Kapdaganda- a token of love
Embroidered with colourful motifs and designs on both sides, Kapdaganda is a prestigious shawl of Dongria Kondh tribe, a primitive sub section of Kondh tribe who inhabit the forest land along the slopes of the great Niyamgiri hill ranges of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha. They also identify themselves as Jharnia because they live in close conjunction with a perennial hill stream. Woven with excellent craftsmanship, this shawl is specifically prepared by the spinsters of Dhangidibasa (female dormitory) during leisure hours. It is used by Dongria Kondhs of all ages irrespective of gender. Kapdaganda is gifted by the Dongria girls to their beloved ones as a token of love. It is also presented by them to their brother and father as a symbol of affection to strengthen consanguinal relations. Aesthetically added designs and motifs in the shawl unfold social beliefs and religious practices.
In general Kapdaganda is gifted as a token of love to the beloved ones which also includes family members. Kapdaganda plays vital role in mate selection. Kedu/Meriah festival of Dongria provides an opportunity to the youths for mate selection. Throwing of the shawl by the boy over a girl shows his willingness to marry the girl. In return the girl shows her consent by accepting or rejecting the shawl. Colours used in the shawl carry significance.
Traditional designs and motifs
The off-white coarse cloth used as raw material for Kapdaganda is procured from the Domb, a local schedule caste community by bartering harvested crops. The designs are embroidered on the cloth by a needle using threads.
A Dongria maiden doing embroidery
“Watta” –The three straight lines running at the bottom of the weave-designs represents the imaginary boundary wall of their habitation. It symbolizes social security and also marks as a symbol of protection from the evil forces.
“Karlikanna” the axe shape design symbolizes the blade of an axe which indicates the aggressiveness, revenge, energy, power, territorial fights and proves that they are the real protectors of their “Dongar” (mountain).
“Kuddilinga”- the triangular design symbolizes the abode of their household deity worshiped by them in all important rituals and ceremonial occasions.
These traditional designs are also manifested in other material culture like- bangle (Paja), religious observation-Kudilinga, Jhaker penu and Dharani penu.
A close view of embroidery work
The white thread is procured the local Domb community. The threads are dyed according to the colour requirement. They use turmeric, bean leaves and wild seeds to colour yellow, green and red respectively. To prevent the colour fading they boil the banana flower in water and dip the coloured threads in it. To check the result they hold and press the thread in the arm and dry it on a bamboo pole. This technique is now almost extinct and is replaced by the ready-made colour threads.