Tie-Dyed Cotton Turban (“laharia pagri”)
Indian (Rajasthan), late 19th/early 20th century
 

 

Prized by the male Rajput nobility of Rajasthan, colorful cotton turban cloths such as this were created in the complex process known as laharia, a type of tie dyeing that reached a pinnacle of intricacy and beauty in the nineteenth century. The multi-step procedure required sophisticated handling of both dye and cloth, which was always the finest cotton mull. Folding the cloth, or pagri into four or more accordion pleats width-wise, rolling it diagonally and wrapping it tightly with thread at precise intervals before dyeing produced a dazzling array of symmetrical zig-zag (gandadar) formations. When untied, re-rolled from the opposite diagonal and bound again, an additional effect—mothara, from the Hindi word for lentil—appears, characterized by small checks, as in this example. Here, dyes including kasumal from safflower petals, probably resulted in the reds and pinks in this laharia pagri, while haldi, turmeric mixed with buttermilk, created the yellow hues.

Although Indian textile dyers were known for creating color-fast textiles, these pagri were dyed with non-fast dyes so that, when worn during monsoon season, the dyes would gradually fade; this allowed for wealthy Rajasthanis to send the cloth away to be redyed in a fashionable new pattern. As proof that a turban was genuine and not a printed replica, pagriwere sold with their ties intact—an end was then unraveled to display the seemingly miraculous pattern to a client.

6" W x 15.5 yds. L
$850
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Indian Tie-Dyed Cotton Turban


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