Updated 8:04 am, Apr 28, 2021

Significance of Turban | Surinder S Sarin |SNE

By  SNE Guest Columnist Surinder S Sarin .
May 10, 2017


The symbolisms of wearing a turban are many, from it being regarded as a symbol of sovereignty, dedication, self -respect, courage and piety but the reason all participating Sikhs wear the turban is just one – out of love and obedience of the wishes of the founders of their faith.

The turban’s importance can be found in just about every culture and religion, starting with the ancient Babylonians to Western religions like, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Eastern traditions. The Old Testament proclaims,” once they enter the gates of the court”, implying God’s court,” they are to wear linen vestments. They shall wear linen turban” Elsewhere, in the Old Testament, the significance of turban is further highlighted : He put the turban upon his head and set the gold rosette as symbol of holly dedication on the front of the turban as the Lord had commanded him. Moses then took the anointing oil, anointed the Tabernacle, and all that was within it and consecrated it (Leviticus 8,9 ). The turban, since ancient times, has been of significant importance in Punjab, the birth place of Sikhism. There was a time when only kings, royalty, and those of high stature wore turbans. Two people would trade their turbans to show love or friendship towards each other.

The Sikh Gurus sought to uplift the downtrodden and make them equals of the highest of the high. The Sikh gurus sought to end all caste distinctions and vehemently opposed stratification of society by any means. They diligently worked to create a caste less society dedicated to justice and equality. The turban is certainly a gift of love from the founders of the Sikh religion and is symbolic of sovereignty that is of Divine concession. The turban has been an integral part of the Sikh tradition since the time of Guru Nanak. Historical accounts relay to us that all Sikh gurus wore turbans and their followers – Sikhs – have been wearing them since the formation of the faith. The turban serves as a mark of commitment to the Sikh Gurus. It distinguishes a Sikh as an instrument of the Guru and decrees accountability for certain spiritual and temporal duties. Wearing the turban gives much inner strength as well. Sikhs take this gift of the Guru with them everywhere they go. Just by being exposed to this regal quality, their attitudes and psyche get shaped in a certain way. At the same time, there is a great deal of responsibility accompanied by the turban. A person’s actions are no longer tied to him. Since Sikhs who wear the turban represent the Guru, their actions too reflect on the Guru and the Sikh community. In this sense, the turban serves to increase a Sikh’s commitment to Sikhism and lends to him becoming a more disciplined and virtuous person

The turban certainly deepens the connection between the Sikh and the Guru. The turban proclaims the followers of Guru Nanak as Sikhs but at the same time, it is not what makes them Sikhs. Prophet Mohammed in one of his hadiths states that the turban is a frontier between faith and unbelief. This aptly describes the significance of the turban for a Sikh as well. It is a true mark of sovereignty. By adorning their turbans, Sikhs serve as ambassadors of the faith and commit externally to following the path laid down by the Sikh Gurus. True submission, of course, occurs internally. The turban is deeply intertwined with the Sikh identity and is a manifestation of the mission given to all Sikhs – to act as a divine prince by standing against tyranny and protecting the downtrodden.

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