Dhaka Topi: The Symbol of Nepalese Nationality

dhaka topi

Background of Dhaka Topi

Dhaka Topi, pride Nepalese men carry on their heads, is a significant part of our national male attire – Daura Suruwal. This Topi represents as a symbol of our nationality. It has different varieties with specific names.

Men of  Bhadgaon by Trish Wilson on 500px.com

This art of making Dhaka passes down from generation to generation. In the olden days, preceding even the Rana rulers, the Kiratis were renowned silk farmers. In fact, some etymological sources claim that the name Kirat itself is a hybrid form of the word Kereta: the silkworm. Thus, the skill of creating fabric from the earth is a cultural heirloom of these Nepalese communities.

And the Dhaka is an outstanding outcome of this very heirloom – no two Dhaka patterns are ever the same. The variety of colorful geometric patterns of the Dhaka are spurts of individuality and creativity of its weavers.

History of Dhaka Topi

Saturday Afternoon by Make K Rai on 500px.com

The Dhaka topi is a part of the Nepalese national dress and a symbol of Nepalese nationality. It became popular during the reign of King Mahendra, who ruled between 1955 and 1972. Wearing a Dhaka topi is mandatory for official photographs for passports and documents. Dhaka Topis are gifted during Dashain and Tihar festivals.

Dhaka topi is also worn by government officials as a part of the national dress. In the times of King Mahendra Dhaka topis for rent was available near the Singha Durbar (Lion Hall) in Kathmandu. The badge of khukuri cross is worn on the cap by officials in Kathmandu or when a Nepalese visit the Palace but not the common Nepali.

Dhaka Fabric and its origin

nepali dhaka products

This brimless Nepali cap is made of various patterned cotton fabric. The fabric originally was imported from Dhaka (Capital of Bangladesh). Hence, it was named Dhaka Topi. It is the hand-spun cotton inlay-pattern weaving used to make intricately patterned, colorful panels for Dhaka topis is the most remarkable and visible cotton textile in Nepal. Pre-dyed cotton is imported from India and weaved by master craftspeople into intricate patterns using only a few colors.

Dhaka topis are found in multicolor which includes red, green, white, blue, brown, etc. They are also decorated with golden thread to let it shine and glitter. Round at the base with 3 to 4 inches height, it is a symbol of the mountain after ice melts. It is linked with the greenery and vegetation that comes after the melted ice flow as rivers.

History of Bhadgaule Topi

Muskan The Perfect Smile by Nirazan Shrestha on 500px.com

Before Dhaka topi, we have a black cap. It is known as Bhadgaunle Topi. Its name is derived from the place Bhadgaun, currently known as Bhaktapur. The Newars of Bhaktapur are in majority to put on this Topi as their culture.

It is mandatory for the officials in the institutions like the army, the police, and the scouts. Later, colorful Dhaka topi was in more of people’s interest. People fancy wearing in programs, events, etc.

For the official photographs, it is compulsory to put on Dhaka Topi or Bhadgaunle Topi. Most of the ethnicity of our country naming Brahmins, Chhetris as few wear it generally.

Bhadgaunle Topi -Fabric and its Origin

Bhadgaunle Topi is a complete black cap with particular textured fabric. Whereas Dhaka Topi has wonderful designs with multicolor threads. It comes in various beautiful patterns. Men look astounding when they carry this with fresh and crisp Daura Suruwal.

Official men pin a badge of khukuri (our national weapon) or the flag (our national emblem) which distinctly shine on their heads.

A Newari old man by Mohan Duwal on 500px.com

Our elder generations (Newars) tuck a small fresh flower behind one of their ears which typically reveals our culture. The flower between the topi and the ear looks perfect on their smiling faces.

History of Palpali Dhaka Topi

Palpali Topi and its Manufacture Process

Nepal of the present is a country in flux. But before there were expensive brand-named stores of Durbar Marg or the consumerist frenzy of New Road, there was the simple but exquisite Dhaka. Woven on the wheel and the loom, the origins of the Dhaka can trace to Kirati communities – especially Limbu and Rai women, from regions like Palpa and Tehrathum in Nepal.

Traditionally, sitting on the floor, these women transformed cotton from local fields into yarn using the Charkha: the wheel. This yarn was then dyed and dried under the sun has to be homespun into Dhaka using the Haate Taan: the Handloom.

With regard to Palpa, the cloth was woven here since the Magarat era. At that time, the cloth was woven in every household, because of which, such cloth was called ‘home-woven’.  

Today, the custom of making such ‘home-woven’ cloth has disappeared in the vast ocean of history. The loom is made from one type of Salla tree (pine tree) known as ‘Tangsing’ in the Magar language. This tree is plenty in number in Palpa district. Hence, its headquarter is named Tangsing in Magar, at present -Tansen.

Regarding the question of when cloth started to be woven using handlooms in Palpa. While  ‘home-woven’ cloth was everywhere as far back as two to four decades ago. Along with modern advances, weaving cloth using the innovative hand-looms probably began around 1984/85 B.S.

Purbeli Dhaka Topi – Nettle (allo) Fabric

purbeli dhaka topi allo fabric

Palpali topi is also known as Purbeli Topi. It is made with nettle fabric extracted from nettle plants. Nettle fabric is very good for the body. It not only soothes the body but also cures some skin diseases. It is very environment-friendly.

There are other products like shirt, shawl, outer, trousers, purse, sidebags, etc. made up of nettle fabric. People have started seeking home productions.   

Culture – Ritual & Occasions

We have many rituals and occasions in Kathmandu Valley. It comprises of three main cities -Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. Each city is full of different cultures and occasions. This makes Nepal rich in festivals.

Specially, we see many colorful Dhaka topis in Jatras (Festival) on each man’s head. Dhaka topi with an Istacoat (Waistcoat) looks amazing on those dancing souls during Jatras.

A group of nepali men in Dhaka Topi around Patan Durbar Square by Rupen Shakya on 500px.com

Gaijatra, Indrajatra, Machchhindranath Jatra, and many more of the road festivals carry aesthetic beauty and significance of our culture.

Dhaka Topi carries the essence of unifying mountains, hills and plains of Nepal. Besides festivals, men in the villages and other districts outside valley hold the culture of wearing Dhaka topi as their daily attire. Office bearers wear as their uniform while others put in a regular basis.

Popularity and Significance

Dhaka topi in abroad is as popular as in Nepal. Nepalese living abroad admires and respects it even more. Nowadays we see Nepalese in a foreign land having the trend of putting on our national headgear in every event they celebrate there. Not only men but women and girls also put on happily, nevertheless, it is in a whim, it is nation-love.

Not limiting to Nepalese nationals but even foreign celebrities namely David Beckham, Irish cricketer Kevin O’ Brien, etc. has been seen admiring our Topi.   

Dhaka Topi Size Chart and Price

This topi price varies according to the design and effort put on. You can find ranges of US$ 2.2 – US$ 20.

Dhaka topi sizes vary according to individual. The general size chart below will of some help while choosing the accurate size.

General SizeUS Hat SizeHead Measurement(in inches)
XS6 5/820 3/4
S6 3/4 – 6 7/821 1/8 – 21 1/2
M7 – 7 1/821 7/8 – 22 1/4
L7 1/4 – 7 3/822 5/8 – 23
XL7 1/2 – 7 5/823 1/2 – 23 7/8
2XL7 3/4 – 7 7/824 1/4 – 24 5/8
3XL825 1/4

Other Handmade Dhaka Products

Apart from Dhaka Topi you also get various accessories made of it. Dhaka Ko Cholo (Blouse made of Dhaka fabric) is famous for ladies for some cultural events or some rituals. Senior ladies of the house or whole community put on this blouse as they perform the custom.

Daura Suruwal

Daura Suruwal, particular fabric shoes, belt, a boarder in Saree, fancy handbags, shopping bags, pencil case, wallet, shawls, etc. are found in general Dhaka fabric stores in Nepal.

It is a very important step and encouragement for the people who run these factories producing ample varieties of Dhaka products for the present generation. Thanks to those who are carrying the passion and legacy for one’s own country’s production.

Buy Dhaka Topi Online

My Dhaka Topis (Nepalese Dhaka Caps) by Razan Joshi on 500px.com

Any of these Dhaka Topi are sold online as well as various stores. If you wish to buy one do not forget to further look for other beautiful products made of Dhaka fabric.

Do contact us if you need any of them, we will deliver the product in your door step.

Featured Image Source: https://flic.kr/p/P9JZvm