Knots Of Identity
Location - Rajkot, Gujarat
We follow a man’s intimate journey into the past, by following his dancing hands and glaring eyes - not only to find the kings but to find himself by decoding Turbans.
‘‘Pagg, Pagadi, Pech, Safa, Pheta - each of these turbans have many stories of our glorious past hidden behind their fabric.’’

A forest green door with blunt black spikes, rusted with the history it hasseen, opens to a steep stairway and into a courtyard hugged by beige walls in Gujarat. Dharamraj Jaiveer Singh Vagela greets us in into thisbeautiful haveli standing strong since generations gone by. An unlikely young historian, a curious mind who knows how to tie more than 300 different types of turbans.

The turbans are among the most unique head gears of the Indian subcontinent. Their history is intertwined with the history of generations of royalty and common men across this land. Made from lengthy,colourful fabric, they transform from being art and become a crafty turban that entangles to become an identity. Spun into creation by the artist.

‘‘ "The Turban indicates the region the person is from. It could be a representation of his traditions or be his own unique style.”’’

By his side are photos of many kings gone by, who were famous for wearing who they were on their heads, with out ever fearing. Today, he is introducing us to one such celebrated King,Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his uniquely styled turban that saved his life.

‘‘ There was no one to teach me this art. I learnt it on my own, experimenting with different techniques until I matched the Pagadi in the picture. The first time I put a knot on a turban, I was 5 years old. I haven’t stopped since then.’’

He takes a look at Shivaji Maharaj’s painting, detailing out the knots in his turban by mimicking the knots he would have to make with his hands; he goes through the whole process of all the knots and rolls with his hands in the air.

Dharamraj explains how important it is to choose the right fabric. The way the fabric behaves andhow long it is, defines the way the turban is tied. Some styles require softer and some not so much.

Hailing from royalty himself, Dharamraj Jaiveer Singh Vagela is trying to understand these great kings, slowly understands himself. One twist of colour, one fold of fabric, one Pagri at a time. He moves around the courtyard, as hundreds of pigeons fly over his head and almost blackened and aged roofs cover his creations, he wonders of the many more Pagris his hands are yet to discover.

He opens the 12 meter long, beautiful fabric to understand its colours and patterns, then he beginsto roll it tightly from one end to form a rope. Dharamraj indulges himself in this process, in analmost meditative manner, he places the rope on to a circular wooden pillar (or the wearer’s head)to make a circular formation - which is traditionally called the Chakri technique - and once he is done achieving the desired shape and form, he swiftly ties a knot, finishing the glorious Shivaji Pagari.

Shivaji Maharaj's Pagadi

‘‘ It has taken me a lot of practice to get this right. And I believe in this process, I haverecreated a piece of history in its purest form. The turbans are reflections of people. As colourful as his personality is, the turban shall be the same too.’’he said, holding Shivaji’s Pagadi he had made with pride.

Swiftly moving them in a manner so subtle and confident at the same time. He waits no more than a few minutes to show us how he ties two more of his favourite turbans - the Safa and the Kathiyawadi Pagg. We see his eyes light up with colours from his fabric as he knots, twists, bends,folds and curves the fabric into various shapes. His hands move in a rhythm and dance to atechnique. The colours obey him as he arranges the fabric into turbans inspired by the rich cultureof his land.

The Kathiyawadi Pagg is another unique turban that demands the fabric to be treated differently. Dharamraj, after opening the 9 meter long fabric, folds it flat and then rolls it into a bright pink roll. In a completely different move from his previous creation, he unfolds the roll onto the wooden pillarand starts moulding it into a turban as each layer opens up.

“This one is a bit tricky. We have to cross the opening to seal it and then tie the rest of the fabric around that seal to make layers of texture for the Pagg,” he says.

Kathiyawadi Pagg

The safa, shorter and broader than the Pagg is worn in single colours but on various occassions,Dharamraj tells us that the elite wear multi-coloured ones too. He spreads out the fabric in hishands and wraps it around his neck, he then turns the fabric to a beautiful choreographed movement around his head to create intricate and technical knots, filled with character, the Safahas layers falling off on one of its sides, forming a bun on top that flows into a beautiful tail on its back.

Safa

He points out that based on which side the knot is, it is easy to recognise if the person wearing it is left or right handed. Dharamaraj points out that such small details, if understood and studied, reveal so much about the great people who used to wear them.

It is said that the styles of Pagris change every 15 kms. Imagine then, how many people Dharamraj is yet to know.

shades from the tale

shades from the tale

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