My Cap, My Identity: Men’s caps from Gilgit-Baltistan

Ziab R Mir

The cultural heritage of Gilgit Baltistan is rich, beautiful and unique. This unique cultural heritage manifests in local traditions, music and local dress. The traditional dress plays a central role in identity of of a person. Traditional clothing of the region is influenced by local culture, geography and weather. Traditional cap of Gilgit Baltistan has played a major role to define the identity of people of Gilgit Baltistan. In Gilgit Baltistan the men wear tradtional cap.The cap has different names in the major local languages. In Shina and Khowar languages the cap is called Khoi ,in brushaski it is called Phartsun or Pharsen and in Wakhi it is called sekeed . The design of cap is slightly different in Baltistan and it is called Nating in Balti.

Tradtional cap is soft round toped woolen hat. It is made by local artisan and is available in various colors. White caps are most popular in the region and considered as a part f formal local dress. In many areas people specially the older generation still wear their traditional cap all the time with pride. They consider it a sign of honor. Whether they are at home in bazar , local celeberations or place of worship they prefer to wear their cap. They will have their different caps for work, cap for formal dressing and for routine day to day business.

Historical linkage. Very little research has been done about the local traditional cap and its origin. Its roots can be traced to thousands of years back. There is a similarity found between the traditional cap of Gilgit Baltistan and ancient Greek Kausia.It was worn in ancient Macedonia during the Hellenistic era.
14218537_1380901521938488_1829278194_nA 3rd century BC, Terracotta statues from Athens depicting ancient Macedonians wearing the kausia ( Wikipedia).

Making a woolen patti from local wool is long process. Local artisans make it. Once the woolen patti is ready , it is sewn into a cap by local tailors. The cap has two parts. The cylinder part which is about 10 to 12 inches long and the round part which is sewed and fitted on the top of cylinder part. Once the cap is sewn the rim of the cap is rolled upwards towards the top forming a band. The band of Gilgit cap is thin in contrary the chitrali phakol has a thick band.

A Feather in your cap

The most striking feature of the Gilgit cap is the peacock plume and the feather stuck in front or on the side of the cap. It gives a very elegant look to the cap. It is considered a part of formal dress cap and used in groom’s dress. Very little information is available about the history and significance of feather and peacock plume on Gilgit cap. The feather in your cap term is an idiomatic phrase. It is derived from an old custom of certain warrior tribes. In certain areas and tribes anew feather was added to the worrier,s cap for every enemy slain. Similarly same thing was applied for hunters. A hunter was given the a feather of the bird as an appreciation. These customs were practiced indigenous people of modern north America, Mongols, Turcomans, Austrian, Scottish and Hungarians. The feather in our cap is probably linked to those old customs of brave warriors and hunters. Killing the beautiful birds to get peacock plume or feather can not be justifiedin this modern age . Instead some synthetic material should be used to save the precious wild life. The example of alternative synthetic hat for royal guards of Buckingham to save the bears can be followed in this regard.


Flower in your cap

In many parts of Gilgit Baltistan a small fresh flower is stuck in front and side of the the cap. Flower is a symbol of freshness, fragrance and livelihood. When the spring season starts sometimes the farmers and shepherds stuck a pine tree leave to symbolize life .
14193807_1380903671938273_1399056045_nElders in Hunza dancing with flower in their cap
Shepherd dancing, with a pine leave in his cap.

Money in your cap

On of the custom of many regions in Gilgit Baltistan is to stuck money into the cap while someone is dancing. This symbolizes the love and respect to the dancer from his friends relatives and fans. The dancer gives this money to the musicians once the dance is finished.

Cap as a storage sack

The men who wear their traditional cap for work sometimes use it as their small storage sack. For shepherds and farmers its is very common to keep small needles , threads, nail, a piece of cigarette a piece of paper and pencil in their cap. It works as a very essential emergency toll box.

14194225_1380904835271490_888411543_nMoney in cap ( photo GB songs .com)

Balti cap

Balti men wear a beautiful cap. Balti cap is called nating. It is a woolen cap which is semispherical in shape. It is mostly brown, gay or white color. White color balti cap is most eye catching. White is the mnost commonly used color. Presenting a cap to your guest is sign of extreme honor.
culture-balti-man-cap-bBalti Nataing


Balti cap is being presented to former prime minister of Pakistan

Gilgiti Boys in Muscat Oman

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