Author : Unknown

Today, the very existence of turban reminds one of the Sikh nation. Turban is an essential part of a Sikh's dress. It is obligatory for a Sikh. Although initiation of the Sikhs dates back to March 29, 1699, the turban for a Sikh is as old as the religion itself. Right from Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of the Sikh religion, the turban has been an inseparable part of the being of a Sikh.

Though turban is a religious obligation for the Sikhs, it is an old costume of the people of Asia. It has been a part of the attire of saints and sages in the Sikh Homeland. According to some sources, even Hazrat Mohammed Sahib, the founder of Islam, used to wear a similar headgear.

It has not yet been established whether the turban of a Sikh (Dastăr), and turban of the Middle east (Dulband), have a common origin. The etymology of the word turban is self-explanatory. In Persian turban is "Dulband" and in Turkish it is "Tulband". Turkish "Tulband" became "Turbante" in Italian, "Turbant" in French and "Turban" in English. The Sikhs appreciate the use of the term "Dastăr," instead of "Turban."

Turban was known to Europe even prior to the fifteenth century. An oil painting by Jan Van Eyck with a caption "a man in a turban" dates back to c.1433. (This is preserved in the National Gallery at London). For a Sikh, "Dastăr (turban) is not a head-gear but it is a part and parcel of his religion. It is representative of the religions identity and national cohesion for the Sikh Nation. A Sikh with a "Dastăr" is conspicuous among the crowds of thousands. About four and a half meters (5 yards) of lightly starched fine cotton mulin cloth is usually used for a Sikh's "Dastăr." The width of this cloth is about one and a quarter meter. Some variations do exist and some people use 7 meter of slightly dense cotton cloth (voile), instead of finer material with starch. A smaller "Dastăr," about one and a half to two meters in length and smaller width, is also worn under the "Dastăr." This is known as Keski. Keski became a obligatory part of the Sikh nation dress at the time of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib.

Turban has significance not only in Sikh religion, but also in the Sikh way of life. After the death of the head of a family, the eldest son is presented with a turban, symbolizing the honor and dignity of the family, as well as the responsibilities of the family. On the occasion of marriage, the fathers of close relatives of the bride and the groom, present turbans to each other as symbolic of shared social esteem and dignity. In the Sikh homeland, good friends of long standing, present turbans to each other implying the message that they will be brothers-in-religion, henceforth. Among some Sikh families, "Dastăr-bandi" (typing of a turban) of the children is observed as a special ceremony.

Dastăr is a part and parcel of Sikhism and several idioms have become associated with this. Most of these denote great humiliation or disrespect, when a turban is disturbed or knocked-off. Removing a Sikh's turban constitutes grave offense. A Sikh, guilty of disrespect towards another Sikh's turban, is not allowed to join the Sikh ceremonies, unless he has expressly apologized and has carried out the punishment prescribed for the offense. (Rehitnama: Kesar Singh Chhibber).

In several countries, the Sikhs had to fight several times to retain their right to wear turbans. The first such battle was in England, the famous "Mandla case". In Norway, the Sikhs had to fight for their right to get a passport with a photograph with a turban. Later, in Norway again, the Sikhs had to struggle to be allowed to drive taxicabs while wearing a turban. In Sweden, the Sikhs had to fight hard for their right to wear a turban while serving in local railways. In Canada, the Sikhs had to launch an agitation to get permission to wear turban in police forces and armed forces. India has never helped the Sikhs in their adoptive lands, at any time, for preservation of any religious right of the Sikhs. On the country, examples abound where the Hindus have actively lobbied against the Sikhs religious rights, particularly in Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom.

Turban, for a Sikh, is not an optional piece of clothing but it is an essential and integral part of the Sikh's religious belief and their way of life. Turban is an article of faith.

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