Kelaghayi – a traditional silk headgear for Azerbaijani women recognized by UNESCO as World Intangible Cultural Heritage – AZERTAC

Baku, January 28, AZERTAC

Kelaghayi is a traditional pure silk Azerbaijani women’s headgear that has etched the concepts such as purity, dignity, beauty and peace in the minds of the Azerbaijani people, becoming an integral part of the country’s centuries-old cultural heritage.

As a souvenir and fashion accessory, kelaghayi are also very popular today among guests visiting Azerbaijan.

Kelaghayi can be of different colors and sizes, and its edges are decorated with various geometric ornaments. The most popular among these ornaments is the Buta. It is assumed that this ornament, widespread in Azerbaijan, dates back to the time of fire worship.

Kelaghayi is not just a headgear, its patterns and ornaments embody many features of national life, ceremonies and events related to the national and spiritual world of the Azerbaijani people. So, for example, in the pairing ceremony, after obtaining consent from the girl’s side, the woman representing the groom’s side presents a marriage wrapped in a red kelaghayi.

Scarf colors have symbolic meanings and are often linked to specific social occasions, such as weddings, mourning ceremonies, daily activities and celebrations.

Each kelaghayi has its own design philosophy and purpose. Red kelaghayi is worn at weddings, white and blue or brown are worn on weekdays, and black at mourning ceremonies.

The manufacture of Kelaghayi includes several stages: the weaving of the fabric, the dyeing and the decoration on wood. Weavers choose fine silk threads from sericulture producers and weave fabrics on looms, then boil and dry them into square-shaped fabrics.

With the help of plant substances, the masters then dye the fabrics in different colors and decorate them with patterns using wooden stamps, covered with solutions of rosin, paraffin and solid oil.

Rooted in traditions found along the Great Silk Road, Kelaghayi art is concentrated in two places in Azerbaijan: the historic Silk Road city of Sheki and the Basgal settlement of Ismayilli district.

In Azerbaijan, where sericulture and silk weaving have been developed since ancient times, silk fabrics were widely used in national clothing. During the first half of the 19th century, the fame of Basgal silk products went beyond the country’s borders. In 1862, for the first time, Azerbaijani silk was presented at the International Exhibition in London, where the weaver Basgal Nasir Abdulaziz was honored with a silver medal and a diploma for gentle Kelaghayi and Ganovuz ( a very fine and shiny silk fabric).

The Saint-Etienne company of French Leon was one of the regular customers of Sheki silk. It is not surprising that at the beginning of the 19th century, for success in the field of silk production, Sheki was called Leon of the Caucasus, comparing it with the French capital of silk.

The village of Basgal, having the status of a state historical and cultural reserve, was known for its silk products even in the 15th century. Today, the “Kelaghayi” silk center operates in Basgal, where an interactive museum has been created. Visitors to the museum can not only learn about the history and traditions of kelaghayi, but also observe and even participate in the manufacturing process.

Famous travelers and diplomats such as Adam Olearius, Anthony Jenkinson, Evliya Celebi, Alexandre Dumas, Fedot Kotov and others visiting Azerbaijan in different years mentioned kelaghayi in their travel notes.

In May 2021, the Cult program of the Euronews television channel, in partnership with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture, broadcast a special video report entitled “Artisans reveal the secrets of making the iconic kelaghayi scarf”. The report began by saying that the historic city of Sheki, on the Silk Road in Azerbaijan, has long been a center of silk production and is particularly famous for its scarves called kelaghayi.

The video report highlighted the three stages of making kelaghayi, which are weaving the fabric, dyeing and decorating on wood. It was also mentioned that the process of making traditional Azerbaijani kelaghayis is a painstaking process that requires skill and a lot of the raw material in question, namely silk.

“Hayat Khalilova designs and sells Kelaghayi scarves in her shop in Baku. She explains that there is a way to tell if a Kelaghayi is authentic. If he can easily pass through a ring without getting caught or snagged, then he’s genuine,” the program host said.

During the 4th Ethnosport Cultural Festival organized in Istanbul on October 3, 2019 by the World Ethnosport Confederation, the equestrian team and the dance ensemble of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan performed the show-composition “Azerbaijani Kelaghayi and Karabakh Horses” , which has been one of the best showcases for promoting the country’s rich cultural heritage and national values.

The uniqueness of Azerbaijani Kelaghayi craftsmanship has been proven by its inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO titled “Traditional making and wearing of women’s silk headscarf and its symbolism” in November 2014.



AZERTAG.AZ :Kelaghayi – a traditional Azerbaijani women’s silk headgear recognized by UNESCO as World Intangible Cultural Heritage

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