Lahore Snaps VIII: Dupata

Posted by sepoy on May 22, 2008 · 4 mins read

The shuttle-cock burqas that now envelope our collective imagination as womanly garb across the Islamicate society was rarely seen in Lahore during my childhood. It was all light as breeze, translucent, brightly hued flags wrapped around jet black hair - effortlessly matching the shalwar-kameezs. Dupata, itself, is more than a simple matching wrap; it has a storied history in Urdu literature and poetics. It's lightness and transparency connect sober decorum to public grace and beauty. As in this playful song, where the lyrical shifting of the dupata causes the proverbial end of the times. But more than piety, this thin fabric often symbolized vivid connection to love.

While sitting next to my Amma from one interminable visit to an Auntie to another, my favorite pastime was to nibble on her dupata. A habit that quickly ran afoul of her good nature, when she started to find little teeth-bitten holes in her favorite _outside_dupatas (yes, there is a system). Boy oh.

I was lucky enough to snap some pics of a typical colorizing (dye-ing) of a dupata to match a shalwar-kameez fabric. Go below to see.

The intricate designs call you in.

The Artist at work.

The color palette is arrayed.
The Palette

The process starts with a boiling bowl of water within which is set another bowl of water. Into this inner bowl, the primary color is added.
Adding Color

The Artist and his Apprentice. The white dupata is then folded into the inner bowl.

After a very short period, the dupata is lifted out.
Dipped Dupata

And the color is matched to the suit-piece.
Matching the Color

The dupata is then furled and unfurled a number of times to let it dry a bit.

And then refolded.

A secondary color added to the inner bowl, the dupata is now re-dipped.
Two Tone

And unfurled before hanging out to dry.

More elaborate patterns are done with tightly wound dupata interlaced with threads.

Previously: Lahore Snaps VII: An Afternoon Out, Lahore Snaps VI: How We Roll, Lahore Snaps V: Signs, Lahore Snaps IV: We Eat, Lahore Snaps III: Marks it Bears, Lahore Snaps II: Where We Lived, Lahore Snaps I: Games We Play ...

Also, FYI: There are additional snaps on Flickr that I am not posting in these posts here...


desiknitter | May 22, 2008

Arre wah, a fiber arts post and with great process pics! Did they tell you what their dyes are made of? The instant dye-matching to the salwar kameez is indeed an art, and eating chaat while waiting for it to dry is absolutely a rule. If you didn't find it readymade, there was always a dyer at Lajpat Nagar's Central Market who got you the right shade. My favourite dupatta song is the old Lata classic from Barsaat: Now I want to know what patterns the master knitters of Lahore are working up!

jacqueline | May 23, 2008

lovely post and sweet image (little teeth-bitten holes).

Cress | May 24, 2008

Great pics indeed! Any pics of how the brown laheria (?) one came out? Desiknitter - you are so right as well! Happy times standing in Lajpat Nagar Central Market - chaat in one hand - picking colours. It's an alchemy I can never quite resist, finding the suit piece is, fine, but any excuse to get the dupatta dyed. They tend to be the only part of my Delhi fieldwork garb to survive into London life - not least because they keep the drizzle from going down my neck so well (wrapped 3 times round), out and about on a bicycle. Am always fascinated the myriad uses they get put to as well, in dress, (from ghunghat, to demure all chest covering, to bust enhancement, to just languidly over one shoulder, all depending on drape) to just being a handy piece of cloth; from hoiking hot pans off the stove, wiping snotty kids noses (eugh!) to Delhi police always advertised self defense courses - including how to use one as self defense? Still can't envisage that. And that's before we get to teenage tie-dye projects; wish I'd known about these guys then!

Desi Italiana | May 25, 2008

Dupattas also facilitate flirting; i.e. some guy hits on a ladkhi, she coyly tries to walk away, and he gently tugs at her dupatta to reel her back. Dupattas are awesome for dancing bhangra. Dupatta tera sat rang da.

shankarkotkar | June 05, 2008

Excellent presentation with a beautiful process pictures.Contiue doing good work.

JJ Burns | July 18, 2008

I wish to pruchase several crushed, non metalic dupatas in soft colors. Emerald, Amathest, red amber, and silver. Can you give me a Lahorie web site?