KARACHI, Dec 8: The demand for Sindhi topis and Ajraks doesn’t only skyrocket on the Sindhi Cultural Day but has become a year-round fashion statement.
While the use of Ajrak in villages has always been quite common, in the cities it was used mostly on special occasions, such as wedding ceremonies. But according to people in the business, the demand for the traditional attire, even in urban areas, was never as high as in 2013.
“Most of the younger generation didn’t like topi and Ajrak but the trend has changed now. They like to buy it in different colours and of good quality,” commented Abdul Ghafoor from Tando Muhammad Khan.
The demand for painted Ajrak is still low as compared to the printed ones since the latter are much cheaper. The printed Ajraks are sold between Rs500 to Rs800 while traditional ones, which are mostly painted by hand, start from Rs1,000 and can go up to Rs5,000.
“Thousands of printed Ajraks can be made in a single day while a traditional Ajrak needs time,” said Ajrak maker, Fayaz Hussain Soomro, from Tando Muhammad Khan, adding that it takes 20 to 25 days to make 40 traditional Ajraks. “The work is quite technical and requires concentration.”
The main Ajrak market is in Hyderabad and its surrounding areas, including Hala, Bhitt Shah and Tando Muhammad Khan. The Sindhi topis, according to its makers, have also become quite popular because of their colours and styles and remain more popular than Ajrak.
The 5th Sindhi Cultural Day, which will be celebrated today [Sunday], is being celebrated with fervour not only across the province but also in America, Canada and the United Kingdom where Sindhi families and students reside in large numbers.
Multiple political and nationalist parties, civil society organisations and communities have planned to arrange walks in small towns and big cities for the revival of Sindh’s heritage. Rallies from different parts of Karachi will converge outside the Karachi Press Club.
Rallies, charged with popular folk songs such as ‘Jeay Sindh Jeay, Sindh Wara Jeayan’, were organised during the last week along with activities, such as ‘Mach Kachehries’.
Apart from Sindhis, people from other ethnic groups, swathed in the indigo block-printed Ajrak, Sindhi topis and patko with white dresses, also took part in the festivities.
The cultural day is being celebrated on the theme ‘Aikta Day’ [unity day] which Sindhi writers, poets and intellectuals think is quite fitting, saying, “This day, which falls in the last month of the year, has united different clans under a single banner.” They believe that soon, the day will not only be about wearing Ajrak and Sindhi topis but will be given a constructive direction. “It is a good sign that people own their cultural identity. It is a sign of life. It also indicates that the culture has diversity,” said renowned writer and poetess Amar Sindhu.
While talking to The Express Tribune from Lahore, Sindhu said that while the passion was visible, the spirit of Sindh was still missing from the event. “The [Sindhi] culture has gathered people from all walks of life and now it has become a mass culture. No one can stop it now.”
Poet Masroor Pirzado also called it a day of showing unity. “The sense of cultural celebrations and unity will reduce hatred among people and will lessen extremism in the society,” said Pirzado. “The cultural day should not be restricted to only wearing topis, ajrak and dancing on folk songs. It must also change attitude of the people to understand their cultural values.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2013.