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The Art of Twists and Turns

The Art of Twists and Turns

Author: Rohit Parihar
Publication: India Today
Date: June 4, 2007

Introduction: An agriculturist leaves his fields to nurture his true calling, tying turbans in his own distinctive style

For 34-year-old Ganesh Das Vyas in Bikaner, life is literally twists and turns. This agriculturist picked up the art of tying saafas from his mother Gawra Devi. For years, she has been wrapping the traditional Rajasthani headgear, the saafa or pagdi, for the local deity Ghanghor. Vyas and his brothers have now adopted tying turbans as a means of livelihood, one of the few families in the state to do so.

Rajasthan is a land of varied headgears, which identify the wearer's ethnicity, economic status and community. The favoured turban for marriages is the six- to eight-yard long and one yard wide saafa, while the groom and his close relatives wear the phenta. The saafa is also worn by royals; for ceremonial occasions it is the moliyon. Castes can be identified by pagdis too-Mahajans wear the Mahajan paag while for Maheshwaris it is the Maheshwari paag. Chudawat Rajputs wrap the chudawatshahi, and for every region, the pagdi takes on a new name. The people of Oswal community in Jhunjhunu wear a 22-yard-long turban. "This is the most difficult saafa to tie as it involves certain reverse knots for a special look," says Vyas. The price for a turban starts at Rs 200, increasing with its complexity, length and the occasion it is meant for.

There are a few others like Vyas. In Jodhpur, Sher Singh Safawala sells different types of ready-to-wear turbans and also books orders for marriages and ceremonies. Even in the Pink City, Jaipur, some families are engaged in the turban business, making and selling ready-made saafas to those who do not know how to tie them. But Vyas is different. His art goes beyond the regular headgear to miniature, where he uses his expertise to tie turbans less than an inch in size around his fingers. He can also tie a turban around a willing client's head in about a minute. For the longer 22-yard saafa, he takes less than two minutes.

Also keeping the tradition of the turban intact is Mahendra Singh Naggar, director, culture, Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. In his effort to take turban culture to the uninitiated, Naggar has displayed 70 saafas from his collection of 200 in the fort. But he prefers to tie his own turban rather than have someone else wrap it for him. "There's a difference between tying a turban on your own head and having it done by someone else," he says. "Tying it on your own head brings out your personality."

For those who don't depend on turbans to bring out their personality, there are people like Vyas in the waiting.

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