In a small hill station in Southwestern Nepal, a national tradition was born almost 100 years ago. Sunil and his wife Lakshmi left their mountain village in Nepal for a job across the border in India. In India, Sunil would go to work every morning and his wife would stay home, tending to chores around the house and stitching clothes. She would sit on the balcony of their small apartment, which happened to look into the neighboring compound which housed a textile workshop. Naturally, she became friendly with her neighbors and eventually started weaving at home on an old loom she was gifted.
When the couple moved back to Nepal some years later, Sunil landed a government job and settled in Palpa. One day, the family made the two day trip to Kathmandu to visit the Royal Family. Sunil saw some intricate patterned textiles at the Royal Palace which the King said were imported from Bangladesh. Sunil became obsessed and started designing patterns which he and his wife tried to create on the loom. After a couple years, they had developed a distinct style which they called “Dhaka” inspired by the capitol of Bangladesh.
Dhaka is most popularly used to make men’s caps, called topis, which are a national Nepali tradition. In fact, until the early 2000’s, any man entering a government building was required by law to wear one of these traditional caps.
Sunil's son, Sagar now runs the workshop, which currently only has enough work to employ 20 weavers due to competition from knock-off factories developing cheap machine-made dhaka and utilizing illegal labor from India. Nevertheless, Sagar is keeping his father’s legacy alive and constantly updating and innovating to remain relevant.