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Best Hat -Thalankara Hat

Thalankara Hat
A Needle Marvel

Though there are so many kinds of hats all over the world, maintaining distinctiveness in the method of manufacturing and materials, the making of Thalankara hat is limited to the Muslim majority region Thalankara, adjacent to Kasaragod Town.
The northern most district Kasaragod has in its credit not just the specialty of being the meeting place of seven languages and culture. One can feel the remnants of history in which the everlasting history of centuries still pulsates in the inner parts of the villages here. Such one that can be included in the group is the Thalankara hat, which safeguards the name and fame of a region.

Though there are so many kinds of hats all over the world, maintaining distinctiveness in the method of manufacturing and materials, the making of Thalankara hat is limited to the Muslim majority region Thalankara, adjacent to Kasaragod Town. As this is linked to their ritual, majority of the consumers belong to Islam. Though, like the famous poet Ayyappa Panicker, there are many a people who are fans of this hat. What makes Thalankara hat distinct is the centuries old excellence in its durability and graceness, which are woven together.

The history of this hat can be traced out since the overseas trading began. Sea trade gave popularity to the hat also. At that time, ornamental hats reached Kasaragod from Arab countries via Mangalapuram. The local people who were attracted by this, obtained the manufacturing skills of them and by applying their own hand skills turned it to a work of art as far as standard ornamental hats are concerned. Gradually that became the bread and butter of majority of the families of the region is the history unwritten. As Thalankara had been manufacturing urus (large vessels) for trading, the hats reached other lands along with them. Through the expatriate Malayalis who had habituated in wearing Thalankara hat, the hat got popularity in foreign countries also.

Once hundreds of labourers and instruments were engaged in hat making. But to safeguard the tradition of Thalankara hat, which survives competition with foreign hats, now only one family remains – that of 66 year old Aboobacker Musaliyar’s. Musaliyar continues the work passed on by generations as a penance. Musaliyar who is engaged in the hat making which demands patience and total vigil, continuously for half a century, is known as “Thoppeente mukricha” among the locale. He enjoys help from people in many stages of hat making at home at Thalankara Bancode Deenath Nagar.

The first step in making a hat is to cut the cotton cloths imported from Bangalore to 20 to 22 cm sizes and join them by stitching and draws different designs on it. Musaliyar has drawn a lot of designs. Other laborers stitch according to the design. After finishing stitching designs, they are bowel embossed by putting thread through them. By now, Musaliyar has drawn many designs. Next, it is thulakuthal or ottakuthal, i.e., punching holes. Then coloured threads are used to stitch around the holes. Even now, drawing designs and cutting the cloths are done by Musaliyar himself. There are different sized and named hats such as Kannur hat, Big hat, Spring hat which are acceptable to all, no matter whether they are poor or rich. The cost ranges from Rs.10 to Rs.125. What determines the cost is the difference in its size and designed holes. The specialty is that as it is made of cotton and has many holes in it, there won’t feel heat and thus is very comfortable to wear.

The demand increases during the fasting period. Though aged, Musaliyar makes 1500 hats per year and gets yearnings more than Rs.40,000 in the great festival days alone.

Aboobacker, who was the Imam of the mosque for years, now spends whole time in hat making. As the hat making continues as a habitual action while on less demand, they can be stocked for the days of demand. Hats are always readily available at Musaliar’s house for the needed. But marketing is not limited at home. Hats are sold out in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Mumbai and Bangalore. Hat reaches Gulf countries and Malaysia also. The sale outside the country is through the traders who come, knowing the excellence.

Earlier, when the hat was manufactured all over Thalankara region for just Rs. one per each, they reached foreign countries, including Africa. But the aged opine that when the laws of export and import fortified, export fell and thus when trading faced a drawback, many abandoned the job. Even then, the family of Aboobacker Musaliyar did not withdraw. Though the Government offers concession to sustain the tradition of the hat, he does not ask for anything to anybody. The direction of concerned department to give training to women in hat manufacturing too is not acceptable to Musaliyar. Though, if somebody is ready to reach him to learn, he will always be ready to teach.

He is of the expectation that his children who are doing business in Gulf will take over and continue the hat making. For that reason, one can expect that whenever Thalankara exists the hat too will. Or the name and excellence of Thalankara hat will shrink to the times of Mappila songs.


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