The centuries old tradition of wearing the Pashtoon turban, once a sign of prestige and honour has recently fallen into decline. This has been seen not only visibly, with the turban often being left out of every day dress, but also in the markets, where business for the turban was previously booming.
The turban, known in Pashto as a patke or qula loongey is worn with a special cap underneath, known as the qula and the fabric fastened around it called the loongey. Tracing back the history of the turban amongst Pashtoons, Bara resident and tribal elder, Malik Zartif Khan says, “The first time it was used was in Kandahar when Ahmad Shah Durrani was declared the Afghan ruler. A local saint from a nearby shrine came and tucked some ears of wheat into the sides of the turban as a sign of good luck.”
“This is a very ancient tradition among Pashtoons and in the past wearing the turban was usually very common, but now it has become restricted to specific people like Malik’s, Khan’s and elders,” says Zartif Khan. “People mainly in the tribal areas wear it if an official is visiting the area, or will make one for the guest as a gift and a sign of honour.”
Habibullah Jan, a middle aged Pashtoon from Bara believes, “The tradition of wearing turbans is fading because of its high price in the bazaar and another is increasing education.” The Qaisa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar previously attracted many people from the border regions wanting to buy the turban and even those from across Afghanistan.
The younger generation are now the key targets for attempts to popularise the wearing of the turban as Hajji Muhammad Ameen, an Afridi tribal elder highlights “At one point the founder of Islamiya College in Peshawar, Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan, declared that students should wear the turban as part of their uniform.”
Habibullah Jan adds that “These days the younger generation are adopting modern fashions, but still in wedding ceremonies, the groom wears it as part of our Pashtoon tradition.”
However, tribal elder Malik Sarfaraz Khan believes wearing the turban should not be limited in this way, “It should not be worn only at weddings and special occasions, but rather used regularly to keep the tradition alive. Young people should be encouraged to wear this more often, so that it becomes more common. The older generation should also wear it in Jirga’s.”
Zartif Khan Afridi also suggests using the turban to symbolise a rite of passage, “When a person gets married, the turban should be put on his head and he should be told to use it in his future life.”
However, in such cases it may be worthy for those adopting the turban to note the responsibilities affiliated with wearing it and the symbolic meaning it holds. The famous Pashtoon poet Khushal Khan Khattak, in his book Dastar Nama, addressed these responsibilities writing that “There are many who wear the turban, but those who honour it are few.”