People say that the shape of the Dhaka Topi resembles the mountains. It does, actually, and when you wear it on your forehead, it’s on the top; that’s where mountains exist. Thus, it is a sign of Nepal’s pride, a country that is home to some of the tallest peaks in the world.
Dhaka Topi is a hand-spun (these days machines make it too) brimless cap popular in Nepal. Also known as the Nepali topi, it is the ‘signature headgear’ in the cultural fashion of Daura Suruwal.
Since the time of King Mahendra who ruled between 1955 and 1972, wearing the topi became mandatory for photographs for citizenships and passports. Well, the rule is slowly subsiding; however, it shows how significant the topi has been for the Nepali society.
How Did the Dhaka Topi Come into Existence?
There are many stories regarding the introduction of Dhaka topi in the Himalayan Nation, and all of them have their own explanation. Nevertheless, the legends are all interesting.
The Royalty Story: According to it, a Nepali royalty (most probably a Rana minister) went to Dhaka, Bangladesh and saw the local Jamdani cloth. The Jamdani makes the Dhaka topi, and as he brought the fashion to Nepal, the hat got its name.
After the Bengal Invasion: Some people say that Dhaka cloth came in Nepal as early as the Muslim conquest of Bengal during the 12th to 16th centuries. During that time, Hindus fleeing from parts of Bangladesh brought the cloth into Nepal.
The Name Theory: This one is particularly of the name and not the cloth. According to it, ‘Dhaka’ comes from Nepali work ‘Dhaknu’ (ढाक्नु), which means ‘to cover.’ As a cap covers your head, it got its name.
However, the different types of patterns in the Dhaka topic is attributed back to Ganesh Man Maharjan, a worker in a Jamdani factory during the 1950s. Jung Bahadur Rana’s daughter wearing Dhaka clothes intrigued him. Being inspired by that and playing around with the pattern, he created the Dhaka stripes.
Dhaka Topi’s Significance in the Nepali Society
As said earlier in this article, during the times of King Mahendra and some years before now, wearing a Dhaka Topi was mandatory in every picture significant to the Nepalese identity. Additionally, leaders and the population both wear fashion during select dates of national festivals and celebrations.
Dhaka Topi goes with the Daura Suruwal, which makes it a part of the Nepali national dress code. You will see it in every special event; from weddings to social gatherings. It has its own place in culture and history.
These days, however, the Dhaka Topi has been losing its popularity, especially among the Youths, which has been seen as a concern. It is mainly because people prefer western fashion above the typical Nepali ones. Of course, we can’t complain about the trend, being Nepalis, we still have the responsibility to keep the culture alive.
Every year on January 1, Nepalese people all around the world celebrate Topi Day. On this day, they either wear the Dhaka or the Bhadgaule Topi along with Daura Suruwal and march in the streets like a parade. Well, even if they don’t go out, some might take pictures and publish it on social media. Either way, it is good, as long as they wear their topis.
The Dhaka Pattern has been catching the eyes of many modern fashion designers as well. Integrating the style with contemporary designs is becoming a trend these days. Thus, even if youths don’t wear topis as they used to before, there isn’t a shortage of the pattern in the streets; mostly on T-shirts, Shirts and Tops. Not to mention the Jamdani Sari itself.
The Dhaka Topi is a part of the Nepali identity. The distinctiveness in style and the meaning behind the fashion gives a unique definition of being a Nepalese. Moreover, the pattern is exquisite; cool enough to grab a lot of attention when you are out.