Clothing is an essential part of every culture, as it demonstrates the lifestyle of the nation throughout the history. In Azerbaijan, traditional clothing has also a special meaning in the culture. Kelaghayi is the most charming piece of Azerbaijani clothing, which women used as a headscarf. It is a square shaped shawl woven from silk with traditional patterns on it. The normal size differs among 150x150cm and 160x160 cm. Importance of the kelaghayi comes from being an attribute of the beauty, respect, pureness, and chastity in Azerbaijani culture.
History of kelaghayi is related to the silk production of Azerbaijan since centuries. According to the geographical location, Azerbaijan was one of the most important countries on Great Silk Road, as it was the gate of the east to the western world. Moreover, silk was one of the famous products produced in Azerbaijan at that time. Sheki district was specialized on silk production. Sheki silk was used for different purposes such as export or clothing production. Kelaghayi was one piece of the clothing that was made from Sheki silk. However, the whole process of kelaghayi production didn't proceed in Sheki. Silk woven shawls were sent to Basqal settlement for further procedures such as dyeing and printing patterns on them.
The most interesting fact about the process of kelaghayi production is that it is completely organic. The process itself is very complicated and many people take part in the production. Firstly, silk is produced and woven by tarrakh (kelaghayi weaver) in Sheki. Afterwards, silk shawls are sent to Basqal in order to be dyed. Dyes are prepared organically from various plants. Lastly, beautiful patterns are printed on kelaghayi with molds by molders. The most frequently used ornament is buta, which is used in Azerbaijani carpets as well. Producing a kelaghayi takes 2 days. Another interesting point is that only men do all the steps.
Kelaghayis in each region differ in their patterns and colors. All have special names and the most popular ones are “Heyrati”, “Istiotu”, “Sogani”, “Shah buta” and “Abi”.
Besides symbolizing woman beauty, kelaghayi has different meanings in relations and occasions. For instance, colorful kelaghayis were worn in weddings and celebrations, whereas black ones worn in funerals. Furthermore, if a woman gave kelaghayi to a man, she was considered as presenting her love forever to him and accepting his proposal. A bride wears a red kelaghayi during the henna party (a traditional ceremony before the wedding). Another tradition related to the wedding is that groom’s friends tie kelaghayi to their arms. Not all but many traditions still remain in ceremonies.
Nowadays, kelaghayi is widely used by Azerbaijani women as an accessory. You can find many shops in Icherisheher (Old Town) that offers kelaghayi. It’s the accessory that you will definitely fall in love with.
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