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Traditions. Duppi-A Teapot cover? No, it is national headdress!

Do you want to have a good laugh and receive the maximum information about national Uzbek wear? Then this story is for you.

Once I had an incident where I gave a "tyubeteyka" (skullcap) national Uzbek cap to my Swedish friend for his birthday. It happened like this: he is a true Swede who does not speak the Russian language and has a quite vague idea about Uzbekistan in general. The gift to the far away Sweden was sent by mail and after a few weeks I received an e-mail: "...Thank you for the present. At first I did not really understand what is its use (it somehow resembled a female breast), but then I guessed. Now, I always cover the teapot with this interesting painted cap, drink hot tea, never get sick and think about you". Honestly speaking, I was not so surprised at his amusing decision to use the skullcap as a cap for the teapot. How was he to know that this is a national headdress? This is my fault so I had to explain straight away what, for what and why.

In order to redeem my past reticence, today I will let you know everything about these curiously beautiful headdresses, about this peculiar element of the Uzbek soul. After all, one day you will buy, or knowing people will present you, or you will simple inherit a beautiful small hat skullcap, and you will not only nobly and with dignity put it on the stately head (and not the teapot), but also will amaze everyone with your erudition and knowledge of Uzbek traditions!

The tyubeteykas are an essential part of the Uzbek national costume and at the same time a genuine work of Uzbek art. The skullcap for an Uzbek is like a sombrero for the Argentinean, straw hat for the Vietnamese, "papaha" for the Georgian. It represents a hard or soft hat with lining. They are comfortable, beautiful and practical. Tyubeteyka (from Turk "tyube" top, peak) is a national headdress not only of Uzbeks, but also of other Central-Asian nations. At least ten legends, sayings, proverbs, riddles and wise aphorisms are related to it. Thus, for instance, in the Uzbek environment, when one wants to say that something will be done in a trice immediately, one says: "Duppingni bir aylantirguncha" ("In the period while the tyubeteyka is turned around the head").

Oh, this famous, glorious skullcap! In what epos does it not come forward, what kind of feelings and emotions it does not express! In ancient times the caravan men, fearing the attack of robbers, did not start on a journey alone, but in a drove a company of merchants and traders. They knew very well the location of "karokcha" the robbers and in orderto find out if they are sitting at home or have left "for hunt" the bravest and experienced man was secretly sent to theirden.

He learned everything that was required and then at a respectful distance from the thieves' block, having climbed a hillock gave signs to his mates: usually placing a cap, "telpak"or"duppi" (skullcap) on the tip of a pike, he waved it in the air and tossed up high. This was a good sign the robbers were not on the spot, they were somewhere else and in the case of danger the spy waved the headdress to the opposite sides. And the "caravanbashis", according to the sign set about to action. This is why in the Uzbek nation the phrase "I threw up my skullcap" represent the sense of happiness and rejoice.

In the old days some "chapani-uhar", a merry brave "jigit" will pass by the people wearing his skullcap at a slant. By this he expressed not only his courage but also showed everyone his well-being, contentment with life, insouciance. Usually such lucky men wearing the tyubeteyka at a slant were more often seen among the not burdened with family concerns but callow young men. Having moved the skullcap to the nape folded in half and holding it in the hand they walked about with songs at the feasts and thus entertained themselves. People spoke of such fine fellows as: His "Duppa" is always folded in half; or else people used to call after them: Go, go and carry your "duppa" with you.

Sometimes the skullcap unexpect-edly appears as a hero of humoresques. They say that one bald jigit-kal dropped his duppa to the "aryk" (irrigation ditch). He despairingly began to toss about the bank trying to take it from the water in order to hide his bald patch. However the skullcap, alack, floated away further and further with the flow. Then the bold jigit seeing that his efforts are fruitless took out his comb. After all they say: "What does our mangy guy have?? Just an iron comb."

The kal, having put his arms akimbo boastfully said:
So what? Some skullcap! Let it flow, after all it has been small and tight for me...

Thus, the glorious incomparable duppa can be a close friend as well as a confidant at hard times. When it is required to concentrate and calmly discuss an uneasy situation, they say: If there is no advisor, put your skullcap on the ground and consult at least her. In the Uzbek riddles the duppa is described elaborately and intricately and above all its external ornament: "A rim on the head, a butterfly on the rim", "She is one, has four faces, sixteen children."

The skullcaps differ in types for men, women, children and old people. If you are a stately man you better not wear a female skullcap even if you liked it more. If you are a beautiful woman the child duppa is not for you since knowledgeable people will ridicule you. This why when you are buying a skullcap immediately ask for whom it is intended. Old women do not wear this headdress. The children duppas (kulohcha, kalpakcha, duppi, kulupush) are remarkable for their diversity and colorfulness of the materials, splendor of tassels and small balls, embroideries, spangles, abundance of amulets. The richest ornamental system of decorating duppas is closely related to the spiritual life, customs and the poetic attitude of the nation. This type of art passed a long way of develop-ment, many generations of embroiderers, having inherited the traditions of the national art; put a particle of their heart and their own comprehension of beauty in the handicrafts. The diversity of the shapes of duppas conical, tetrahedral, round, domical; the color variety from laconic black and white to bright multicolored all this makes the Uzbek headdresses universal.

The process of making skullcaps is very complicated and labor-intensive. It is made from two layers of cloth, which are quilted and fastened with a silk or cotton thread. The ready-made duppa is embroidered with silk thread and gold or silver thread. Mainly women were masters of the art of embroidering duppas. The most often found motives ornamenting the skullcaps are: floral motive, almond-shaped motive "bodom" the symbol of life and fertility. One of the very popular patterns in the duppa ornamentation is "ili izi" (snake trace), which acts a guard. Geometrical patterns are no less popular.The most widespread variety of a male skullcap is a Chust duppa. It is characterized by a black background and a white pattern in the form of four pods of cayenne "kalampir", one in each sector of the duppa (symbol of purity and detachment from all the earthy) and embroidered in a row as arcs of the cap-band.

It is interesting that four flowers in the upper part of the duppa, according to legend, sort of protect the health of a man from four sides, and sixteen flowers at the selvage of the skullcap express the wish for the family to be big and harmonious (have sixteen children). According to researchers, the flowers embroidered in white silk on a white background served as a sign of the purity of a man's soul and heart. It will not be uninteresting to find out that in the community of coreligionists of the East it is considered as an act of indelicacy to take off the headdress during a celebration or mourning. To tear it off the head means to deeply insult. Not for nothing an ancient saying still exists in the nation that the honor and conscience of a man lie in his skullcap.

The black, green, blue duppas with four snow-white feathers can be found in all parts of Uzbekistan: in the Baysun kishlak of Surhandarya where bright and unique as the nature itself headdresses are embroidered, and in Bukhara where the victorious gait of the glorious gold-embroidery skullcaps began. Such a paradox: a duppa created by the craftswomen of Fergana many centuries ago instantly spread around the huge region! This headdress turned into an essential part of the costume not only to millions of Uzbeks, it is worn by Tajiks , Uygurs, Kazakhs ,Afghans and many other Muslim nations. The entire concept is ingenious and simple: in heat it saves from sunstrokes and in bad weather when one wears a warm hat, it folds tightly and fits in the pocket. The skullcap for an Uzbek is like a particle of the soul. Seriously, in an Uzbek home no celebration can do without this headdress, it is worn when close people are seen off to the last journey. It is obligatory to come in a skullcap to the Muslim scared places mosques. According to an ancient Oriental custom a dear guest is presented with a robe, "suzanne" and a duppa. The feathers of a dove bird that symbolizes peace and happiness, - were lovingly embroidered by our craftswomen, who thus expressed the soul of the nation. The Uzbeks always connected a magical origin to the image of a bird. When a silver-bearded old man as well as a newborn baby wears this duppa it seems that the faces of people brighten.

The high artistic merits, ornamental images of the embroideries of the Uzbek skullcaps are illustrated by a profound emotional sounding and carried out by a truly rich inspired and sunny fantasy wherein probably their force, sacrament and enchanting magic lies within.

by Anna Kourmanbaeva