Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, September 13, 2007

Importance of Turban in Sikhism

There has been recent discrimination against turban and a Sikh was discriminated against wearing a turban in police force in Ireland. Sat Hari Singh Khalsa. from NYC, a converted Irish Sikh wrote a letter to Minister Lenihan who accused him of “a throwback and re-expression of sectarianism, a violation of an essential right to freedom of religion.” Notices at airport and asking the Sikhs to remove the kirpan was the initial move and now the next item is the turban. What is next?Mind boggles! I just wonder where the awareness is gone especially we are living in a world where the movements are so rapid that traveling from one place to the other is so quicker and we are surrounded by people of all creed and culture. What we need here is respect and tolerance for each others faith and practices of others including the religious physical aspects expected as integral part of the faith. The opinion expressed on turban backlash has such spiritual magnanimity that this matter is treated with great reverence and beyond any questions. This has to be accepted and respected; no further questions asked.
Turban is an aspect of the Sikh Bana and there is much more than that. It is just the tip of the iceberg and the complexity is much more abstract than that. 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. The Sanskrit word pak from which the Panjabi pagg or turban is derived from and stands for maturity and standing in society. It takes numerous interpretations. For example, pagg di laj rakkhna, literally meaning to maintain the honour of the turban; pagg lahuan, lit. to knock off the turban means to insult and pag vatauna is to exchange turbans to signify the transformation of friendship into brotherhood vowing fraternal love and loyalty. A bridegroom, irrespective of the religious tradition would as a rule wear a turban on his wedding. Turban as a Symbol of Responsibility People who have lived in India would know the Turban tying ceremony known as Rasam Pagri (Turban Tying Ceremony). This ceremony takes place once a man passed away and his oldest son takes over the family responsibilities by tying Turban in front of a large gathering. It signifies that now he has shouldered the responsibility of his father and he is the head of the family.

The Sikhs have a religious importance. Infact, along with untrimmed hair, turban has become a distinguishing feature of the Sikhs male all over and this includes the females who wear their keskis. The Guru wore the turbans and their disciples naturally emulated them. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the firth Guru, described the true man of God had mentioned turban being a part of ideal appearance. (SGGS 1084). By the time of Guru Hargobind Singh, Sikhs began to think themselves equals of the beturbaned ruling class, the Mughals. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, on cretio 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, The turban being religiously obligatory for the Sikhs, a more tolerant view has been taken but the recent treatment of the Sikhs has caused disturbances and repercussions globally.

Turban is and has been an inseparable part of a Sikh’s life. Since Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, all Sikhs have been wearing Turban. Dr. Trilochan Singh’s book on “Biography of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.” Clearly indicate its importance. All Sikh Gurus wore Turban. The Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) specifically says that all Sikhs must wear a Turban. According to the Rehatnama of Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji, contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the five Kakkars of Sikhism were: Kachha special underwear), Kara (a steel bracelet), Kirpan (small sword), Kangha (comb) and Keski (a small 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 Kakkars of Sikhism are special underwear, steel bracelet, 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.”)

The following information describes the importance of Turban: Holiness and Spirituality: Turban is a symbol of spirituality and holiness in Sikhism. When Guru Amar Das Ji left for heavenly abode, his elder son Pirthi Chand wore A Turban, which is usually worn by an elder son when his father passes away. At that time Guru Arjan Dev Ji was honored with the Turban of Guruship. Marne di pag Pirthiye badhi. Guriyaee pag Arjan Ladhi. (“Partakh Hari,” Jivani Guru Arjan Dev Ji, by Principal Satbir Singh) Guru Angad Dev Ji honoured Guru Amar Das Ji with a Turban (Siropa) when he was made the Guru. Similarly, 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 ki pahul) is one of the most important ceremonies in a Sikhs’ life. 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 Sikhism. Turban as a Robe of Honor The highest honor that a Sikh religious organization can bestow upon any individual is a Siropa. It is a blessing of the Guru, which is bestowed upon a person who has devoted a major portion of his/her life for the welfare of the Sikh or the humanity in general. Sometimes a Siropa is also bestowed upon the families of Sikhs martyrs turban.

Even in Punjab removing a turban from a person’s head was considered a sign of mourning. Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh savant, who enjoyed patronage of Guru Arjan Dev Ji and contemporary of the several Sikh Gurus writes in his Vars: Tthande khuhu naike pag visar(i) aya sir(i) nangai |Ghar vich ranna(n) kamlia(n) dhussi liti dekh(i) kudhange | (Vara(n) Bhai Gurdas, Var 32, Pauri 19) (A person, after taking a bath at the well during winter time,forgot his Turban at the well and came home bareheaded. When the women saw him at home without a Turban, they thought someone had died and they started to cry.)

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. All the Sikh soldiers and generals were wearing Turbans at that time. Shah Muhammad, a great Punjabi poet and historian, who witnessed that war, writes: Pichhe baitth sardara(n) Gurmatta kita, Koi akal da karo ilaj yaro. Sherh burshia (n) di sade pesh ayee, Pag dahrhia (n) di rakho laaj yaro. The Sikh chiefs took a unanimous and firm religious decision (Gurmatta), that they should have sense enough to judge the tenor of aharani Jinda(n) Kaur and the devious colonialists. They said that they were facing a very shrewd enemy and it was high time for them to save their honor because they were wearing Turbans and beards (both symbols of self-respect). 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. Wearing a helmet is admitting fear of death. 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.

High Moral Values:

Sikh history is full of facts that men and women of other faiths such as Hindus and Muslims felt safe when there was a Sikh around them. They felt secure from invaders and other people when Khalsa was around. The woman or the oppressed would feel safe and sound under the protection of “Khalsa”. It was a common saying in Punjab: “Aye nihang, booha khol de nishang” (The Nihangs (Sikhs) are at the door. Dear woman, go ahead open the door without any fear whatsoever.) In ancient times, the Sikh men had to fight tough battles with the rulers. They moved from village to village at night. Sometimes they had to hide. Women folks had a very high degree of trust in the Nihangs (Sikhs) who can be clearly identified with a Turban and beard. Women knew that the Nihangs (Sikhs) were of high moral character and never mistreated or molested women. So they fed them and helped them in whatever way they could.

Turban – A Symbol of Missionary Zeal and Courage

There are many references in the Sikh history that describe how Guru Gobind Singh Ji personally tied beautiful Dumalas (Turbans) on the heads of both his elder sons Baba Ajit Singh Ji and Baba Jujhar Singh Ji and how he personally gave them arms, decorated them like bridegrooms, and sent them to the battlefield at Chamkaur Sahib where they both received martyrdom. When the Sikhs go to an agitation (Morcha), they usually wear a saffron colour Turban which is a symbol of sacrifice and martyrdom. When Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale courted his arrest, he wore a saffron colour Turban. There are different styles in tying a turban and the time and pride that goes in doing so, shows the respect for their Gurus. Whilst tying, the cloth does not touch the ground or floor and it is done with great dexterity and finesse.


“Khoob teri pugri, Meethae tere bol” (Your turban is beautiful and your words are sweet and tender)

Kingly Turban:

Sign of Sardari.

It was meant for only kings. Minorities were not allowed to wear Turban and Kirpan. “Ouch Dumalra” Most respectful.
Bare head is not considered appropriate as per Gurbani
:”Oud oud raavaa jhaate paaye, vekhe lok hasae ghar jaaye”

It provides Sikhs a unique identity. You will see only Sikhs wearing Turban in western countries. If a Sikhs likes to become one with his/her Guru, he/she must look like a Guru (wear a Turban). Guru Gobind Singh Ji has said, “Khalsa mero roop hai khaas. Khalse me hau karo nivas.”(Khalsa (Sikh) is a true picture of mine. I live in a Khalsa.)

The opinions expressed by Sat Hari Singh Khalsa has spiritual significance on a much deeper level than physical form or saroop. In spiritual world, liberated souls wear turbans and have beards. The turban remind them of having to make the choice that will leave their material desires unfulfilled and they rage at the though of unfulfilled desires. It is very deep- seated subconscious thing. It is both the physical and spiritual aspects of the devotees that are sacrosanct and any interference with this has serious consequences. Any bana that links with the physical saroop has its links with inner self, that is purified by the utterance of the name of God or Naam and it is the combination that eventually leads to salvation. So, every aspect needs be taken seriously, before any discriminatory judgment is passed on religious requirement by its own faith.

The above article was referenced from the Encyclopedia of Sikhism by Harbans Singh, Article from Burning Panjab and views expressed by Sat Hari Singh Khalsa, NYC on Sikhnet, to give the readers an insight on the importance of turban of Sikhism, and hopefully the combined material will enlighten others on its significance of turban in the Sikh faith and other faiths.



  1. sat shri akal

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