I first came to know of the Kapdaganda Shawl’s story at the Odisha State Museum in Bhubaneswar, a few years ago. Ever since, I have been quite fascinated by it and have taken every opportunity to tell friends, and those I come in contact with about the Dongria Tribe and its Shawl of Love.
What is it?
This colourful shawl, embroidered with motifs and designs on both sides is attributed to Dongria Kondh tribe of Odisha. It is intricately woven and crafted by spinsters in their leisure time though its use is not gender-specific. They are traditionally given by women to their brothers to further gift to a woman of his choice.
The Kapdaganda is usually given as a token of love but its role in mate selection is what makes the shawl so special. During the Kedu / Mariah festival of the tribe, there is a dance during which a boy can throw the shawl over a girl he likes as a “proposal”. The girl expresses her consent, by accepting (wrapping it around) or rejecting (shrugging it off) the Shawl.
Design, Colour and Motifs
The base-cloth is an off-white course fabric, usually acquired in exchange of harvested crop from another tribe.
The colourful triangles you see in the picture below, separated by circular flower motifs represent the abode of the “household deity” which is worshipped during every important festival, ceremony and ritual.
The orange and green v-patterned strips running above and below the deity triangles are borrowed from the pattern of a tamarind leaf (commonly found in the forest dwelling of the tribe)
The maroon and white triangles form an axe-blade design, representing aggressiveness, revenge, territorial fights, energy, power that they tribe has to protect its “Dongar” or Mountain.
There are 3 straight lines at the bottom of the weave represent the boundary of the tribe’s habitation. It is a symbol of social security and protection from evil forces.
Featured Image Courtesy: IGRMS Museum Bhopal (even though the Shawl is in Odisha)
Information on Symbolism: Banita Behera, IGRMS Bhopal