Tilak- An upper garment of females worn by Sunni Muslims in Rajasthan

The word Tilak is said to be derived from the word ‘tirlik’ in Arabic and ‘khilat’ from the Persian language which means- A short-sleeved (or a  sleeveless) robe; a gown; or a robe of honour. Costume, whatever might be its origin,  provides the visible index of the homogeneity and the unity of people or their absence. Very often it expresses some of the structure and aspirations of a society. It also reflects social  factors such as religious

symbol, personal identity and status.

Tilak plays a vital role in a married woman’s life among the communities of Sunny Muslims. Each subgroup of Sunni Muslims has its own unique  Tilak which married women used to wear after marriage. Tilak is worn as an upper garment;  when women of a particular community step out of their house, it was obligatory to wear their community’s Tilak. Communities like Manihar, Fakir, Lohar &  Nilgar, each have a unique significance in the  Tilak. It is gifted by the groom’s side to the bride.  The bride is supposed to wear the gifted Tilak on her wedding day.

The variation that occurred in the upper costumes over time is due to the interaction of various  social change factors which affect the perspective, requirements, interests and preferences of the people for the selection of their costume.

Tilak was adversely affected by this trend and did not pass to the next generation but antiquity. Now the Tilak has been replaced by the Burqa. Burqas are being worn by women instead of their traditional Tilaks.

MANIHAR:

Manihars are traditionally associated with bangle-making. They are Sunni Muslims. The word ‘Mani’ in Sanskrit means ‘jewel’. They trace their descent from the first Caliph of  Islam, Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique. A transitional shift has been observed in the occupation of the community, Few of them are still affianced in the ancestral business while others have chosen other occupations.

The Tilak worn by married women of this community is of white colour bottom kalidar skirt attached with any other colour (except black) blouse. In a sleeveless blouse with a front opening, the opening follows down to the hemline. At the joining of the waist, a silver hook is attached as a closure at the centre front of the garment. The hook is beautifully designed to enhance the look of Tilak. The bottom white colour kalidar skirt consists of 20-  30 Kalis. Each width of the Kali is 20- 22cm at the hemline and narrows up to the waist measuring 3 inches. All the Kalis are gathered evenly and joined at the waist with the blouse. Gathers (seam or joinery inside the garment at the waist) are finished neatly with hand hemming.

LOHAR:

Lohar are descendants of high-caste weapon makers of the Mewar Kingdom, unfortunately,  they became poor when the kingdom fell in  1568. Some population of this caste is still practising their traditional professional while others have shifted to other occupations.

The Tilak worn by married women of this community is of red colour bottom kalidar skirt attached with any other colour (except black) blouse. Curved armhole and sleeveless blouse with front opening, the opening follows down to the hemline. At the joining of the waistline, a silver hook is attached as closure.

Married women of this community beautifully embroider the hemline of their Tilak. The  embroidery is done by a neat chain stitch of three-line; the upper line with white thread, the middle line with black and the last line again with white colour thread. The bottom red colour kalidar skirt consists of 20-30 Kalis. Each width of the Kali is 20- 22cm at the hemline and narrows up to the waist measuring 3 inches. All the Kalis are gathered evenly and joined at the waist with the blouse. Gathers (seam or joinery inside the garment at the waist) are finished neatly with hand hemming.

FAQIR:

Shah-Faqir is engaged in begging which has long been their traditional occupation. The word ‘faqir’ means ‘a poor one in the need of god’. They trace their origins to Arabs. They claim they are descendants of the Sufi saint  Hazrat Shah Vadiduddin Urf Jinda Julan Shah  Maddar, whose shrine is located at Makkanpur in the Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Today, rarely do any people from this community are engaged in their traditional occupation.

The Tilak worn by married women of this community is of red colour bottom kalidar skirt attached with any other colour (except black) blouse. In a sleeveless blouse with a front opening, the opening follows 15-20 cm down to the waistline. At the joining of the waist, a silver hook is attached as a closure. The hook is beautifully designed to enhance the look of the Tilak. The bottom red colour kalidar skirt consists of 20-30 Kalis. Each width of the Kali is 20- 22cm at the hemline and narrows up to the waist measuring 3 inches. All the Kalis are gathered evenly and joined at the waist with the blouse. Gathers ( joinery inside the garment at the waist) are finished neatly with hand heming. The uniqueness of this Tilak is its Hemline. The hemline consist of 1.5” wide green colour  magzi (border) stitched over the edges following with yellow colour piping (0.5  cm).

NEELGAR (SEKHAWATI):

In Rajasthan, the Muslim Rangrez community  claim to have come from Delhi during the rule  of Mohammad Ghori while many believe they are thought to be converts to Islam from the  Hindu Rangrez. The word Rangrez in Persian means one who pours on colour or dyes the fabric.

Their traditional occupation was that of dyeing and printing clothes. Many Rangreza is leaving their original profession of dyeing and printing fabrics. Today, many of them have begun to engage in the business of selling fabric and clothing. Rangrezs are further divided into subgroups i.e Chhipa, Lalgarh,  Nilgar, Ranghar, Bandistrare, Chunrigar and Shaikh. Nilgar generally prepares colour from indigo. In the region of Jaipur Nilgars are further divided into territorial groupings  mainly Shekhawati & Rajawati(Sanganeri).  Both groups do the work of dyeing, the only  difference is Shekhawati Muslims don’t do the lehariya dying.

The Tilak worn by married women of Neelgar Shekhawat is of red colour bottom kalidar skirt attached with any other colour (except black) blouse. A three-fourth sleeve with straight armhole blouse with front opening, the opening follows  15-20 cm down to the waistline. The blouse has  gussets attached to the sleeves. At the joining of the waist, a silver hook is attached as a closure.  The bottom red colour kalidar skirt consists of 20-30 Kalis. Each width of the Kali is 20- 22cm at the hemline and narrows up to the waist measuring 3 inches.  All the Kalis are gathered evenly and joined at the waist with the blouse. Gathers(joinery inside the garment at the waist) are finished neatly with hand hemming. The uniqueness of this  Tilak is its Hemline. The hemline consists of a  top stitch of white colour thread with the machine.

NEELGAR (RAJAWATI):

It is a zero-waste costume made in a single red color cotton fabric for females of Rajavati Nilgar Muslim community. Earlier it was made up of up to 200 Kalis. Later it changed to 40-100 kalis depending on the weight of the costume women can handle. Kalis are further divided into four equal parts and each parts; two at side front and  two at both the sides of back are gathered and sewn at one place in a 2 to 2.5 inches width. All the Kalis are gathered and hemed so neatly that it doesnt seems that the whole one-fourth of the total kalis are sewn together. The total fabric consumed for making one Tilak was 15-20 meters.

References:

  1. B. N. Goswamy, “ Indian Costumes in the collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles” Vol-V,
    Ahmedabad, 2010
  2. Anamika Pathak, “ Indian Costumes”, New Delhi, Roli& Janssen BV 2006
  3. Aman Nath & Francis Wacziarg, “Arts & Crafts of Rajasthan”
  4. Vandana Bhandari, “ Costume Textile and Jewellery of India- Tradition in Rajathan”
  5. Archer, M. “ Company drawings in the Indian office library”, 1972
  6. Chaitayana, Krishna, “A history of Indian painting- Rajasthan Tradition”, 1982
  7. Sharma, G. N. “ Rajasthan ka Itihash”, 1978
  8. http://www.indianculture.gov.in/

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