From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Traditional art and symbolism of Kelaghayi, making and wearing women’s silk headscarves
Azerigirl ira.JPG
Azerbaijani girl wearing kalaghai
Inscription history
Inscription2014 (9th session)

A kelaghayi (Azerbaijani: Kəlağayı) is a traditional Azerbaijani women's headgear.[1] In November 2014 at the 9th session of UNESCO's traditional art and symbolism of Kelaghayi, its production and the wearing were included in the list of intangible cultural heritage UNESCO.[2]

A kalaghai is one of the spread types of headdress. Kalaghayi, in Azerbaijan, is a square-shaped silk scarf with special prints on it that is considered a national dress, protecting from the hot sun and cold wind. Silk is considered to be cool in the summer and warm in winter. Until the 90s these special scarves were popular at weddings and engagemnets. It is essentially a silk headscarf. There were age and social differences in its wearing: older women wore kalaghais of darker colours, mostly black and dark blue, whereas younger women opted for brighter ones, such as white, beige, bright blue, etc. A kalaghai was tied in various ways, depending on the region.[3]

Kelaghayis of colorful tints were the most popular. In some places, a kelaghayi was tied over a triangular headscarf after collecting hair with a piece of gauze. As a result, there would be three headdresses worn simultaneously: first, the juna (gauze), then the kelaghayi and finally a triangular headscarf called kasaba, sarandaz, or zarbab.[4]

In cold weather women covered their heads also with a shawl (tirma-shawl, Kashmir shawl, or shawls knitted of natural wool).[5]


Examples of Azerbaijani Kelaghayi shawls

Kelaghayi is a four-cornered shawl woven from floss thread and worn by the Azerbaijani women.[citation needed] It is also called “chargat” in the western regions of the country.[citation needed] Besides being a symbol of chastity, respect and devotion, it also preserves the ancient history, culture and traditions of Land of Fires – Azerbaijan.[citation needed]

Kelaghayi has been made in Azerbaijan since ancient times.[citation needed] High quality kelaghayis were made in Tebriz, Ganja, Shamakhi, Sheki and Nakhchivan cities.[citation needed] Although this shawl was made in many regions, kelaghayi were widely used in Basgal[6] settlement of Ismayilly region.[citation needed]

The reason for weaving kelaghayi in these regions undoubtedly was Sheki silk.[citation needed]

Silkworm breeding in Azerbaijan dates to the periods prior to Christianity.[citation needed] Sheki has been the centre of silkworm breeding in Azerbaijan and also in the Caucasus for many years.[citation needed] In the 20th century, the largest silkworm breeding plant was established in Sheki.[citation needed] During the reign of Nicholas II, Sheki silk was used in making new five hundred notes in Russian empire.[citation needed] In the year 1862, Sheki silk was awarded medal at the international exhibition launched in London. Sent-Etyen Company of Lion city, France was one of the permanent purchaser of Sheki silk. That is why for its successes achieved in the field of silkworm breeding Sheki was called “Caucasian Lion.” The clothes, fine needle-works and shawls made of Sheki silk were highly appreciated. For this reason the local population engaged in kelaghayi production produced silk in Sheki and created kelaghayi in Basgal.[6] Therefore, despite a certain distance between two regions, they connected with each other by “floss ties.”

In 1870, Baskal kelaghayi was awarded silver medal at a London exhibition.[citation needed]

As production of kelaghayi having an ancient history is very complex process, a number of persons take part in his production, they are: weavers (tarrakh), dyers, moulders (the persons decorating kelaghayi by mould), and kelaghayichi (ornamental master). It takes two days to dye and decorate this unique shawl having 125 gr weight and passing through a ring. Strange as it may appear, this woman shawl is produced by men. Only men could manage to work with boiling dyes and moulds.

The leading force in producing the shawl is considered a dyer. Because it requires hard work, masterly skill and delicate feeling to dye the finished kelaghayi in hot pot. Mainly, sumaq, barberry, wild apple, saffron, currant and other plants are used in dyeing kelaghayi having 150x150 cm and 160x160 cm size.

The ornaments of kelaghayi are made by wooden or metal moulds. The edges of kelaghayi, and sometimes its central part (khoncha) are decorated with geometrical or nabati ornaments. The patterns reflected in kelaghayi have a great meaning and have been remained unchanged for hundreds years. Butas prevail over other patterns and they are one of the most spread ornament elements in the Azerbaijan art. We should also state that the researches consider buta as a pattern belonging to fire-worship period.

Kelaghayis of each region differ from each other with their patterns in the edges. Mainly, “Shah buta’, “saya buta’, and “khirda buta” patterns are used in Sheki and Basgal Kelaghayis. Colorful kelaghayis such as “Heyrati”, “Soghani”, “Istiotu”, “Albukhari”, “Abi”, “Yelani” gained a fame in the Middle East and Causasus peoples.

Individual forms and motives reflected in kelaghayi passed on to the daily life of population. So, it is possible to see the elements belonged to kelaghayi in sweets and bread, tombs and gravestones.

This shawl is often met in the Azerbaijani folklore, poetry, as well as fine and decorative art. Certainly, all the above-mentioned caused to reflect kelaghayi ornaments in the art of many world peoples.

One of the features of kelaghayi is provision of both heating and cooling. The silky fabric is very thin and soft, takes care of skin, and protects from different microbes.

Today, kelaghayi is used as dress element in Azerbaijan and it has no any relations with religion compared to chadra. Women wear kelaghayi for its color and form depending on their age. Old and elderly women wear kelaghayi as turban or dinge, but young women and girls used it as shawl. Women wear black kelaghayi at the mourning ceremony and colorful kelaghayi at weddings. In general, elderly women wear dark color and large -sized kelaghayis, but young women wear colourful and small-sized kelaghayis.

A woman presenting her kelaghayi to a man signified a promise to be devoted to him forever.[citation needed] Or upon getting consent from the girl’s family the guests from the guy’s side presented a wedding ring wrapped up a red kelaghayi. Besides, during the henna ceremony the bride was worn a red kelaghayi and her hands and feet were hennaed. With regard to the role of kelaghayi at the wedding ceremony we could add that the bridegroom and his friends standing on the left and right sides were given kelaghayis. Even the most valuable thing in the khoncha of the women was kelaghayi. This traditions is still continued in some regions of Azerbaijan.

Sometimes when a man passes away he is covered with a black kelaghayi. It continues even till burial ceremony. It means that kelaghayi has been accompanying the Azerbaijan people for all their lives. This shawl also survives peaceful mission. During the conflict arisen from different reasons the people ceased fight when kelaghayi was thrown by a woman.

Kelaghayi is kept at the favorable place of house. It is possible to see it at home of the Azerbaijanis living outside the country. Because kelaghayi is a force protecting the family traditions.

Kelaghayi is such kind of shawls which is demanded every time. Kelagayi weavers think that the ornaments and design of kelagayi is compared with Azerbaijani mughams (folk music): they believe that the use of seven colors is linked to the number of mughams. Although the fashion changes so rapidly, the size and patterns of the kelaghayi are remaining the same. It could be considered as one of the long-lived shawls.

Demand for kelaghayi both in Azerbaijan and abroad survives this art up to now. Today, the dynasties continuing this type of art produce kelaghayi with pleasure in Sheki city and Basgal settlement. During different years the masters from Basgal and Sheki established the kelaghayi production not only in other regions of Azerbaijan, but also in Georgia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Russia and Uzbekistan.

At initiative of “Inkishaf” (Development) Scientific Organization, “Kelaghayi” Center is operating in Basgal. All kelaghayi traditions have been restored here. Also, a unique interactive “Kelaghayi” museum was established in Basgal. The visitors are not only familiarized with the history and traditions of kelaghayi, but also observe the process of production, even take part in making the product.

Kelaghayi is introduced as an essential element playing an important role in fashion and daily life of Azerbaijani people, and is represented not only at the museum located in Basgal, but also at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow, National Museum of History in Baku and National Art Museum of Azerbaijan.


  1. ^ "Келагаи". Словарь изобразительного искусства, 2004–2009.
  2. ^ Traditional art and symbolism of Kelaghayi, making and wearing women’s silk headscarves // Official website UNESCO.
  3. ^ "Baş örtüyü – kəlağayı".
  4. ^ "Азербайджанский келагаи: уникальные традиции женственности – ФОТО – ОПРОС".
  5. ^ "Азербайджанская национальная одежда".
  6. ^ a b "6.2 Basgal and Lahij".