The Khalat as a Gift and the Customs Connected to it in the Life of Eastern Georgia (According to the Georgian written sources)

Guliko Kvantidze

Abstract


The article deals with two issues widely discussed in ethnological studies: gifts and clothing. Landmark theories on gift exchange were first propounded by Marcel Mauss and Claude Lévi-Strauss, who introduced a multi-perspective approach. The question was further explored by Russian scholars Aaron Gurevich, Elena Ilnitskaya and others. The function and symbolism of clothing were studied by Flugel, Hofmann, Bogatyrov and other researchers, who pointed out primary and secondary characteristics of garments. Likewise significant are works by Georgian scholars who focused on the utilitarian and aesthetic features of Georgian national costumes and their regional, age and gender specifics.

This article discusses khalat as a gift in Medieval East Georgia according to the 17th-18th century Georgian historical sources. Gift is understood as having a symbolic value of reciprocity and reflecting the ongoing political situation in the country.

Royal practices for accepting khalat as a gift can be classed into three types: a. when a king removed his national clothes and publicly vested himself in Iranian garments, thus recognizing full obedience, b. when a king put on Iranian clothes over his Georgian national costumes, thus expressing his partial obedience and c. when a king entered the borders of his country dressed in Iranian clothes, which indicated that he was granted the insignia of royalty.

The comparative study of written sources reveals that the presentation of khalats was practiced in Georgia in the Middle Ages (the 9th-12th centuries) as well as in Antiquity (the 1st-2nd and 5th-6th centuries).

Keywords


The Late Middle Ages, ceremonial clothes, gifts, the khalat

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