The Bohra cap dervies its name from its exclusive use by the men of Dawoodi Bohra community. The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect within the Ismaili branch of Shia Muslims. In India, Bohras mainly reside in live in Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They pride themselves on being a distinctive, prosperous people. Their tightly knit community, high level of education and business success make them an influential force. The word Bohra comes from the Gujarati word vehru (“trade”), in reference to their traditional profession. The main language of the community is “Lisan ud-Dawat”, a dialect of Gujarati, with inclusions from other languages.
When in communal attire, a Bohra male has a form of Tunic called Kurta, equally lengthy overcoat dress called Saya, both of which are mostly white, along with a white cap with golden zari work. The cap is a mark of identity, in rich gold and white, and crowns the head of a Bohra man, whether he is dressed up for prayer, or participating in festivities, or just going to work. Earlier worn only during Namaaz and festivals, now its usage has spread to everyday wear. Just like new clothes, new caps are also made for special occasions.
The caps are completely handmade by Bohra women of all ages and are knit using the crochet method. Crochet is the technique of fabric construction by puling loops of yarns though other loops, using a special hook. Using a plastic or aluminium vessel as a base, the crochet is begun at the center and proceeds in a spiral form from the core to the outer edge. Although the basic stitch remains the same, both geometric and floral patterns
are created to distinguish the designs.
Unlike regular crochet, which is made with wool or acrylic yarns, the crochet on these caps is very fine and close knit. The women use string cotton or nylon, with golden yarn that is known as kasab. Caps made for festive occasions may have a lot of kasab work, sometimes with very little white visible. No other colour is used on the caps, except an occasional touch of black or green on the borders. Caps range from a circumference of 19” to 23”, depending on the age of the wearer.