Sikh men take the wearing of a turban very seriously. In fact, it is a tenet of their faith. In the late 1600’s, when India was under Mughal rule and only the rulers and noblemen were allowed to wear turbans and carry swords, a decree was passed making it a requirement that all Sikhs must wear turbans and carry swords. A traditional Sikh man does not cut any of his hair, in honor of the pure and natural state of his original creation. The turban or dastaar serves to protects his lengthy locks.
Today there are many reformed Sikhs both inside and out of India who do not follow this tradition.
Young boys wear a head scarf over their top knots, known as patkas. At around 16, they may go through a formal ceremony where they wear a turban for the first time. I sat and chatted with the family shown in the above photograph at the golden Temple in Amritsar and asked if I could take their photograph. They agreed immediately.
From what I’ve seen the shapes of the turbans shown above are the most common. The most popular colors are blue, black, white and orange. Red is usually reserved for weddings and celebrations.
Although Sikhism is one of the youngest, monotheistic religions in the world and based on equality for all, it is probably one of the least understood faiths. Ever since the horrific events of Sept. 11th, turban wearing Sikhs have been the targets of ignorant, anti-Muslim rage, wrongly taking them for Muslims. The irony is that it is their unique distinguishing religious requirements like their beards and their turbans that have created this confusion and linked them to such tragic, vicious and often fatal attacks.
I have long been a proponent of the theory that we should all prepare a lavish banquet for our enemies and least favorite neighbors and sit down at the table with them, offering them our best hospitality. This is how differences are celebrated and appreciated and how hate and ignorance can turn into friendship. This is diplomacy.