The Pagdi Man of India

 The Pagdi Man of India

In India, Pagdi is a sign of pride and in many regions, it is a matter of honour too. Folk dancers of India often use the pagdi to add more drama to their costume and you will agree with me that it does enhance the appeal of the entire performance. For many, more elaborate the costume, more the drama. Audiences often get drawn towards extravagant costumes and selfies with fully decked up dancers has become a trend on social media as well.

Anoj Mudaliyar is an Ahmedabad-based folk dancer, choreographer and a world record holder. With his dance, especially his self- designed pagdis, Anoj has created social awareness. I recently met him and he spoke of his creative pagdis along with his motive behind designing and dancing in them.



Tell us more about your background.
I belong to the south of India where classical dance is very well appreciated but I always had great fascination for folk dances. Right from the beginning, the colours of Rajasthan and Gujarat attracted me so when I decided to learn to dance, I chose to learn various styles of Rajasthani and Gujarati folk dances. It has been over a decade that I have been dancing, choreographing and performing different folk dances all over India and around the world too. I am glad folk art gave me an opportunity to travel the world and take the essence of my country to people all over the globe.

Which are the various folk dances that you know and which is your favourite?
I feel grateful that I have had the fortune to learn the rich traditional folk art of Rajasthan and Gujarat from various folk masters of the dance who live in the remote villages of the state. I perform the Prachin Garba, Dangi Dance, Tippani dance, Rathwa Dance, Ghoomar, Kalbeliya and many more. I have been staying in Ahmedabad for years so surely I have developed a special liking for the Garba as we get plenty of opportunity to showcase our talent during the grand Navratri celebration and other occasions as well.

How did the concept of such humongous pagdi come about?
Pagdi is the pride of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Men wear pagdi at all events, festivals and dances. Whenever I would travel abroad for my shows, the audience would get mesmerised with my costumes, especially the pagdi. But in India that was not the case. It is because we often see our country men wear pagdi. That is when I decided to do something unique to the pagdi so that the Indian audiences as well as foreigners get mesmerised by it. I made my first pagdi in 2017 which weighed 2 kilos and slowly the size and weight kept increasing.


Tell us more about your pagdi designing.
The pagdi I designed and made in 2017 had GST as the theme and it became an instant hit. I then decided that each year I will cross my own benchmark. So year after year, I started designing pagdis with exclusive themes. In 2018, my pagdi had heritage as the theme and in 2019, I made a pagdi inspired by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in 2020, I created a coronavirus pagdi and wore it with a PPE kit. Yes, wearing each of these pagdis, I dance, spin, twirl and celebrate the rich folk culture of my country.

Your name is in the World Records of India for your Modi pagdi. Now that is interesting.
Yes, it is true that through the Modi pagdi, I name entered the World Records of India book. I have always been a huge fan of Modiji and a great admirer of his work so the ‘Modi Pagdi’ was my tribute to him. His journey from being the Chief Minister of Gujarat to being the Prime Minister of India is all shown in the Pagdi through 34 printed pictures. The Modi pagdi weighed five kilos and it took me over two months to create it, making it my most cherished design.



Your recent Fire Safety Theme Pagdi was well appreciated. Tell us more on it.
In 2019, I had designed some bottles for fire safety after the Surat incident. I used those fire safety bottles in my pagdi and sourced various fabrics for it to depict various states of India. The dance and the pagdi had a message: ‘If our pride – the pagdi can have fire safety bottles in it, then why can’t our homes, offices, shops and malls.’ The fire safety pagdi weighed four kilos and with my Garba costume, it was almost 12 kilos. Dancing with 16 kilo weight on myself was tedious but I managed because I wanted to spread this very important social message. It is said that ‘a dancer is the window to society’ and artistes like Anoj represent that. Each time Anoj spins on the dance floor, he is not just dancing but there is a strong social message that he carries along. Let us come together and cheer Anoj Mudaliyar for the efforts he takes to spread our folk dance culture and the important social message through it.

Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore, is a World Book Records holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award and Rabindra Nath Tagore Prize for social achievement. He can be contacted on [email protected]



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