A Ramadan Special Feature by Anas Khwaja
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Dhaka Nawab family’s rich tradition is 250 years old. This distinct culture encompasses every aspect of day to day life from religious customs to food and clothes.
“Toi Ka Kaam “or embroidery design is part of this unique culture. It is the art of decorating fabric with another layer of designed cut clothes through stitching using a needle. The design varies from geometric and floral to astronomical patterns.
This embroidery design is primarily done on Kurta and not limited to Shalwar, Sari or even bed sheets. “Toi Ka Kaam” is popular among all ages and genders. The intensity of the design work can be extensive to light.
“Zari Ka Topi” is circular in shape. The cap (topi) is made of string wrapped with Zari (Kalawatoon). The color is mostly dual tone. The body is sprinkled with geometric, floral or astronomical patterns.
Both ‘Toi ka Kaam’ and ‘Zari Ka Topi’ are signature styles of Dhaka Nawab family and represent artistic taste.
In absence of any written document it is difficult to find the Zari ka Topi’s introduction date to the family. Probably this precedes the date of the photographs from the late nineteenth century where family members including Nawab Ahsanullah is seen wearing the Topi.
Through my interviews, I found Jamila Begum (daughter of K.M.Alamgir great grand daughter of Syed Kotwal Fayezuddin) to be one of the pioneer’s weavers of the Zari Ka Topi. Later on she taught her brother Syed Abdul Shafi how to braid topi. Syed Abdul Shafi passed on this trade to her two daughters Syeda Nurunnesa (B) Begum & Syeda Khursidunnesa (Nunni) Begum.
Another lady from the family, Ferdousi Begum acknowledged picking up this art from the sister duo.
According to Khawja Ashhad Belal grandson of Late Ishrat Bano, she had learned weaving and other crafts from a “Mame” (Lady of English origin), who was hired by her father. All those crafts were Ishrat Begum’s hobby.
Unlike Zari ka Topi, Toi Ka Kaam was probably an idea of the twentieth century. There are many women in the family who have mastered this art and still practice them as a hobby and business.
Conclusion: Only three elderly ladies in the entire family now know the art of making topi. They are aging and on the verge of loosing eyesight. It is high time for the new generation to learn this trade.
Moulvi Andullah Welfare Trust (MAWT) or any other NGO should step forward and arrange a workshop to pass on this knowledge to the new hands. Family members can revive the trend by ordering topi which costs approximately 600 Taka. These topis make a wonderful gift as well. I urge all family members to rescue this unique culture from extinction.
Syed Abdul Shafi (late)
Syeda Khursidunnesa (Nunni) Begum daughter of Syed Shafi and wife of Syed Khwaja Mashook Hussain Shahbazi.
680 Bagh E Shahbaz 1st Floor(Gabtola Bara Maghbazar Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tel (8802) 934-7305
Syeda Nurunnesa (B) Begum daughter of Syed Shafi and wife of Khwaja Iqbaluddin.
26 Fcc Road Mahuttuli Police Fari, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Cell 01191433632 (c/o K.Wajji)
Ferdousi Begum daughter of Khwaja Shamsul Huq & wife of K.M.Mahmood
40/5 Ahsanullah Road, 6th Floor Dhaka
Cell 01552633106 (c/o K.Anas s/o K Sadruddin)
Ishrat Bano (late) daughter of K.M.Masrur and wife of K.M.Ashraf
Mansur Castle, 40 Ahsanullah Road, Nawabbbari Dhaka.
Toi Ka Kaam Designers:
Naiyar Begum d/o K.M.Naser & Huri Begum 35/1 Ahsanullah Road, Nawabbari Dhaka
Phone: 7391060 Sajeda Begum d/o Barkat Ahmed & w/o Khwaja Naveed Phone:
Hasmat Begum d/o of Syed Abdul Bari and Masarrat Bano and wife of K.M.Alamgir
Address 12, Islampur, Dhaka-1100 Phone: 01924496992 Qamar Jahan Begum wife of K.Kaiser Huq, Address 18, Shahzada Mia Lane Dhaka, Phone: 01914879822
Fazilat Bano d/o K.M.Ashraf & Ishrat Bano Adress: 19 Ahsanullah road, Nawabbari. Dhaka Phone: 7391328 Zafar Bano d/o K.M.Ashraf & Ishrat Bano Adress: 8/14 block-A Lalmatia, Dhaka Phone: 8126009 Fatema Tanvir d/o Fazilat Bano Adress: Sultanabad Housing. Purana Paltan, Dhaka Phone: 9553344 Moneyma Shahid (Muuni) d/o Fazilat Bano Adress: Uttara, Sector no- 5, house no-12. Dhaka Phone: 8933112 Runa Amin daughter of Zafar Bano Adress: Nawabbari, Dhaka Phone: 7395252