Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, April 9, 2009

Alarm Grows as More Sikh Youths Give Up Turbans

Amandeep Singh Saini, in white, cut his hair and discarded his turban, the most visible symbol of Sikh identity, at 14.
Amandeep Singh Saini, in white, cut his hair and discarded his turban, the most visible symbol of Sikh identity, at 14.

CHANDIGARH, India — Text messaging with one hand and holding a cup of milky tea in the other, spiky-haired Amandeep Singh Saini, 27, recalled the year-long battle he waged against his traditional Sikh parents to cut his hair.

The act was blasphemous to his father, who tied his long hair in a turban, the most visible marker of Sikh identity.

“I was 14 then. I wanted to jump into the village pool and play in mud. The long hair and the turban were always in the way. It took half an hour to tie the turban every morning,” said Saini, a student pursuing a doctorate in Punjabi literature.

After he cut his hair and discarded the turban, his two brothers followed suit. “My mother wept, my father was angry, but I was stubborn,” he said. “At that age, you don’t think about right and wrong. I look around the campus today, and there are so few turbaned Sikhs.”

The rapidly shrinking number of young Sikhs who wear turbans and have unshorn hair has alarmed many in this religious minority of 20 million. Although there are no formal surveys, community groups say that only 25 percent of Sikhs younger than 30 follow the practice. Many young Sikhs say the daily tedium of combing and tying up their long hair and a desire to assimilate are pushing them to give up the turban, a sacred symbol of a religion founded in the 15th century.

Now, a court case about college admission quotas for Sikhs is threatening to alienate hundreds of thousands of short-haired, un-turbaned youths.

In August, four students petitioned the high court after they applied to a medical college under a Sikh quota but were denied admission. The college said the students, who had cut their hair, did not fit in the category of Sikh. In the ongoing legal proceedings, religious bodies and scholars have testified about the importance of uncut hair to Sikhism.

“The case is about college admission quotas, but it has become part of dinner table conversations everywhere. People are asking, ‘What am I? What will I be after the judgment?’ It is unsettling,” said Gurminder Singh Gill, an attorney for the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, an elected forum of the Sikh clergy that runs the college and whose rules are designed to prevent the dilution of Sikh symbols. “The court ruling will impact future interpretations of the word ‘Sikh.’ ”

Three hundred years ago, devout Sikh men and women were urged to demonstrate their commitment by not cutting their hair and by carrying a sword, comb and a bracelet. They were given the name “Singh,” which means lion in Hindi, as a mark of common brotherhood that eliminates caste distinctions.

Faced with the recent decline in turban-wearers, the community is thinking up ways to draw young people back to the tradition.

A group called Akal Purakh Ki Fauj, or the Army of the Timeless Being, organizes the annual Turban Pride Day in April, sends volunteers to schools to teach turban-tying and has introduced a software program called the Smart Turban that helps people pick a style that suits them.

Since 2005, the group has held Mr. Singh International, a beauty pageant for turbaned Sikhs. Among other talents, contestants must demonstrate their turban-tying skills. The winners have won modeling contracts and movie roles.

“We need more turbaned role models for our young,” said Navnit Singh, a member of the group. To this end, he recently launched a 6-year-old turbaned cartoon character, Rony Singh.

“Rony Singh is a whiz kid and loves playing with gadgets. He can get his friends out of any sticky situation,” Singh said. “He will be competing with Pokemon, Tintin and all the superheroes. I want kids to think the turban is cool.”

Turbans come in a variety of colors and styles, including polka-dotted and tie-dyed. Shops even sell ready-made turbans. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh who was educated at Oxford University, wears a blue turban, and a popular cricket player started a fad by matching his turbans and ties.

In the early 1980s, Sikh religious extremists insisted on turbans and beards as an assertion of pride. Then, in 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards after she sent the army to the Golden Temple, a revered Sikh shrine, to rout radicals holed up inside. Angry Hindus retaliated by targeting turbaned Sikhs, killing and burning thousands alive on the streets of the capital, New Delhi. In the following years of armed militancy and bloodshed, Indian police crushed the movement.

“There were widespread human rights violations. Young men with turbans or with Sikh names were more vulnerable to being picked up and thrown into illegal detention. Many Sikhs cut their hair and discarded their identity to escape police brutality,” said Ishwinder Singh Chadha, a member of the Institute of Sikh Studies. “In the 1990s, turbaned Sikhs were caricatured in TV shows and movies, and young Sikhs lost pride in their identity.”

Rajvinder Singh Bains, a human rights lawyer, said that like many Sikhs, he responded with jubilation when Gandhi was assassinated and mourned when Sikhs were massacred. But he wears his hair short.

“Why fuss over external symbols?” Bains asked. “They say Sikh men have to grow their hair and wear turbans, and women cannot remove their body hair or trim their eyebrows. Is that what we want to reduce Sikhism to?”

Back in the college cafeteria, Saini and a turbaned friend, Sukhjeet Singh Sandhu, discussed their faith over another round of tea.

“I am a Sikh because my faith runs deep in my heart,” Saini said.

“Every fold of the turban of a devout Sikh is like a historical chapter of his blood-soaked history, which every Sikh carries with him with great pride and dignity,” said Sandhu, 26.

But he trimmed his beard, he said, because “campus life demands it.”

The Comments are most welcomed, so write what you think abt this…………



  1. change is the law of nature. even this universe is changing. we are here because our body genes repel us to change so we can stay on earth according to new changes. religion is man’s personnel issue, it does not belong to hair grown on a man’s head and how long is his beard. i am working aboard, i have cut down my hair because it was difficult to work with hair, i am working in iraq, it was difficult to stay with turban over your head in heat, dust, humidity. i have no changes in my life. i still belive in guru’s, their gurbani. now i have good understanding of their of their words they say. before i can write down this i print whole Jap ji Sahib, i have same feeling or better before i have hair. i dont care i have cut down my hair. i love my parents, i love my identity. who is someone who can try to bind me one cage of religion . i love jesus, i love guru gobind sing, i love mohamed. i respect all people, i have no changes in my life after cutting my hair. i am same person, i have same thinking. so this is not good to bind someone in particular cage. and now all religions all like muddy ponds they all are smelling bad this is not because they have something bad but due to these religions do not wants any changes from their basic idea. wake up man wake up every thing is changing in this world and you wants to stay at same point where you been 3 or 4 hundreds before even this time moon has gone many meters away from earth. rivers has changed their way to go sea and these religions say a man to stay at same point. this is impossible. we have not care about what religions say , grow hair or some other things but the question is how today we change a man to his inside, make him calm. read all religions hindusiam, buddisam, every religion is good. what happen if no more people have hair. it will not change any rule of the earth,or universe. what happen if all people has hair or become sikhs. nothing can happen to this universe. today we have much time to think about ourselves. think about yourself your peace your soul.

    • As we have got the nearness (got birth in sikhism) of ‘poora guru’ (complete Guru) by our past good deeds, as baani says

      ‘purab likhat likhe gur payiya’

      ‘Bhag hova gur sant milaya, prabh abinasi ghar mean payiya’

      We should get the more benefits from ‘poora guru’ and to proceed further but not to WASTE our past labour of good deeds BY GOING AGAINST THE SIKH PRINCIPLES.

      It is easy to become a Doctor, an Engineer, a Pilot or any other good professionalist but it very difficult to earn ‘Dharma’ by making good deeds in our life. So, one should not waste our this type of labour by going against the sikh traditions.

      The importance of ‘poora guru’ is very great, as baani says

      ‘poorea gur ka sun updesh, parbrahm nikat kar pekh’

      Our great Guru directly connects us to the God Almighty and God is in His nature, as even 1st GURU NANAK’s baani says

      ‘balihari kudrat vasiya, tera ant na jayi lakhiya’

      Japji Sahib’s 1st pauri says ‘Hukam rajai chalana Nanak likhiya naal’ ,as we have to follow and respect the nature.

      Hairs on the human body is by nature, and going against this nature is bad.

      All the sikh gurus respected the nature and were ‘keshadhari’ and so were their Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singhji made the ‘rehat’ from Guru Nanak’s principles.

      The ‘bea-adabi of ‘keshas’ is the ‘ghor apmaan of our great gurus’. The punishment of such type of deed is written in gurbani as

      ‘sant kea dukhan trigad jon kirmaye’ ang 279

      Sikh who cuts his hairs is called ‘patit sikh’. The ‘patit sikh’ can NOT get birth as human being, but will get birth in the bad and lowest ‘yonis’.

      We all are the sons and daughters of Great Guru Gobind Singh ji, we should accept the sikh traditions with courage and happiness as the children of lion and not to cut our hairs.

    • Many things does not change, God (nature) has grown hairs on the human body and still human babies beings born with hairs on their body and when they grown up, more hairs are grown on their body as beard and moustache. Our sikh gurus tried to directly connect us to the God and His nature.
      ‘Khalsa Akal Purukh ki fauj’
      So, it is fundamental rule for Sikhs not to cut their hairs.
      Today’s science is also saying that hairs are beneficial to human.

  2. The post altogether gathers a good information but is not organized, but still keep it on.

    “The universe is changing and change is law of nature. This applies to evolution of sikhism. Sikhism was answer for modification for all the fundamental stern belief of existing religions (Here please take note that I am not saying the religion then existing were bad, but the preachers had actually moulded the dialect of religion to exercise authority) and Baba Nanak showed the change”.

    “One who say sikhism is about hair is fundamental, ignorant and prejudiced about his belief, but one who says sikhism is not about here is ignorant and prejudiced about his belief. Both chatters the same verses but in different tongue. Their weakness blasts their rhetoric for why we need hair or why we not. Both running away from truth Baba Nanak put forward and reason their own logic, ironic – isn’t it. Keeping hair is only represents the scientific logic. Search in google for benefits of hair or ask Baba Ram Dev. Hair is natural asset provided to us and we denounce it. How a person respects himself if he denounces his own asset and how lowly a person who praises his asset. Search in google pics of great thinkers of time – the all had beard, mustache and long hair, though it includes many foreigners who don’t tie turban. The gurus were sure about what they said and they said it for our good. About one benefit of hair – you feel depressed, let loose your hair comb them in sunlight and you will get a cozy sleep, which a strong medicine can’t provide you.”

    Now for about sikhism it the drop of water struggling it from into desert through a dry desert. Sikhism demands sacrifice, it is not an easy chapter – just pray,go to temple and feel that you getting enlightened, you feel in the feet of Guru. Your thoughts may be rational but they are shallow. Your substance may be pure but it,s moment is empty.

    “”””Just sit in a silence place, revere Waheguru and try to hear the silence between your ears””””.

  3. I do not agree with Mr Jaspal singh, if he says he still believes in gurbani after sacrificing the hairs.
    One who does not obey his father (Guru) then how can he claim to be believer in gurbani, he is confused, because the very first verse in japji saheb it is said by our first guru hukum rajai chalna nanak likhiya naal, hairs are not given by any human being but almighty and we are supposed to honor his almighty’s hukum. our all gurus maintained hairs, was there no heat when Guru Nanak went to Mecca,these are just reasons to console one self of wrongdoind, my brother jaspal jee understand our gurus our father dasam guru gobind singh jee who sacrificed his sons and told aurangzeb that what if you killed my 4 sons but my Khalsa is alive to destroy you, ask yourself if u area true khalsa of your Guru,it is never late apologize to guru and keep hairs again, all the best

  4. Bottom line is we are all arguing about hair and how one should keep hair or not. I hope waheguru will guide us in the right direction and put us on his path of naam simran and sewa. Without the true love for the supreme god, all other arguments are in vain, and usually just reflect our own egoistic approach.

    We wonder around arguing about so many things, but fail to see within ourselves. We interpret bani to support our own ego and habits. Pointing fingers at others and saying you are wrong simply helps boost our ego, and doesn’t bring us any closer to god.

    But once we start praying to god for enlightenment and to be connected to him, then only he grants the true naam, and that is when the argument stops.

    Btw, I used to cut my hair for 15 years, till just about 8 months ago. I live in a desert as well and wear a turban now. It is only with his forgiveness and “kirpa” that we stop treating Sikhi as a sacrifice and rather as an enlightening, joyful experience that is only available to a sikh.

    In 15 years not once did I enjoy combing my hair, but now every day it is an ecstatic experience.

    Waheguru is the ultimate guide, and the only choice we have is to pray and ask that we be put on a path that leads to him. Without such a prayer we will always stay involved in arguments and wander in this life without realizing our purpose and wasting the precious opportunity given to us.

    Bhul chuk maaf karni ji… Waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh,

  5. Hair is like the icing on the cake. Pretty important for a wedding to god.

  6. Please watch this video!!

    peace !!!

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