History and origin of the traditional hat of Gilgit-Baltistan

Abid Hussain

The traditional hat of Gilgit-Baltistan is a soft, round-topped, men’s hat, typically made of wool and found in any of a variety of earthy colors: brown, black, gray, or ivory. Before it is fitted, the traditional hat resembles a bag with a round, flat bottom. The wearer rolls up the sides nearly to the top, forming a thick band, which then rests on the head like a beret or cap.

The hat originated in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral regions which was called Balorisan in ancient times of what is now called Gilgit-Baltistan or Northern Pakistan. It gained popularity amongst the Northeastern Pashtun tribes in the early twentieth century largely as a substitute for their large and cumbersome turbans. It also gained popularity amongst the Nuristanis and the Tajiks of Panjsher and Badakhshan Afghanistan. It is also worn by some Pashtun tribes who live in Kunar and Laghman.

There are two basic types of this cap: the Chitrali style called Pakul in Chitrali language, which has a sewn brim, and the Gilgiti style which is worn much like a knit cap. The Chitrali Pakul has many variations which are popular in the Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The hat is worn in Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu Giglti Baltistan and Chitral, Pakistan and in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well. It is also worn in some Northern regions on Jammu and Kashmir where Dard (Shina speaking people live) which was historically part of Dardiatan.

There is a misconception about this cap which is worn without crown in KPK and Northern Punjab . People consider it as a Pashtoon cap, which is wrong . The traditional dress of Pushtoon culture don’t have such hat. Instead, they wear turbans, like the Pashtoon of Tribal Areas wear now a days.   Chitrali style hat is mostly used in Swat and Malakand agency  which is bordered with Gilgit and Chitral.

Chitrali Pakul hat gained some attention in the West in the 1980s, famous as a Muslim, Pashtoon, or mujahideen cap, as it was a favored head covering for Afghan mujahideen who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–1989).

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