Thalanagara Thoppi – a famed tradition on the brink of extinction

kerala thoppiNot long ago, the sleepy village of  Thalangara in Kasargod, Kerala had been synonymous with the making of the famous  Thalangara Thoppies, the beautiful embroidered skull caps. There was a time when literally every household had atleast a few expert hands in making these intricately crafted caps. But today, there is just one person in the entire area,  Abubacker Musliyar of Bankode, who is engaged in the production Thalangara caps, which is on the brink of extinction.

These hand crafted skull caps were in heavy demand in gulf countries and were exported to many foreign countries including Malaysia, Burma, Singapore and the Gulf countries and became part of the glorious past of Thalangara.  However, the  introduction of the mechanised skull cap production sounded the death knell of this cottage industry, which is fighting for survival. Before the remittances from the gulf countries started to flow to this nondescript village, these skull caps were the major source of revenue for the villagers. Not any more! There are not many skilled hands to take up this vocation as most of them have gone in search of lucrative job options else where.

Gone are the days when men wove the skull caps and the women did the embellishments. The weavers use different designs and colours in the caps and every  thread is dyed in a particular pattern, and then woven in  some specific designs, which resemble the calligraphic forms that are used in Arabic and Persian mats. This makes this process time consuming and that requires a lot of patience and creativity.

During the holy month of Ramadan, there will be  a heavy demand for these caps as the visitors to the historic Thalangara Malik Deenar mosque often buy these caps as  souvenirs.  Though he is waging a lone battle of survival in keeping this artform alive, Musliyar is committed to keep alive this tradition that had been passed down to him through generations.  It is indeed a matter of grave concern that lack of promotional efforts might wipe off yet again cottage industry from Kerala. Efforts could be initiated to propagate this dying art form among the youth and to make it a lucrative vocation. Hats off to Abubacker Musliyar, a selfless  artisan who has dared to put the value of these art pieces above his material gain!

Sholto Ramsay

Boss, motivator and general eccentric with a deep love of Kerala and India who just wants everyone to enjoy an amazing and life enhancing experience of Kerala.

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