“Amhi Punyache, Amhi Punekar!”, these words have an almost spiritual effect on us Punekars. Pune, where pride, glory, and honour do the tango together, where we smile at our history and laugh at the failed attempts made to change us. Yes, we’re stubborn, yes, we’re fixated on culture. However, it’s the only reason why we’re the cultural capital of Mahrashtra and one of the top metropolitan cities of India. And our pride in what we are is signified by one amazing item- the Puneri Pagadi!
The Pagadi, or turban, was introduced almost two centuries ago by Mahadev Govind Ranade, one of Maharashtra’s most important social reformers. Later, it was worn by other central leaders like Lokmanya Tilak, Tatyasaheb Kelkar, and D.D Sathye among many others.
Back then, the Pagadi acted as an item for showing solidarity with our culture; it was our way of showing resistance and moving towards a change. The Pagadi was also earlier endorsed by the Peshwas, thus making it a trademark accessory and a cultural identity for Punekars. The Marathi play ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ renounced our love for the Puneri Pagadi and brought it back in fashion.
Very few people know that the Puneri Pagadi is classified as an intellectual property right. The ten-membered ‘Shree Puneri Pagadi Sangh’ was striving to get the Puneri Pagadi the appropriate social respect and importance which it used to have. Their central aim was to make the Pagadi recognisable once again, and to preserve our culture and its identity.
So on September 4, 2009, the Sangh received success and the Pagadi was awarded with the Geographical Indication Status (GI) and it became the official cultural identity of Pune. This makes Pune the whole and sole owner of the Puneri Pagadi and any manufacturing or selling of the Pagadi outside our city is classified as an illegal act. Similar to Darjeeling tea, Banarasi Sarees, and Tirupati Ladoos, the Puneri Pagadi is our intellectual property and we are immensely proud of it.
Despite the cultural and historical importance, the Pagadi is rarely seen on normal days. The few Pagadi manufacturers still left in this city do it for the love of culture and history, and to maintain the pride of our origins. However, there are mixed feelings about associating the identity of the city with the Pagadi now, which is really unfortunate.
It may be our pride, but the Pagadi is only seen on traditional days and cultural events. Is it because the importance of the Pagadi isn’t being imparted accurately and fully to the new generation? Or have we just become indifferent to this headgear? Whatever the reason, the Pagadi is our city’s identity to the rest of the country, and if most cities are trying hard to retain their identities, then we should strive for the same.
Let’s not forget what it stands for, let’s not just reminiscence and pay it respect on traditional days in college and during weddings and Ganeshotsav. We need to put it back on the pedestal where it once was, because after all, it is our way of showing our love and respect for what we are. Amhi Punyache, Amhi Punekar!