Man Who Designed PM Modi’s Pahadi Topi

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By: Vineet Upadhyay
Updated: 08 June, 2022 9:57 pm IST
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MUSSOORIE: 
In an era where the lure of government jobs was still strong, Sameer Shukla decided to walk a different path. Amid uncertainty and economic instability, the Customs officer and his wife Kavita decided to move away from the hustle and bustle of life in Gurugram.

After three of travelling in the Himalayan region, they set their hearts and dreams on Mussoorie, the Queen of the Hills. “It was not an easy decision. Leaving a plump government job in a big city with two toddlers to take care of, followed by economic instability, took a toll on us but we refused to give up,” says Kavita Shukla, who is a doctorate in fine arts.

Sameer Shukla (60) and his wife Kavita (55) set up the Soham Himalayan Art and Heritage Centre, a museum, which has a collection of rare manuscripts, musical instruments, jewellery, utensils, artefacts, stamps, photographs and countless other articles representing the culture, tradition and way of life in the hills of Uttarakhand, in 2012.

“It was not an easy decision. Leaving a plump government job in a big city with two toddlers to take care of, followed by economic instability, took a toll on us but we refused to give up,” says Kavita Shukla.

The museum was launched in the year 2012 with an idea to preserve the culture, tradition and way of life of Uttarakhand.

Countless days, travels, meetings with people from all across the state and transportation of items have taken over a decade to give the space the shape it is in today, says Sameer Shukla.

 

But their biggest moment came when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to wear ‘Pahadi Topi’ on this year’s Republic Day. The cap was designed by Shuklas.

“We were aiming at designing something which represents Uttarakhand. After years of researching, travel and consultations we launched the cap in the year 2017. This involves the contribution of local artisans, locally procured fabric, materials and workers from Uttarakhand,” says Shukla who has been working for more than 25 years to preserve the culture of the hill state.

“A lot of people are involved in the conceptualizing, designing and making of the cap in its present shape. The profit-sharing model has been beneficial for the tailors and designers involved. They got immense satisfaction that their work got recognized by Prime Minister Modi himself,” Sameer Shukla added.

 

Their museum includes rare manuscripts from the Himalayas dating back to the 15th century, a stamp collection of Uttarakhand, jewellery, musical instruments, domestic use items such as utensils, agricultural tools, grain storage units, paintings, items of religious importance and miniatures of different types of architectures of the hills of Uttarakhand.

Talking about the challenges in setting up the museum, Sameer Shukla said, “Countless days, travels, meetings with people from all across the state, transportation of items in a guided way have taken over a decade to give the space the shape it is in today.”

But Shuklas contribution is not only to preserve the heritage of Uttarakhand. The couple also runs a school where Kavita Shukla teaches underprivileged children. They are also working to uplift the lives of women on the hill and create an ecosystem for local artisans, especially women.

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