Hi guys. For those who follow me on my social media pages would know that I collaborated with Rajputana Collective‘s 2nd magazine edition in its debut fashion column to elaborate upon the historical relevance of my ancestral couture. Apart from the magazine description that I would be mentioning, I have to mention how well both the editions have turned out with the hard work of the editor in chief Urvashi Singh of Khimsar. This magazine is a great medium for connecting members of the Rajput Community. I cannot wait for the upcoming editions.
Magazine Description: Rajputana Collective is a socio-cultural lifestyle magazine. The first of its kind, it highlights contemporary-day Rajputs in their multifaceted lives and endeavours in a native and personalised reportage. A fresh take on entrepreneurial journalism Rajputana Collective marks its breakthrough in the world of reading by being a heartfelt, non-commercialised and non-sensationalised writing that is aimed at informing interested readers on the one hand and helping form better communication links for the Rajput community on the other.
Here is the article:-
Written by: Urvashi Singh
Content & photo courtesy: Parakram Rana
Since time immemorial, the ceremonial pomp and glamour of Rajput weddings, coronations and
gatherings have been complimented by the sheer diversity of royal attires and jewellery adorned by
their attendees. Family heirlooms have been carefully preserved, inherited and displayed on these
varied occasions whereby various ensembles convey historic tales of their own.
Amongst the native jugalbandi of Jodhpuri safas, Gujarati patolas, Marwari poshaaks and zardosi
achkans, one often spots kinsfolk in a coat-shelled daura suruwal and a Nepali cap, flanked by
elegant figurines draped in red saaris, whose necklines are accentuated with beaded poteys.
These scions and scionesses represent the familial heritage of the Ranas, who continue to remain
one of the most notable dynasties to have walked the land-locked kingdom of Nepal. For centuries
since their establishment, the Rana clan has contrasted the dressing style of their Indian
contemporaries with sheer grace and simplicity. Their ancestors have been historically known to
have established a cultural legacy of cosmopolitanism in a style that was well ahead of its time.
There are detailed accounts of Rana forefathers having had travelled halfway across the world
back in the days when going overseas was considered a taboo in the Hindu social system. Their
outward-oriented system of cultural orientation as well as a deep patronage towards the British Raj
bears great resonance in Rana couture trends, which have been pursued through the changing
eras. Alternating between Victorian and traditional clichés, Rana dressing styles have retained their
iconic stature while subtly narrating the historical complexities of a bygone time.
In its debut fashion column, Rajputana Collective collaborates with Parakram Rana, an
upcoming fashion-blogger to elaborate upon the historical relevance of his ancestral
The Ranas of Nepal bear a common ancestry to Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana of Kaski and
Lamjung, who famously served as the eighth Prime Minister to the Shah dynasty of Nepal. A
military leader of Sisodiya ancestry, Jung Bahadur founded the Rana autocracy as a result of the
Kot massacre in 1846. Throughout their regime, the Ranas are known to have had a close
association with the British in order to fortify the kingdom of Nepal and Jung Bahadur is known to
be the first king/ prime minister in the region to have been awarded state honours from the court of
Queen Victoria in 1850. Thereafter, the deep association that would mature between the British
and Jung Bahadur’s descendants came to bear a significant reflection in the latter’s ceremonial
In olden days, Rana men traditionally sported the dress of a British military chief, focusing on
medals that glittered against their red attire. Conventional male headgear comprised of rich
crowns, helmets, top-hats and bell caps. This colonial appearance of theirs was pleasantly
interrupted by the traditional sirpench or crown that had been entitled to every Rana male by his direct family. Adorned with rare precious stones, the sirpench is fountained by a plume belonging to New Zealand’s exotic bird of paradise.
Rana regalia in more contemporary forms comprises of a variant of the kurta known as a daura
suruwal, which was formerly the national dress of Nepal. When worn by one of the Rana
ancestors- Bir Shumsher on his official visit to the United Kingdom, the daura suruwal was further
enhanced with an additional coat. Other historical records bear evidence of Bir Shumsher being
gifted a coat by the Queen of England, which popularised this pairing in the rest of Nepal for the
times to come. Even today, the daura suruwal and coat is incomplete without a cap known as the
Dhaka topi which, like the daura suruwal, is worn by folk from the accompanying Himalayan areas
of Sikkim and Darjeeling. Finally, the daura suruwal is complimented with a beaded necklace,
referred to as the kantha, which is a well-known men’s accessory in the rest of the Indian
The simplicity of the daura-suruwal is complimented by a series of extravagant outfits associated
with Rana women, who are usually clad in vermilion drapes and the popular potey, which is a long
glass bead necklace with a large golden clasp called the tilahari- a traditional ornament worn by
married women. During conjugal ceremonies such as the swayamwar and griha pravesh, Rana
brides are made to dress in ornate velvet gowns accompanied by tiaras and rich jewellery.
Even though the bejewelled red saris and gowns made their way into contemporary dressing
choices amongst Rana women, their ancestresses were known for their prowess in the art of sari
draping in ways that produced a compelling rendition of the Victorian ball gown. Chiffons and silks
were carefully pleated in voluminous layers with the pleats being tucked at the back, contrary to
mainstream saree-draping culture in the subcontinent. Moreover, the saree border in this typical
style was flaunted as a decorative stole. Several historians credit Peshwa Nanasaheb’s wife for
having introduced this saree style to Nepal, popularly hailed as ulto saree or murga saree, similar
to the Marathi kashta saree, which is draped in similarly reverse fashion.
It could be said that jewellery was the most important factor in the opulent garb of Rana heiresses.
Particularly distinctive in the ornamental collection of Rana women were bespoke diamond tiaras
and motifs, which were designed and crafted in exotic warehouses of Europe or closer still, in
Calcutta. Amongst the motifs, star and moon pins were two of the most popular designs, which
symbolised the respective ancestral royal houses such as Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi.
Traditional necklaces comprised of glistening pearls laid out in nine strands, amongst other
When it comes to necklaces, legend has it that famous naulakha haar (translating into the necklace
worth nine lakh rupees) was brought by the illustrious Peshwa Baji Rao for an exorbitant sum of
nine lakh rupees in the nineteenth century. Studded with the finest emeralds, pearls and diamonds,
this necklace was procured by Jung Bahadur Rana from Peshwa Nanasaheb for a fraction of the
original price in 1857. However, a century later, Jung Bahadur’s descendants were destined to part
with the necklace due to an urgent need of funds. Dhir Shumsher reluctantly sold it off to the
Maharaja of Darbhanga, who was a renowned owner of the third-best jewellery collection in post-
independent India, after the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Gaekwads of Baroda respectively.
Similar tales and folklore around exquisite heirlooms await narrative excavation as contemporary
royals and nobles stride across social avenues in their splendid fineries. The value of these
alternative narratives becomes crucial at a time when the known abundance of impeccably
collected and accounted historiographies have begun to attain a phase of exhaustion. Hence, a
closer cultural examination of regal attire promises fresher historical outlooks that are derived from
the fervent aspects of lifestyle. Speaking in the same logic, this column just about suffices to form a
humble speck in a cauldron-full of bedazzling fashion history.
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