On our recent trip to India, we travelled around Rajasthan for more than 3 weeks. What caught my eye on this trip were the colors of Rajasthan. Every city of Rajasthan has its own theme color. We started our adventures in the “Pink City” of Jaipur then to the “White Cities” of Pushkar and Udaipur. We then continued to less traveled “Blue City” of Bundi and to the more crowded bigger “Blue City” of Jodhpur. And any trip to Rajasthan is not complete without going to the “Golden Cities” of Jaisalmer and Bikaner.

Laughing with kids in turban - Less Traveled World

Seeing these colors my artistic side came alive, although I must admit it was not the beautiful cities that attracted me most nor the colorful, glittering saris. Rather, I was smitten with the turbans that Rajasthani men wear. As a photographer and painter, I couldn’t simply just ignore these colorful head coverings. They are so lively that I became obsessed with them to the point that even on local bus rides I keep snapping photos of people in colorful turbans.

Rajasthani turbans are locally known as Safa, Paaga or Pagri, and may vary in length. They are normally a part of formal dress code for Rajasthani men. Turbans can also be associated with the status or even the profession of a person. Different colors signify different meanings such as occasions, cultural traits, traditions, caste and even seasons. Turbans mean different things to different groups.

Men in colorful turbans - Less Traveled World

Turbans in different seasons and types:

Some turban colors are seasonal. During the harvesting months of February and March, men in Rajasthan wear Falgunia. During the monsoon season, green and pink or yellow and red lahariya patterns are worn. Black chunari are worn for Diwali (the festival of light); saffron is worn for Dussehra (the day of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning), mothara for Raksha Bandhan (brother’s day), yellow during Basant Panchami (fifth day of spring), and motiya (pearl pink) during Kartika Poornima (night of the full moon in November).

Safa: This turban is the longest measuring nine meters in length and one meter in width.

Falgunia: White turbans with the ends dyed red.

Lahariya: Tie-dyed with waves or chevrons .

Chunari: Tie-dyed with red borders.

Dussehra: Men wrap a saffron colored turban.

Mothara: Checkered pattern turbans

Motiya: Pearl pink color turbans.

The panchrangi pagri is dyed in five different colors and is worn for festivals and special occasions. Other colors also signify family circumstances; the dotted chunari signifies a marriage or birth of a child, while white, dark blue, or maroon may be worn for funerals.

Men in colorful turbans

Turbans practical functions and uses:

They can be used to protect the head from any injury, sand and heat.

They can be used as rope.

For tying and fetching water from a well.

They can also be used as a pillow, a blanket or a towel.

They serve as a symbol of pride and prestige for the male who wears it.

Men in colorful turbans - Less Traveled World

I can’t deny it, I enjoyed this trip so much that I now regret taking thousands of photos (due to the after-trip workload!).  But it certainly was worth it, looking at the photos reminds me of my 3 weeks of “turban affairs”. This also reminds me of a young Rajasthani man whom I asked what he thought about wearing a turban when he got older. He plainly answered “it’s heavy on the head”. Looking back at these photos of men in colorful turbans I came to realize that I have been so lucky to have witnessed such beautiful customs and traditions, which might one day be erased and completely replaced with modern styles tailored to impress today’s younger generations.

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Raquel is an avid traveler and an aspiring photographer. She loves trekking, camping and mountain climbing. Raquel is also a self-taught artists having her paintings exhibited in the Philippines and in Bangkok.

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