Sunday, May 9, 2010


A woman’s headdress in Ladakh, called a perak, is often a stunning artistic achievement, and it provides a statement of her status, wealth, artistic sense, and history.
I have been reading a book by Aggarwal, Ravina.  “The Turquoise Headdress of Ladakh.”  to gain insight into the distinct headware worn by Ladakhi women.
She writes eloquently about the variations in perak styles across Ladakh, what they have come to mean, and how their uses have changed over the past 30 years.
The perak traditionally signified the wealth of the mother, which was passed along to her daughter when she married and left home to live with her husband.
The headdress indicates the rank and economic status of the wearer. During the earlier period of the monarchy, the queens in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, wore headdresses with nine rows of turquoise beads, while today a woman with seven rows in Leh has a lot of status. In the smaller towns, headdresses with five rows are marvels, and lower ranking women often have three-row peraks. The quality of the brooch worn in the center of the headdress is another indicator of relative status: 
The women carried their personal wealth on their heads; they only took them off at night, though they still kept on their braids and earflaps while they slept. The braids were only undone once a month when another woman, a specialist in performing proper rituals, came to unwind, wash and clean hair. The Ladakhis believed that the headdresses should be worn whenever women crossed streams or even went outdoors during the growing season, so the soil and woods would not be harmed. Loose, exposed hair on a woman was considered to be a sign of overt sexuality, something women avoided.

Aggarwal, Ravina. 2005. “The Turquoise Headdress of Ladakh.” In Ladakh: Culture at the Crossroads, edited by Monisha Ahmed and Clare Harris, p.56-65. Mumbai: Marg Publications

            I have added the photos below to my website

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