Sikhs Turban that Saved France – Vive les Sikhs By Harchand Singh Bedi - Malaysia Turban is an aspect of the Sikh Bana (identity) and Sikh faith. The word turban derived from the Persian word dulband and has been in existence time immemorial. Traditionally, wearing a turban is a sign of holiness and spirituality; it testifies a symbol of respectability. It also commands a sense of responsibility and duty to others. The Sikhs have a religious importance to it. The Gurus wore the turbans and their disciples naturally emulated them. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru, described the true man of God had mentioned turban being a part of ideal appearance. (Sri Guru Granth Sahib 1084). By the time of Guru Hargobind Singh, Sikhs began to think themselves equals of the be-turbaned ruling class, the Mughals. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, on creation of the Khalsa Panth, apart from the 5 Ks-kesh, kangha, Kara, kachhera and kirpan, turban became an obligatory item of dress to keep the long hair neatly tied up and the females followed suit. The colour of the turban meant some significance but on the whole, the turban became the insignia for the Sikhs. Turban is and has been an inseparable part of a Sikh way of life. Since Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikh faith, all Sikhs have been wearing Turban. Guru Gobind Singh Ji says, “Kangha dono vakt kar, paag chun kar bandhai." (Comb your hair twice a day and tie your Turban carefully, turn by turn.") Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji says, "Kachh, Kara, Kirpan, Kangha, Keski, Eh panj Kakar rehat dhare Sikh soi."(The five Ks or Kakkars of Sikh faith are special underwear, iron bracelet (sarabloh) sword, comb, and a small Turban. A person who wears all these Sikh symbols should be considered a practicing Sikh. Several ancient Sikh documents refer to the order of Guru Gobind Singh Ji about wearing five Ks. Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangu is one of the most famous ancient Sikh historians, the author of "Sri Guru Panth Parkash" in which he wrote almost two centuries ago. He writes, “Doi vele utth bandhyo dastare, pahar aatth rakhyo shastar sambhare ." Kesa(n) ki kijo pritpal, nah(i) ustran se katyo vaal " ("Sri Guru Granth Parkash" by Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangu, page 78)("Tie your Turban twice a day and carefully wear weapons 24 hours a day. Take good care of your hair. Do not cut your hair.") Turban is a symbol of spirituality and holiness in Sikh faith. The Turban (Dastaar) has remained the key aspect in a Sikh's honour. Those who have selflessly served the community are honoured with Turbans. Sikh initiation ceremony (Khande batte De pahul) is one of the most important ceremonies in a Sikhs' life initiated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. That ceremony cannot be completed without wearing a Turban. Indeed, a short-Turban (called a Keski) is one of the five requirements for Sikhs. The most revered Sikh symbol is hair. The Turban is required of every Sikh in order to cover his/her hair. This is also the primary reason the comb (Kangha) is another one of the five requirements in the Sikh way of life. All the Sikh Gurus wore turban. Throughout our short history, all Sikhs have been required to do so. The Turban has indeed become synonymous with Sikh faith. Turbans go way back in history as part of a spiritual practice. The turban of a Sikh is a gift given on Vaisakhi Day of 1699 by the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh Jib who created the Khalsa Panth. The turban represented respectability and a sign of nobility. The turban becomes a flag of our consciousness as well as our crown of spiritual royalty. The turban is there to remind us of our connection to God (Waheguru). It frames us as devotees of God and gives us a way to live in gratitude for this gift of recognition. There is no other religion in the world that wears turban as a daily insignia of Identity. Turban and Sikh Military Life Turban is a symbol of honor and self-respect. The Sikh Army fought their last major battle against the British in 1845. The Sikh soldiers refused to wear helmets during World War I and World War II. They fought with Turbans on their heads. A Sikh (Khalsa) is supposed to be fearless. Many Sikhs received Victoria Cross which is one of the most prestigious gallantry awards in the British army. Many Sikhs refused to remove Turban even in jails. Bhai Randhir Singh Ji, a widely respected Sikh preacher, scholar and a freedom fighter had to undergo a fast to win his right to wear Turban in the prison; his sacrifices and perseverance to uphold the Sikh faith was very staunch and immutable. The turban physiology is a very interesting and the top of the head, which is the crown chakra, is a focal point of energy. Sikhs hold that energy is sacred and should be retained and it explains they cover their head and do not cut their hair; the turban also works on the pressure points in the head. It is cool to be Sikh, but cooler if you wear a turban. "Khoob teri pugri, Meethae tere bol" (Your turban is beautiful and your words are sweet and tender) Turban has saved lives of many people. If you ever remembered stories of turban saving lives of drowning people, rescued people from falling down from the cliff? Do you know that, one of the greatest deeds of the war was carried out by Sikhs turban in France during World War 1? On May 18, 1915, at Richebourg, near La Bassee, 10 brave Sikhs (4 from the 15th Ferozepur Sikhs, 4 from 19th Punjabis and 2 from 45th Sikhs) volunteered to carry 26 bombs to within, 20 yards of the enemy, after two other parties had failed. Finally, Lieutenant Smyth, with one Sikh - nine of the ten having been killed or wounded swam a stream whilst exposed to howitzer, shrapnel, machine-gun, and rifle fire. It was necessary to send a bombing party from a reserve trench to the front line with two boxes of bombs. In ordinary circumstances four men are required to handle a box of bomb. The party had to cross 250 yards of absolutely open ground, devoid of all natural cover, and it was only possible to secure shelter from the frightful German fire encountered from the parapet of an old broken down trench. Lieutenant Smyth's party wriggled through, and pulling and pushing their boxes of bombs till they reached the scanty shelter of the old trench, as there were no ropes available, they attached their pagris (turbans) to the fronts of the boxes, and pulled them over through the dead. Here, only Lieutenant Smyth and a Sepoy named Lal Singh were left, Six others having been killed and three wounded. This compelled the two survivors of the party of eleven to abandon the second box of bombs, but still pulling and hauling the other they emerged into the open, where they were met by an increased blast of fire, and were soon confronted by a small stream which was too deep to wade. A decision was made to open the boxes and carry two bombs at a time and rush the remaining distance. They struggled across with their burden, and in a few yards reached the trench. Both then were untouched, though their clothes were perforated by bullets. Shortly after, Lal Singh was killed in the trench. These 10 Sikhs had displayed exemplary courage and true devotion to duty. Lt. Smyth was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery and Lance Lal Singh the Indian Order of Merit, and the other nine Sikhs the Indian Distinguished service Medal. French History would have been different, had it not been for the turbaned Sikh Soldiers. More than 96 years ago, French woman pinned flowers on the turban of the Sikh Soldiers to honour them. Today, Sikhs are denied the right to wear their turbans in France. In the autobiography of Brigadier Sir John Smyth V.C. we find the following harrowing account of Sikh bravery in the trenches at Festubert, as the young Lt. Smythe and a group of Sikh volunteers under his command carried ammunition to frontline trenches: "By means of pagris [turban material] attached to the boxes, the men in front pulled them along over and through the dead bodies that encumbered the trench, while those behind pushed with all their might. The danger was enough to have appalled the stoutest heart. Rifle and machine-gun bullets ripped up the ground all round them, while the air above was white with the puff of shrapnel. If a single bullet, a single fragment of shell, penetrated one of the boxes of explosives, the men propelling it would infallibly be blown to pieces. Before they had advanced a score of yards on their terrible journey Fatteh Singh fell, severely wounded; in another hundred, Sucha Singh, Ujagar Singh and Sunder Singh were down, leaving only Lieut. Smyth and six men to get the boxes along. However, spurred on by the thought of the dire necessity of their comrades ahead, they, by superhuman efforts, succeeded in dragging them nearly to the end of the trench when, in quick succession, Sarain Singh, Harnam Singh and Sapooram Singh were wounded. The second box of bombs had therefore to be abandoned, and for the two remaining men to haul even one box along in the face of such difficulties appeared an impossible task. But nothing was impossible to the young lieutenant and the heroic Lal Singh, and presently the anxious watchers in the trench ahead saw them wriggling their way yard by yard into the open, dragging with them the box upon the safe arrival of which so much depended. As they emerged from the comparative shelter of the trench a veritable hail of lead burst upon them; but escaping it as though by a miracle, they crawled on until they found themselves confronted by a small stream which at this point was too deep to wade. They had, therefore, to turn aside and crawl along the bank of the stream until they came to a place which was just fordable. Across this they struggled with their precious burden, the water all about them churned into foam by the storm of bullets clambered by the further thank, and in a minute more they were amongst their cheering comrades. Both were unhurt, though their clothes were perforated by bullet holes; but it is sad to relate that scarcely had they reached the trench than the gallant Lal Singh was struck by a bullet and killed instantly. For his most "conspicuous bravery", Lieut. Smyth received the Victoria Cross and each of the brave men who accompanied him the Indian Distinguished Service Medal, and we may be very certain that "ne'er will their glory fade" from the proud records of our Indian Army." (The King of France send message of greetings to troops landing at Marseilles, 1914.) - “I know with what readiness my brave, loyal Indians soldiers are prepared to fulfill their sacred trust in the field of battle, shoulder to shoulder with comrades from all parts of Empire. I bid you go forward and add fresh lustre to the glorious achievements, noble traditions, courage, and chivalry of my Indian army, honour and fame are in your hands.” Forwarded to us by SPN mentor Gyani Singh Jarnail "Arshi"