How the Mysore Peta has become a turban legend

SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR writes: The Mysore Peta is traditionally made in silk, and ornamented with gold threading. It was worn by the Maharaja of Mysore, and by the noblemen about him. Also, His Majesty would honour men of achievement with the peta in ceremonies organized to recognise his illustrious subjects.

The Maharaja lives, but even if he is a raja he is not the ruler, and now in the republic he vies in various ways for some recognition for himself.

Meanwhile, the idea of the peta is appropriated by everyone who can buy one, and who have a need to win favour, such as small politicians who need to be taken note of by a larger politician, and citizen groups who have taken notice that one of them has risen above all of them.

Something like Britain converting to a republic and deciding that anyone can dub anyone else a knight. But it is all right; no one has been making a fuss about the matter, not here.

And commerce, it will not ignore a good idea.

I had to spend two days in the ITC Royal Gardenia in Bangalore, attending an aerospace conference organized by KPMG the first day, and Lockheed Martin the second, and I spent some moments now and then in the lobby.

Some senior politicians were resident in the hotel, perhaps connected with an exercise the planning commission was doing next door to the aerospace conference. And local politicians were coming in, in a stream, to greet their kind from the Union government, and perhaps to win budget allocations.

The former chief minister Dharam Singh extricated himself from his large car with some difficulty and walked with as much effort to the lifts, with the added weight of many eyes upon him. But not before a slim young lady in green put a peta on his head. After three steps he took it off and also the shawl they had draped over his shoulders, and the sandalwood garland.

Then, some European businessmen arrived, and the hotel staff were ready with the peta for them too, and with the sandalwood garlands. The guests, white businessmen in sharp gray suits, retained the decoration upon themselves at least until I lost sight of them.

While I was leaving, last evening, I saw that the hotel had geared up to honour a good many with the peta, and with the efficiency of an assembly line. A pile of petas lay on the bell desk, with little containers of vermilion and other extreme elements to anoint high-spending humans.

Coming from a manufacturers’ conference, I couldn’t help but wonder how the supply chain for that sober turban was organised. How many petas were in the hotel stores? Was the stock vendor managed inventory? How low had they driven down the price for it?

Challenges the Maharaja’s men never concerned themselves with in their time, I’m sure.