The Islamic religion decrees that both Muslim men and women should dress modestly and cover their heads. The usual dress is shalwar kamiz - a loose tunic over baggy trousers. Men wear skull caps, hats or turbans. Women wear headscarves. The rules are relaxed for children, so they do not need to cover their heads at all times. But sometimes the boys wear caps and girls wear headscarves like the adults. A Muslim boy would wear this cap to pray. Muslims cover their heads when praying whether they do so in a mosque, at home or in the street. They pray five times a day and kneel on a prayer mat that points towards the holy city of Mecca.
Mirrored embroidery decorates the costume of people in the desert regions of Western India and Pakistan. It is common in the Indian provinces of Rajasthan and Gujerat, and in the Pakistani provinces of Sind and Baluchistan. The embroidery varies from region to region with each community having its own particular style of needlework, range of colours and repertoire of stitches. The decoration on boys' caps usually follows the same tradition as that of women's costumes. So the embroidered patterns on boys' caps may also be seen on skirt borders.
Embroidery is the work of women, both young and old and the tradition is passed down through the generations. A girl is taught to embroider when she reaches school age. Over the years she will produce a collection of embroidered hangings, quilts, blouses, pillow covers, headscarves and children's caps. These items form part of her dowry, which might also include a gift for her husband such as a turban cloth or even an embroidered rifle cover. The bride will take these things to her new home when she gets married.
The embroidery is highlighted by the sparkle of small mirrors called shisha. In most cases, as here, the mirrors are in fact small pieces of mica. Mica is a mineral made up of talc-like crystals. These crystals are laid down as thin sheets on rocks. The glittering scales can be peeled off easily by locals, or bought cheaply in sheets or as loose flakes called 'splittings'. Mica has the same light reflecting properties as glass but is lighter and easy to work with. It is used not only in garments but also placed in the walls inside houses where it reflects the light like a glitter ball.
Skull caps and other garments in Rajasthan are popular souvenirs with tourists for their mirrors, colours and embroidery. Rajasthani crafts also include puppet making, sculpted stonework on palaces and temples, tie-dyed and block-printed textiles plus small carved wooden chests and boxes.