The Dastaar has been an important part of the Sikh religion since the time of the First Guru. Guru Angad Dev honoured Guru Amar Das with a special Dastaar when he was declared the next Guru. At the time when Guru Ram Das passed on, Guru Arjan Dev was honoured with the Dastaar of Guruship.
Marne di pag Pirthiye badhi. Guriyaee pag Arjan Ladhi
Guru Gobind Singh, the last human Sikh Guru, wrote:
Kangha dono vaqt kar, paag chune kar bandhai. (“Comb your hair twice a day and tie your turban carefully, turn by turn.”)
Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangu, one of the earliest Sikh historians, wrote in Sri Gur Panth Parkash:
Doi vele utth bandhyo dastare, pahar aatth rakhyo shastar sambhare
Kesan ki kijo pritpal, nah(i) ustran se katyo vaal
Tie your Dastaar twice a day and wear shaster (weapons to protect dharma), and keep them with care, 24 hours a day.
Take good care of your hair. Do not cut or damage your hair.
Nihang Abchal Nagar (Nihangs from Hazur Sahib), 1844. Shows turban-wearing Sikh soldiers with chakrams
In the Khalsa society, the turban signifies many virtues:
The Dastaar is a symbol of spirituality and holiness in Sikhism.
Honour and self-respect
The Dastaar is also a symbol of honour and self-respect. In the Punjabi culture, those who have selflessly served the community are traditionally honoured with turbans.
Rasam Pagri (“Turban ceremony”) is a ceremony in North India. Rasam Pagri takes place, when a man passes away and his oldest son takes over the family responsibilities by tying the 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.
Piety and moral values
The Dastaar also signifies piety and purity of mind. In the Punjabi society, the Khalsa Sikhs are considered as protectors of the weak, even among the non-Sikhs. In the older times, the Khalsa warriors moved from village to village at night, during the battles. When they needed a place to hide from the enemy, the womenfolk, who had a very high degree of trust in them used to let them inside their houses. It was a common saying in Punjab: Aye nihang, booha khol de nishang (“The nihangs are at the door. Dear woman! go ahead open the door without any fear whatsoever.”)
Sikhs wear a Dastaar, partly to cover their long hair, which is never cut, as per the wish of their last human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. There are many references in the Sikh history that describe how Guru Gobind Singh personally tied beautiful dumalas (Dastaar) on the heads of both his elder sons Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, and how he personally gave them arms, decorated them like bridegrooms, and sent them to the battlefield at Chamkaur Sahib where they both died as martyrs. A saffron-colored turban is especially identified with courage, sacrifice and martyrdom.
Friendship and relationship
Pag Vatauni (“exchange of turban”) is a Punjabi custom, in which the men exchange Dastaars with their closest friends. Once they exchange turbans they become friends for life and forge a permanent relationship. They take a solemn pledge to share their joys and sorrows under all circumstances. Exchanging turban is a glue that can bind two individuals or families together for generations.
There are many Punjabi idioms and proverbs that describe how important is a Dastaar in one’s life. Bhai Gurdas writes:
Tthande khuhu naike pag visar(i) aya sir(i) nangai
Ghar vich ranna(n) kamlia(n) dhussi liti dekh(i) kudhange
(“A man, after taking a bath at the well during winter time, forgot his Dastaar at the well and came home bareheaded.
When the women saw him at home without a Dastaar, they thought someone had died and they started to cry.”)
Sign of Sikhism
Sikh men are easily recognized by their distinctive turbans
The Dastaar is considered an important part of the unique Sikh identity. The bare head is not considered appropriate as per gurbani. If a Sikh wants to become one with his/her Guru, he/she must look like a guru (wear a Dastaar). Guru Gobind Singh stated:
Khalsa mero roop hai khaas. Khalse me hau karo niwas.
(“Khalsa is a true picture of mine. I live in Khalsa.”)
Maintaining long hair and tying Dastaar is seen as a token of love and obedience of the wishes of Sikh gurus. A quote from Sikhnet:
“ The Dastaar is our Guru’s gift to us. It is how we crown ourselves as the Singhs and Kaurs who sit on the throne of commitment to our own higher consciousness. For men and women alike, this projective identity conveys royalty, grace, and uniqueness. It is a signal to others that we live in the image of Infinity and are dedicated to serving all. The turban doesn’t represent anything except complete commitment. When you choose to stand out by tying your Dastaar, you stand fearlessly as one single person standing out from six billion people. It is a most outstanding act.