The assortment of head wraps one sees while traveling through the different regions of India varies greatly but surely the remarkable turbans of Rajasthan are the most distinctive for their sheer size, shape and brilliant colors. With its harsh desert climate, the need for protection from the elements is essential, especially among the farmers and shepherds. A Rajasthani turban can tell a lot about a man: his social status, where he hails from and even what season or event he is celebrating, though for an outsider this is not always evident. Apparently, bright colored turbans are worn for weddings but in the photograph, Head Gear in Opposition, the man on the right is wearing a very colorful turban and he is simply resting in the center of town. I like the comparison of his companion who has just tossed a towel over his head for protection. Immediately, we can see how the addition of a turban can transform an ordinary man into quite a regal subject.
The style of a Rajasthani turban can change every 15 km. These photographs were taken about 25 km. apart. For the proud, Rajasthani man, the turban is the most important element of his traditional dress, which is quickly vanishing and the turban is the last vestige of that traditional style.
The length of the turban or paag, safa or pagri varies greatly, along with the amount of time it takes to wrap one. A typical Rajasthani turban is approximately 9-10 meters long and takes an experienced wearer about 2-3 minutes to tie it. The longest turban commonly in use is 22 meters and that can take 3 hours to tie.
Here a man has added another layer of insulation around his turban for added warmth. His young son squats beside him with a knitted, woolen cap pulled down over his ears. Maybe he is too young to don a turban or maybe he never will because for him, it is old fashioned. He admires the film stars that he sees in Bollywood movies and they aren’t wearing turbans. This is how traditions are lost.
This man has little regard for the dictates of fashion. He knows that he is of a regal past and is justly proud of his heritage. It is people like this man who will help India ease into the 21st century without India losing her identity. His children, though, are another story. Time will tell their story.