Karakuli : a unique symbol of our culture

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Tariq Ahmad Shera

Karakuli, Kashmir’s regal cap, symbolizeshonour and dignity for Kashmiris. The term Karakul comes from the ‘Qarakul’ sheep breed, which is native to Central or West Asia. It is manufactured from the skin of Karakul sheep and lambs, as the name implies. Russia’s native headgear is the karakuli. Central Asians and Afghans acquired it from there. It made its way to Kashmir from Afghanistan as part of the Afghan invasion. Karakulli made his way from Uzbekistan’s Bukhara to Central Asia and Afghanistan, eventually becoming an inseparable part of Kashmir’s culture.

It has a traditional importance at Kashmiri weddings since the bridal party is required to give it to the bridegroom. It is a source of pride for Kashmiris, and children are not permitted to wear it. This could be because its elegance is compared to that of a crown worn by Kashmir’s noblemen in the past. For centuries it has adorned the head of several Kashmiri leaders, including Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Mirza Beigh, Ghulam Ahmad Bakshi, Mirza MoulviYousuf Shah, Farooq Abdullah, and even Omar Abdullah.

Even if it has increasingly found its way onto ordinary men’s heads, it is still a pricey headgear. The price ranges between INR 5000 and 50000 for this beautiful Kashmiri Dress. The higher the price, the better the quality and texture of the fur used to produce the Karakul hat. Characterized by a lightweight, smoothness having tight curls, velvety texture and glossy sheen, a Karakulli is a fashion statement in itself. All in all, it’s a prized cap for Kashmiris and rightly so.

unfortunately it has been now put under deep mammoth structure and the elderly persons in our homes or societies no more wear it. They think they look too old after wearing it and fear criticism. It was a time when it was wore with full of pride, the elderly person in a home or society was not feeling less than a king. Today it could be either seen in a museum or wore in traditional dramas where it is wore not more than for an hour. As we feel backward after talking in kashmiri language same way we feel backward after finding ourselves in our traditional dress be it pheran, karakuli or dejihaer etc. Karakuli, pheranetc was the backbone of our culture. We are avoiding them and keep them away from us. Tourists like to wear it and feel extreme joyful. Karakuli was wore in number of movies which include haidar, bajrangibhaijan etc. Recentlygulshangrover wore it too when he was here for shooting. Our educated youth should revive and protect our culture so that we dont have feel ashamed when upcoming generation ask the cause of disrespect towards it when they will not see anything belonging to our culture around. It is absolutely our meeras and it should be preserved because it is legacy of our ancestors and it should be carried forward.


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