Srinagar: For Aaliya, a class 12 student from Srinagar, wearing Irani Hijab along with Abaya (A loose over-garment used by women) is a way of balancing her fashion desire with religious commitment in a conservative place like Kashmir.
“The combination looks cool and is comfortable. It gives me a sense of security in predominant religious society. Moreover people with narrow-thinking don’t pass hateful comments,” she said.
In last couple of years, Western clothing among women folk (mostly youth) have picked up in Srinagar, with women giving preference to coats, overcoats, jackets and cardigans over traditional outfits.
However, as Ramdahan set in, a number of girls and women can be seen wearing hijabs and abaya.
Saba Jan, a working woman who started wearing hijab since the start of Ramadan, said “I started wearing hijab only a few days ago. I prefer wearing Hijab like Iranians. I like their style. I look elegant in it. There are different types of Hijab present in the market but I like Iranian one most.”
Zara Khurshid, a postgraduate student, has some two dozen types of hijabs in her wardrobe.
“I need not to spend thousands on different type of handmade hijabs. There are many types of hijab present in different market in Kashmir that costs few hundred rupees,” said Zara.
Shahaid Ahmad Wani, owner of Libas outlet, says that the culture of burqas or abayas never vanished from Kashmir as he has been taking orders continuously in all seasons.
He however acknowledged that young generation and employed women were inclined towards “modern” dresses.
“Wearing Abaya is a religious thing and it dates back to centuries. We should keep in mind that religious preferences do not expire. It comes back in one way or the other. Today we receive at least 15-20 orders for designing various types of Abaya which include open abaya, Irani and simple abaya,” he added.
Imad Haqaq, owner of another abaya shop at Nowhatta said, “Mostly high school, college-going girls and young brides are regular customers in the market. Women in Kashmir imitate Dubai and Saudi fashion style more. It is a pity that simple burqas are outdated. The only women who wear unpretentious burqas in Kashmir are girls of Darul Uloom madrassas.”
There are different types of abayas present in the market. “Jilbab (Iranian chaddar), front-open abayas, front-closed burqas that cover the whole body except head, feet and hands.” The latest, he points out, is the jean abaya, made of denim fabric.
However, a prominent hijab merchant at Lal Chowk said the Iranian hijab has become very popular in Kashmir.
“All of my female customers want to purchase Iranian headscarves,” he said. “We have different types of Iranian hijabs available here. These hijabs reach Kashmir from Iran, Yemen, and Turkey through merchants in Bangalore.”
He said he receives almost 30 customers a day throughout the year.
Murtiza Wani, another dealer who sells stoles, headscarves, and ladies’ accessories near Residency Road, said, “We are attending different customers, especially students and young women. In the month of Ramdhan sale of headscarves were increased and women folk like to buy headscarves be it Irani scraf or any other stuff, as women look for stuff that compliments their dresses. So, we keep all the good stuff ready for them.”
Iqra Majeed, an employee in Education department has a different reason for wearing the Abaya with headscarf. She says that she has to manage home as well as school and doesn’t get time to dress up properly in the month of Ramdhan.
“I am not only a teacher but a home maker too. I don’t get enough time to get ready particularly in this month so I put abaya on clothes that I wear at home. It saves my time and energy”.