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Gujjar women of Pathra strive to keep art of weaving handmade skull capes alive

Post by on Saturday, August 20, 2022

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Pulwama, Aug 19:  Zaina, an aged Gujjar woman, grazes cows in lush green vast meadow in the upper reaches of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.Sitting at an elevation amidst thick wild bushes, she keeps a watch on her milk yielding cow.Simultaneously; she is knits beautiful designs on a skull cap with red fabric.  
Zaina, like majority of mud hut dwellers from nomadic Gujjars in Pathra has a humble family background.
 “Knitting handmade caps earns me peanuts,” she said, adding that she has been practicing weaving art since her childhood days.
The lady has inherited the art from her grandmother and then the mother honed her skills further.
“During my grandmother’s time every woman in our area would cover her head with these beautifully designed handmade skull caps adorned with red fabric,” she recalled, adding that wearing ‘Topi’ was a part of their rite. “It has religious sanction too,” she said.
Another aged woman of Pathra, Surekha, told that wearing Topi was such a dominant cultural rite that it accorded a distinct identity to Gujjar and Bakerwal women.
However, due to cultural acculturation triggered by mediated interactions with different communities, the tradition of using handmade caps is dying.
Surekha and few other women strive hard to keep this centuries old tradition alive.
“Weaving handmade caps was a sound means of earning livelihood in olden days, we would get orders every month,” Surekha said, adding for a cap they would charge up to rupees 1200.
She said that she would feed her family with the earnings.  
Those were golden days.
Today the tradition is fading very fast as the new generation shows no liking for these traditional caps.
“Aged women still use them but for these handmade caps there are no takers among the young,” she rues.
Decrease in demand for woven caps has hit the livelihood of many, Surekha is one among them.
She added these days she mostly weaves these caps for their personal use.
“In a year we will get a single order,” she said, adding that they continue to weave handmade caps to keep the rich tradition of their forefathers alive. 
 
 

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