Caps (bhadgaunle topi)

Country: Nepal
Photo Dipesh Shrestha

Bhadgaunle topi, kalo topi or taka topi, as it is called in Newari, is mainly produced in Bhaktapur district. Locals have been producing the caps since Malla period. During those days, the caps used to be made from pure silk imported from India. These days silk is produced in Nepal itself. Artists need to have great degree of patience and determination to make these caps as they can make only two caps in a whole day.

Photo Dipesh Shrestha

To make the cap, homemade glue of flour boiled in water is spread all over the cloth to make it rigid.  The cloth is then cut as per the required size of the cap. The polyester/ cotton material is also cut for the inside of the cap. It is then stitched using sewing machines or by hand.  The border is usually hand-stitched. Once stitching is done, it is polished, left in the sun to dry and finally heated using an oil lamp to get the dark black color. The cap is sold in a bundle of twenty pieces in the wholesale markets.

Until few years ago, almost all households in core area of Bhaktapur used to prepare bhadgaunle caps. But these days only around ten families are involved in this age-old tradition. It currently provides employment to around 500 people.

People involved in production of bhadgaunle caps say many have left the profession due to falling demand, low profit, and expensive raw materials.

Bhadgaunle caps are exported to USA, Japan  and Australia mainly as souvenirs. In Nepal, the caps used to be paired with national dress. Until two decades ago, it was part of the dress code of Nepal Army soldiers. Bhadgaunle caps are available mostly in souvenir shops in tourist areas in Kathmandu Valley.