bizantine civilization in the 11th century A.D. head-dress became a regular feature which was later passed onto the European world.Whereas Indian society was sporting head-dress as a regular costume by c. 10,000 B.C. From archeological evidences of Bharhut,Bhaja,Bodhgaya,Sanchi,Mathura in Northern India and Mahabalipuram in the South, we find that head-dress for males and females were common. The early headgear was voluminous and pugree were folded over the head with a loose richly embroidered end.

Dr.G.S.Ghurya, an exponent in costume history analyzed that the female wore pugrees without any projections.But the male Pugree,was projected vertically, frontal or sideways. However, later on, male pugree became of appropriate size. Nevertheless, with the passage of time pugree underwent distinctive changes in its style shape and colour. Today, we see pugrees of myriad shapes and shades of colour temperatures which inspire an awe amongst onlookers!

One wonders whether this headdress is a mere rudimentary functional object to protect the wearer from the heat of the Sun or a safeguard against the biting cold of snow clad mountains! Yet, this Pugree is not a simple head-cover but it has a mystic socio-religious semblance and has served as a customary symbol in man’s socio-cultural endeavour. Behind every size,shape or colour of Pugree there is a secret meaning which signifies the origin of wearer, his dialect, religion,caste and as well as his profession. There are strict unwritten laws which govern the use of Pugree.But sordidly enough Pugree in this century is gradually becoming an obsolete object as modern pseudo-urban cultural onslaught dislodging its ancient gloary.Thus, at this juncture, it is important to gauge the symbolism of Pugree from the pan-Indian perspective because India is a land of Pugree.

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Symbolism of Pugree

Since time immemorial Indian Pugree has remained a central force of cultural heritage and acquired several signs and rituals around it. In ancient Indian Sanskrit literature we find ample reference about the Pugree which was used as a symbol of veneration. In the later Vedic period Brahmins were placed above the king in the then hiearchial order of the society. In this regard in the play Charudatta we find that the Brahmins officiating at the sacrificial session of Duryodhara are described as having their feet rubbed by the head-clothes of king---Rajnaam vestanapattaghrstacarnah. Thus it was a description of symbolism of submission of Kings to the Brahmins on the occasion of ritualistic sacrifice.

Socio-culturally Pugree has been held high in esteem and could perform Yagnya without Pugree.In the vedic period during Rajasyua Yagnya one had to wear Pugree in a particular style,rationality of which is hard to understand but seems to have been a deep rooted custom. Around 300 B.C. we find references about Rishi Apasthamba asking his student to take off their Pugrees while approaching their teachers. This was practiced evidently as a token of respect to the teachers.

In the medieval era Pugree was epitomized as a sign of honour.None was allowed to enter the royal court without wearing a Pugree. Though as symbol of respect bowing or taking off Pug before the Emperor was in vogue in some cases.To lay down one’s pugree before the king, or anybody, signified one’s absolute submission. Even today especially in northern India temples and Mosques none enters bare-headed. Thus donning Pugree had been a sign of respect from the Royal courts to the ecclesiastical institutions as well.

In Rajasthan sporting Pugree is a sign of mutual respect and exchanging one’s turban signifies entering into relationship. Trampling over a Pugree is considered as a grave insult. But removing one’s turban by the self is considered as a gesture of seeking forgiveness or a favour.And placing of Pugree at other’s feet is symbolic of total surrender. It is customary to present Pugree to the bridegroom’s family which is locally termed as Sirorao. Pugree is also used as a symbol of family succession.When the head of the family dies the eldest son is bestowed with the responsibilities of the family through the ritual called Pugree ceremony,which is specially in vogue in Northern India.This occasion takes place on the 12th day of death in the presence of family members and relations which symbolizes that the honour of the family is to be shouldered by the new heir. A parallel can be drawn with King’s coronation ceremony.

Apart from these objective symbolisms, shades or colours of Pugree in Rajasthan denote a special significance. The month of February and March are symbolic of harvesting and blooming flowers. Thus people during these months sport white coloured Pugree with red dyed ends creating a striking contrast. This known as Falguniya Pugree.For the month of July the colour is pale pink which is followed by green colour Pugree in the monsoon season. However, an auspicious occasions, Rajasthani people sport a pancharanga Pugree which is a combination of saffron,pink,red,yellow and white. It is interesting to note that for funeral processions, people sport white coloured Pugree and sporting dark blue or maroon Pugree one visit the bereaved to show condolence.

These are the basic pointers of symbolism of Pugree. Before undertaking a cursor look into the historical development of Pugree we should understand how in different ages the Indian Head-gears were named or christened differently.

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Excavating The Genesis

Ancient Sanskrit literature is replete with references of Head-dresses and head-wraps were commonly termed as Ushnisha, Kirita,Patta,Vestana,Vestanapatta,Sirovestana etc. Those head-dresses were generally of white colour and ornamented as per requirements of status of wearers.

Banbhatta’s Kadambari throws some light on the material used for Pugree. It describes: "The divine person that arose out of moon at the death of Pandurika had made up the knots of his head-dress with a piece of white fine silk".This reference is related to Sirovestana.

C.R.Devodhar while analyzing the role of language in the ancient Sanskrit plays had touched upon the topic of head-dress and wrote in 1937 that ‘Yaugandharayana,on the eve of the skirmish that was to ensue between followers of Udayana and soldiers of the king of Ujjain is described as wearing a white turban ‘Pandurabaddhapattah’. In the Hariscarita the renowned author Banbhatta fancies the river Mandakini to be a fold in the silken turban of mountain sumera--Amsukosnisapattikamiva Sumeroh.

Head-dress was also referred to as ‘Kirita’ in Banbhatta’s Kadambari. The princes and Kings gathered round the king Tarapida were wearing Kirita for their headdresses.Furthermore, Banbhatta narrated thus "The followers of Chandrapida too were jewelled Mukuta on their heads". Since the early days the headdress of Kings had been of special significances and essential symbolic ritual on the occasion of coronation. Similarly, in Kalidasa’s famous play Raghuvamsa we come across certain interesting details about the preparation for the coronation. It describes "the hair was tied up in some kind of a knot so as to stand perpendicularly,with a pearl-string intermixed with flower garland. Thereupon was fixed a resplendent jewel".

As evident from literary sources the King’s head-dress was referred to as Ushnisha.This apart from being royal symbol, Vedic people wore it to project its glory. Maitrayani Samhita describes Ushnisha were worn by king,which was a kind of tiara,especially during the Rajasuya and Vajapega sacrifices. R.N.Saletore in his celebrated Encyclopedia of Indian culture said that king used to wear Ushnisha daily. On the score of sporting Ushnisha, Saletora quoted Kautilyas Arthashastra and recorded that "an official called Usnisi was received by troops of women armed with, in the first compartment of his palace. In the second compartment he was to be received by Kanchuki, who presented him with his coat (Kanchuka) and the Usnisi who handed over to him his turban (Ushnisha).He also received like the aged persons and other personal attendants a salary of 60 panas annually".Thus was the glory of Ushnisha. However at times this was termed as Mauli,Vestana of Kings’ crown.

However, the term Pugree for head-dress is very common today which was presumably coined in the 13th century A.D. In a description of then contemporary account of Chand Bardai we get some glimpses of Pugree. He wrote in c. 1200 A.D. that ‘Prithiraja...wore a pagai ornamented with jewels, with splendid toro. In his ear he wore pearls,on his neck a peral necklace’. On the concept of Indian head-dress Sir. T.Herver,a seventeenth century traveller, wrote in 1677 that " I find it is the common mode of the eastern people to shave the head all save long hair which superstitiously leave {mine: perhaps bodi or Shikha} at very top, such especially as to wear Turbans, Mandils,Dustars,and Puggarees".

The term ‘turban’ got currency in the 15th and 16 century especially in Persian language, which was pronounced as "Dulband".Its etymology is apparently from ‘dul’ or pronounced by Arabs as ‘tul’, or ‘volvere’ which apply to head-wrap.Perhaps from the Turks it passed on as Tulipant,Tolliban,Turbant, etc. in the European usage of Turban. In 1611, the French Dictionary Cotgrave explained "Toliban" as a Turkish hat of white colour which was even ornamented.

Thus apparently the word Turban originated from Persian and the English frequented its use. One l7th century traveler J.B.Tavernier wrote in 1676 that "Mohamed Alibeg returning into Persia out of India..presented sha-sefi the second with coconut about the bigness of an Austrik egg..there was taken out of it a Turbant that 60 cubit of calicut in length to make it, the cloth being so fine that you could hardly feel it".

Likewise, the use of the word turban for head-dress came into vogue in the medeival era. The head-dress in different regions of India is widely referred to as Pugree but pronunciation differs variedly. So, let’s try the understand how today the head-dress is termed in major fifteen languages of modern India.

According to the Bharatya Vabahar Kosha, edited by Viswanath Dinkar Narvene the headdress is known in Hindi as Pugree. In Punjabi dialect this is called seerbund,Pugri and Dastar etc. In Urdu Dustar or Pugree meaning head-wrap. In Kashmiri language Safu or Dustar are common for head-wrap. In Sindhi-speaking belt the headdress is known as Patika or Patuka. In Maharashtra this is called Pugree or Pagota. Gujarati pronounce it as Paghri. In Bengal,Assam and Orissa regions the headgear is called Pugree,Paguree and Pagri respectively. In Telugu speaking belt the Talpag or Talguddred go for head dress. In Tamil it is called Tallippagee.In Kerala the head-wrap is known as Ushnisha or Shriobestana.These are the varied names of Head-dress or Pugree used in various Indian languages. Now we should try to fathom the evolution of Head-dress down the ages.

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Historical Antecedents of Pugree

From a simple head wrap of pre-historic era the headdress came to be evolved into a gorgeous and glorious crown with the passage of time. Thus in order to delve into development and evolution of headdress we should address to the theme sectoring different periods of History.

The first concept of Headdress: C10,000 B.C. to 320 B.C.)

In the pre-historic rock sites in India like Bhimbetka to Kumaun Himalaya, we find evidences of rock-arts wherein the life style,amusement,head-gear is found. This is the start from historical point of view and then in the Mohenjodaro and Harappan culture we find the use of headdress.In those days men of higher social strata sported head-wraps which were richly padded clothes of varied shapes. They also had their hair tied with a ribbon. Men and Women of Royal families or Goddesses wore elaborate headgears and coiffure. But commoners did not sport any headgear. We find some descriptions of Indus headdresses which wire fan like structure and of spiral form and some were bossed head-dress.

In the post-vedic era 600-320 B.C. we find evidences of voluminous head-dresses mostly known as Ushnisha, and it became a common phenomenon. On the other hand, in the Vedic era Pugree was a concept of dignity and authority.The king who claimed soveringty had to wear a particular type of head-dress at the time of doing Rajsuya Sacrifice. Dr.G.S.Ghurye elaborated that " the head-dress known as Ushniha is the earliest mentioned in connection with eastern people known in early literature at the ‘Vratyas’,.It is described as white and bright. It used to have cross-windings and was tied with a tilt".

Thus the spiral, fanlike shape of Indus head-wrap in the post vedic period evolved into a crossbind Ushnisha studded with Jewels. While in the Vedic era only persons of higher order of society sported Head-dress,and respected highly in the later vedic period. The commoners also earned the right to don head-dress.

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USHNISHA (320 B.C. to 320 A.D.)

During the early Mauryan period one hardly finds any trace of male Mauli or Pugree, but in the Sunga period varied kinds of headdresses were developed. It is found that the hair itself was often twisted into the head-dress.According to Roshan Alkazi, the specialist in ancient Indian costume "This twisted braid being then arranged to form a protuberance at the front or the side of the head, but never at the centre top, as this style could be used only by priests. Over the turban a narrow band was used to hold it in place".

Pugree or Mauli used to be decorated with jewels and even fringe was attached to the headdress. Another form of Pugree is found which had top knot and two bands of cloth criss-crossed at the middle of the forehead and went upto the top knot covering it. Similar to this style in modern India sikh sport the turban.

In this period the females wore a kind of head-cover called Uttariya which had beautiful folded look and tied crosswise but straight unlike the Male head-gear which was vertical or sidewys. This Uttariya could be worn having at the back. It is interesting to note that beneath the Uttariya skull cap was worn to keep the headdress firm in its place.

Apart from these, it is gathered from archaeological sources that different strata of society donned different kinds of head-dresses. For example, the archer of Taxila used to wrap his head with a thin strip of cloth. The attendant of the archer covered his head with ample piece of cloth which resembled the contemporary head-dresses of an artisan or peasants.

From the remnants of Bodhisatva one could find the first pre-formed head dress known as Mandila. And in Sanchi one can see similar head-cover with jewel on the head of Kubera.

All these head-dresses underwent some sort of innovations under the influence of foreigners. During this period Pugree came into vogue like the one sported by Kushana Kings which was similar to the bulging head-cover of ancient Persia. However,the Kushana Kings sportated shorter head-gear.

Hieun-T-Sang’s travelogue throw considerable light on the headdress of the people of Sarnath. He wrote the head dress ‘consists in most cases of a filled with a loosely wreath or mural crown into other cases’.Even caps with flower and foliage find mention in Hiuen-T Sang’s account. These can be corelated with the discovery of human heads in Taxila, as S.N.Dar wrote "Fragments of human heads have been discovered in the

buried city of Taxila,some with round caps covering the entire head and ears, others with low or flat caps with or without fastening band."

From archeological evidences we find a clear description of head-dresses especially from Bharhut sculptures, Bhaja and Sanchi remnants. Let we glance through the important aspects in brief which would summarize the developments between 320 B.C. to 320 A.D.

The bas-reliefs of Bharhut stupa of the 2nd Century B.C. depicting pre-Nirvana Buddha’s life provide us vital sources of information on the score of Headdress. The male head wraps were worn in different fashion. One can find richly ornamented light pugree with a roundish top above the forehead; and some were fan like arrangements with cylindrical protrusion. Evidences of Heavy turban with schematic folds and ornamented heavily were its characteristics. Moreover, some turbans had leaf and rosetta decoration.

The female head-covers were fancifully rich and ornamented. Even they used nets to give the Pugree a hard grip on the forehead. The headdress of Bhaja cave shows similar trends as we find in Bharhut, but the Bhaja pugs were interwoven with hair style as well.

Sculptural remnants of Sanchi Stupa depict high aesthetic specimens of Pugree but are devoid of elaboratness. One type of Ushinsha shows that the upper folds resembled a conch shell. Some Ushinisha had a projection on the Upper part to provide holder or ornamentations. Furthermore, the SANCHI stupa depicted turbans of cylindrical look. Evidences of skull and conical caps are also be found in the sculptures of Sanchi stupa.

These were basic developments of headdresses between c.10,000 B.C. to 320 A.D. which at times were rich and ornamented. People strove to improvise the style of wrapping Pugree and toyed mainly with the idea of top of forehead projections. During this period, there marked tendencies to show off hair style as well.

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During this period contemporary coins,sulptures and paintings reveal that the heavy voluminous Pugree was dispensed with and small head-dress with rich artistic look came into vogue.Royal nobles paraded varied forms of fanciful head-covers with regional distinctions. The king’s crow was studded with pearls called tiara and at times garlands replaced the cloth-wrap which eventually became a part of informal dress.Coins of the Gupta period showed Kushan King sporting helmet as head-gear indicating the then military attire. The nobles, the ministers and other officials sported various types of Pugree displaying their respective ranks and status. Pugree was made of fine muslin and tied over the large hair knot and positioned at the centre of the forehead.Evidences are also found of striped turban which was twisted like rope.

Another type was high cylindrical Pugree resembling the Sun god became popular. Anear identical cylindrical head-cover is found on the head of Vishnu lying over serpent in Tamilnadu.Four cornered cylindrical caps comparable with modern Goan head cover are also found adorning the heads of Indra,Sun God and Vishnu.

During the 6th and 7th century the Pallava Kings sported a conical variety of head-dress which was even found in vogue by the nobility of Vijaynagar dynasty and later on adopted by the Tamil nobles. This was known as ‘Kullai’ Pugree which was near identical to pugree prevalent in North India. It denotes that cultural communication between the North and the South took place during this period.

Paintings of Ajanta cave throw some light on the contemporary head-dresses which was smaller in size and less stiff.The type of headdress is said to be patronized by the nobility of that period. During this period there was a fashion of wearing a sort of white covering on the head which is supposed to be the precursor of modern Gandhi Cap. On this score Dr.Ghurya observed that ‘I think it may be constued as precursor of the white cap of North India ‘Bhaya’ which, in a slight modified form has been recently known as the Gandhi Cap’.

From the archeological site of Kausambi city of 3rd to 6th century A.D. we find enough evidences of various head-dresses and rectangular shape of head-dresses were also in vogue.The pugree worn by males was fairly of elaborate type and at times ornamented with jewels. Furthermore,in Gupta era tall ‘Mukuta’ became a fashionable headgear for the royal nobles. It is interesting to note that during this period the people of Eastern India did not use any head-dress,and in the modern times also they go bare-headed. In ‘Buvaneswar turbans are rarely seen’ remarked the scholar Rajendra Lal Mitra ,though on the other hand headgear remained in vogue in other parts of India.

Thus in the Hindu period the Head-dress served as a symbol of respect and glorification not only with its symbolism but also with its shape and size.Hearafter the story of Headdress took different turn with the ushering in of the Muslim era.

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With the ushering in of Islamic rule in India the mode of head-dress underwent a sea-change and the Persian and Central Asian influence was soon observed in the country’s main fashion flow. According to Jamila Brij Bhushan in the Muslim period ‘The caps worn were of many shapes pointed with a boss at the tip,conical with broad,upturned brim,triangular or pointed.Sometimes it was down-shape with seems visible in the middle’.

It can also be observed that when the Muslim influence was enveloping Northern India,the East and Southern or Deccani India tried to improvised old Indian Head-covers.The commoners sported freshly folded Pugree which developed into later ‘sapha’.

In Vijaynagar, nobility of the Royal family continues to sport high head-dresses same as the cylindrical head-gear of Vishnu lying over serpent.Dr. Ghurya in his study observed that ‘The traveler Vastama has recorded that the king wore a cap of gold brocade two spans long while Nuinz has described it by meaning it ‘caulae’ and its material as brocade.Durate Barbov refers to use of small turbans and brocade caps by ordinary males.’ From this description we get some glimpses of Deccani head-dress.However,in the northern India we find two rival head-dresses:one was the Mughal style and another was the indigenous head-covers for the common people.

We observe that Mughal nobility sported varied kind of Pugrees.About the Mughal emperor Jahengir Francois Bernier noted that ‘The turban of gold cloth, had an airgrette (sic) whose base was composed of diamonds of an extra ordinary size and value,besides an oriental topaz which may be pronounced unparalleled exhibiting lusture like Sun’. For commoners we find a reference of a Pugree known as ‘Kaj Kulah (One who wears his cap awry). Amir Khushru wrote that the dandies of Delhi wore the type of caps which were ‘short turban and oblique caps’.Another peot,Mir Tazi Mir, wrote that this ‘Kaj Kulah’ was donned by people of older age as if to hold on to their youthfulness.

It can be observed from the contemporary paintings and literatures that till the time of Akbar, Persian dress was worn by the Muslims in India,But during Akbar’s rule an Indo-Muslim cultural amalgamation took place which paved the path for induction of Rajputana head-dresses . Jamila Brij Bhushan wrote ‘The Mughal turban different from the contemporary Bakhara type is not having loose fringed ends striking out of both sides...It may have been at this time that the veil the ‘dupatta’ of the Rajput women,surperseded the woman’s turban in the Zenans of the Kings and nobles’.

In the Muslim era Pugree was universally acknowledged as an emblem of dignity.But during the Afghan rule the Hindus were prohibited to wear turban in order to retain their own superiority. However,in the 17th century one Kashmiri Hindu courtesan obtained from the king the grant of a turban one hundred yard long for his son’s marriage. Perhaps from this time Kashmiri Hindus started sporting long turbans with pride on such occasions. This practice was later passed on to Rajasthan and Punjab where also long turbans were worn especially during festive occasions.

Despite Mughal cultural onslaught on the score of costumes the age-old head dress in India never became obsolete. Tuslidas wrote in 1575 that ‘a pure and lustrous yellow dhoti outshone the rising Sun and lightning flash’, a waist belt on which ‘bells made delicious tinkling’ a yellow uparana or scarf ‘with fringe of gems and pearls’, a jaunty for cornered chaugoshi cap on the comely head and a yellow Jhaguli’." Thus it can be concluded that despite Mughal influence the age old Chaugashi cap or four-sided cylindrical cap remained in vogue side by side with the Persian style of head-dress throughout the Mughal period,and which is still prevalent even today.

Guru Gobind Singhji, gave a fresh definition to pugree as he augmanted the visionary concept of ‘Khalsa’ which was to fight against the muslim onslaught and re-establish the lost pride. The Headdress remain the symbol of pride and the regality of its nature and the pride of the battle field. With passage of time the concept went beyond the ‘Martial’race called Khalsa and became a vibrant cultural symbol of Sikh which has spread all over the world today. Even Noble Laurete Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote about Sikh Guru that they decided to sacrifice their head than to allow cutting of their hair.

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During this period we find turbans of varied kind and some are identical to ancient head-dress.With the European influence pre-formed Pugree also came into fashion. Let us take up the concept of Pugree of different regions of India.

In Punjab we find a typical Pugree which is a conical shape called ‘kullah’ and identical to head-dress of Southern India. This Kullah cap is encircled with a piece of cloth whose end goes back to the neck and is called ‘sapha’.

In the 19th century we find ‘topi’ in Northern India which were of varied colours but has a touch of ethnic variations. This close-fitting turban shaped like ‘pie crust’ and having narrow projecting rime all around. Evidences of a Sindhi Pugree is also found which is of cylindrical in shape and rise above one feet with a flat round rim. This type of Sindhi hats are known a s’Serai Topi or Sirai tope’.

In northern India apart from conical Pugree and freshly folded cap we find a white cap which is popularly known as ‘Bhayya Cap’ in Bombaly it is in fact a prototype of Gandhian cap.However, somewhat similar looking cap is found in the cave paintings of Ajanta which we have referred earlier.

During the 17th century Rajasthan became a legendary land of colourful head-dresses. In and around Jaipur during this period middle class Rajasthan used to sport cotton Pugree known as ‘Chira and phenta’. On the other hand elite society kept on changing their headdresses. Some pugrees were of 25 mts. long and 20 centimeter wide of dyed and printed cotton fabrics depending upon their socio-economic status. Coormaraswamy while analyzing the Rajasthani head-dress wrote that ‘The rajput Pugree appears to have been adopted at the Mughal court already in the time of Akbar, and remains the typical head-dress of both Muslims and Hindus as represented in the paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the form is unsymmetrical,slashing backwards and bound by a transverse band of different material. A jeweled malaband may be tied round the turban horizontally, and a plane..often richly jeweled or enameled may be worn in the turban itself’. These remarks of Coomaraswamy are vital to understand the whole gamut of Rajasthani Pugree.

In Rajasthan each community wore different type of Pugree in each district. In Udaipur Pugree we find a flat surface mainly,and in Jaipur the turban has a knot on the top. Moreover, noblemen did sport a ‘lepeta’ a sort of small narrow piece of embroidered material of gold work. However, in Rajasthan it is said that no two pugrees are same as tying techniques undergoes change from wearer to wearer.

In western India, especially in Maharashtra and Gujarat voluminous and loosely rolled turbans remained vogue and some can even be seen today at social gatherings. There were pre-formed turbans or freshly bound ‘pheto’ Pugree. Dr.Ghurye quoted from a folklore to emphasize the importance of decking a Pugree:

‘A PAGHADI OR TURBAN is the ornament of male. Nine Coloured Padhdi is a choice present’.

In Southern India though wearing of head-dress was not a fashion but according to P.Thomas ‘on ceremonial occasion, they wear long coats and turbans’. However, except the Brahmins other classes of people in Andhra,Tamil Nadu sported fresh folded pugree.Dr Ghurya once wrote ‘In the districts bordering on Karnataka and Andhradesa in the districts remote from this area, it was an apology for this grand article,being merely a small piece of cloth just wrapped about the head.’

It is interesting to note that in Bengal and Orissa there were many illustrious pugree in 18th and 19th century but today the whole thing has became extinct.Though in social occasions,they wear some sort of headgears but common people only use ‘angocha’ to cover their heads.

In India the headgear of Sanyasi,Fakirs enthuse a special interest. This subject was never attempted by anybody. The safforn colured ‘Patka’ is perhaps universally practiced amongst sanyasis of which Vivekananda’s pug is the right example. Varied headgears, of Padris,Fakirs and Maulanas are of unique importance of academic address.

In modern days pugs are sported at least on marriage occasions. Various pre-formed headgears like Topor in East the ‘Sehra’ of North or ‘wrap up’ pugs of other places of India is an unique dimension which is to be properly documented.

Amongst aboriginal or Tribal indigenous people, there are some hundreds types of headdress available, which are yet to be documented in a systematic manner.

These are some broad outlines of Pugree or head-dress of India which had a beginning in the distant past and yet not an absolutely dying fashion in modern India which is crossing over to 3rd Millennium.This subject has a great scope of holistic in-dept multi-disciplinary study which is pregnant with immense potentiality for further explorations.

Long before the primitive man could weave clothes for himself, he conceptualized the girdle though it was meant to be used as a suspender or holder of costumes as it is in vogue today. But this was merely tied around the waist with no cloth around and it served as a pocket to keep the stone-age man’s ingenious gadgets. This girdle was of plant bough or stem which enabled the ancient man to keep his hand free and movement unhampered.

Nevertheless, this was the conscious beginning of the evolution of costumes.


Copyright © Dr Gautam Chatterjee