In Honour Of The Turban


1947-2014 (Archived)

In Honour of the Tur

The word ‘Turban’ is derived from the ancient Persian word dulband through the Turkish tarbush. It is a common head-dress for men in Middle Eastern and South-Asian countries. As a form of head-dress it is of Semitic origin and was an essential part of the Israeli High Priest’s uniform in Moses’ day as stated in the Old Testament. In India, it is to be seen as worn by men depicted in the Ajanta caves and on the Sanchi Gateway.

Traditionally, wearing of turban was a sign of holiness and frequently, its size, material and style indicated the position and rank of the wearer. The Sanskrit word pak, from which the Punjabi word pagg is obviously derived stands for maturity and greyness of hair. Punjabi idiom and usage also testify to the importance of turban as a symbol of respectability. For example, pagg di laj rakkhna, pagg lahuna etc.

While other communities have gradually discarded the wearing of turban generally under the influence of western culture, for the Sikhs the turban has a religious significance. The Gurus wore turbans and their disciples naturally followed them. By the time of the sixth Guru Hargobind, turban wearing Sikhs began to think themselves equals of the beturbaned ruling class, the Mughals. When in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh manifested the Khalsa; he included the kes or unshorn hair as a mandatory symbol of faith to be maintained by all Sikhs. Turban, being essential to keep the hair neatly tied up, thus became an obligatory item of dress for the Sikh male. Over the last three centuries the turban has maintained its pre-eminent position in the life of a Sikh and in fact, along with the untrimmed hair, it has become a distinguishing feature of the Sikh male the world over.

This selection of articles highlights not only the symbolic and utilitarian importance of a turban for a Sikh but also discusses how the turban has become an indispensable part of the identity of a Sikh.

Harry Haller

Panga Master
Forgive me if I offend anyone, but I think the reason most people stop wearing the turban is all down to one thing, how we see our self image. Most men stop wearing the turban in the age group between 16-27, and I think the reason they do, is the very reason possibly that it was encouraged in sikhism in the first place, sex!.

Now lets be honest here, when I look at the photos of my dad in his teens when he married my mum, he does not look in the least bit sexy, he looks, like he always has, a man full of love, for his wife, for me and my idiot brother, his parents, beggars in the street, you looked at my dad, and thousands of sikhs just like him, and you didn't see raw sex appeal, you saw goodness, honesty and truth. At that age, I had no interest in these things, I cut my hair to look more sexually attractive.

I am not saying that turban wearing sikhs should not be sexual titans, however it is more the promiscuity that the Gurus frowned upon rather than sexual happiness in the confines of a loving relationship, I think they knew that wearing a turban would make most young sikhs proud of the heritage, and meaning of such an item, rather than, like me, view it as a hindrance.

No, I am afraid turbans are not sexy, they do not say, come over here for a wild night of hanging from the ceiling, rather , the opposite, if you feel like a wild night of etc etc, come over here and we can debate what makes you want to lose yourself in wordly pleasures instead of trying to connect with the almighty.

Of course there is the other reason we should all wear turbans, My father looks like a king in his splendid beard and turban, ( he is only 60, he had me young) , I on the other hand, given my lifestyle and lack of hair, look more like a potato, in fact, I would concede that my father actually now looks better than me!

I would say to any young sikh thinking of abandoning the turban, there are people who will spend entire lives looking for what you have already got, value it, appreciate it, you were born princes, lions, do not look like a donkey for the sake of a few cheap thrills that could cost you your family and your reputation.


1947-2014 (Archived)
harry haller ji

Your narrative of your family father youth and theory of dastar is so original. Most of it very touching. I enjoyed reading it so much.

I cannot say whether Guru Nanak had "sex" on his mind when he extolled the turban in his bani. Nor whether that was on Guru Gobind Singh's mind either most scholars argue that wearing a turban was an act of defiance against the Moghul overlords. Dastar was forbidden to all but the most wealthy and high born. By urging that sikhs tie dastar the Gurus, and their followers, were emphasizing the equality of all humans. That has always been my understanding.

In modern times, here again I disagree, more than one young man in dastar has been photographed at a wild party waving a bottle of beer in the air and doing the booga-loo with a hot young woman. Later today I will find such a pic for you.

But loved your post. Luv your father.