By Nigar Orujova
At the center of a political, religious and cultural debate, the traditional headscarf worn by many women in the Muslim world has seen a revival in many countries including the largely secular Azerbaijan where the Kelaghayi has been making inroads. If the scarf, called the hijab in many Arab and Muslim countries is worn for religious beliefs, here in Azerbaijan, it is more of traditional and fashion statement.
Kelaghayi, a symbol of social cohesion, is an expression of cultural identity and religious tradition. This emblem of beauty, grace and honor has a special and valuable place in the eyes of Azerbaijani women.
Azerbaijani traditional headscarf, the Kelaghayi, was included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in late November.
Kelaghayi with its silky material and four-cornered shape is an integral part of women's national costume in Azerbaijan. For centuries, it protected Azerbaijanis women both in hot summer and cold winter.
Kelaghayis differ in color, design and size. By means of these headscarves, one could interpret the status of a woman. Unmarried girls covered their heads with Kelaghayis of bright colors, while dark colored Kelaghayis were designed only for older women.
Women changed Kelaghayis for particular events. For instance, the bride would wear a bright red scarf and her face was covered.
Ancient Azerbaijani cities such as Ganja, Shamakhi, Sheki, and Nakhchivan, and Basqal settlement of the Ismayilli region are famous for high quality Kelaghayi production.
Today, this tradition is still alive in some of them and everyone can be acquainted with them as well as buy this wonderful silk scarf in Azerbaijani regions. Here one can also order an exclusive scarf.
The art of producing Kalaghayis is magnificent and at the same time a complicated one.
Production of Kelaghayi consists of several steps, such as weaving, dyeing and hand cloth printing. The scarves are produced of silk fine yarn. The material woven in the loom is cut and boiled in water.
Then it is hanged for drying, after which the scarf is decorated with patterns, the important part of any Kelaghayi inscribed on the scarf with the help of Basmanakhish.
Kelagayi makers use special natural color essences in the design process made from various plants, in particular, barberry, wild orange, wild apple, saffron, currant, hornbeam tree, and broom roots.
Stamps for Kelaghayi are called Galib and made from pear, nut and wild apple trees.
Every pattern of the Kelagayi has a different meaning and is associated with botanic, isomorphic and geometric shapes, while the main figure used is buta.
After design, the Kelaghayi is colored in "kup dami". Coloring is the most difficult part of the process and is a very complicated job, as only specialists know how long a piece of silk should stay in the dye.
Kelaghayi makers resemble the dyeing and design process with Azerbaijani folk music Mugham, as they believe that the use of seven colors is linked to the number of Mughams.
Tradition of Kelaghayi making can be observed in Sheki city and Basqal settlement which is also known for its Silk Center and Kelaghayi Museum, where visitors can learn everything about this ancient art.