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Turban-Dastaar for Women

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Subject: Sikh Women Wear Turbans

Dastaar for Women

Dastaar (turban) is a very important part of Sikh religion. To Sikhs it is

more than what is a crown to a king or queen. Sikh Gurus showed a great respect

to turban. But some people think it is only for men and women are not required

to wear it. This article will explain why Sikh women should wear Dastaar


First I will quote from Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Ji says "Saabat Soorat

Dastaar Sira" means "Let your total awareness be the turban on your head" (Page

1084). This clearly states that a Sikh is instructed to live a natural life and

have unshorn hair and to protect and keep those hair clean he/she must wear a

Dastaar on his/her head. This line does not make an exception to women. Sikh

Gurus gave women the equal rights. Both men and women are given the same message

which means the above line implies to both not only to men. If we are Sikhs of

Guru Granth Sahib Ji then we must wear Dastaar doesn't matter if you are male or


Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Rehtname make very clear points about women wearing

Dastaar. Guru Gobind Singh Ji said "Jab Lab Khalsa Rahe Niara, Tab Lag Tej

Diyoon Mein Saara" which means "As long as Khalsa preserves its uniqueness and

follows the path of true Guru I will bless them with all of my powers." This

clearly shows that Khalsa must have its uniqueness which means to have that

uniqueness one must have a Dastaar on his/her head. Furthermore, when Bhai Jait

Mal Ji presented the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Guru

Ji said "I will give my Sikh a distinct and unique appearance which will allow

him to be recognized while standing in millions". This uniqueness comes from

following the path of Sikhi which is to have unshorn hair and wearing Dastaar on

the head. One can easily recognize a Sikh by looking at his appearance and most

of that does come from Dastaar. Guru Ji did not say that he would give

uniqueness only to men. When Guru Ji said "Khalsa" he meant men and women both.

Men and women both are Khalsa. Guru Ji gave the same Rehat Maryada, same

uniqueness, same message, same symbols, same religious Bana (dress) and same

rights then how are women excluded from wearing Dastaar. Guru Ji made no

distinction and referred to men and women as Khalsa and instructed them to wear

Dastaar. In above line the word "Niara" clearly means different from others and

it does mean wearing Dastaar. It doesn't say only men have to be "Niara".

Furthermore, Guru Gobind Singh Ji said "Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas" which

means "Khalsa is my own self image." Again, Khalsa means men and women both.

Guru Ji did not make two different Sikhs or Khalsa. He made one Sikh and there

can only be one type or kind of Sikh. There is only one Khalsa. Women make

different hair styles, color their hair, and tie them in the back which is

prohibited. Those women are nowhere near Guru Gobind Singh Ji's image. Guru Ji

always wore Dastaar. Not only Guru Gobind Singh Ji but all of the other nine

Gurus practiced wearing Dastaar. So how are women who dye their hair "Roop"

(image) of Guru Gobind Singh Ji? They are not. Guru Ji had one image not two.

Guru Ji had unshorn hair and wore Dastaar. Women without Dastaar do not even

come close to that image. When those women look in the mirror, do they see Guru

Gobind Singh Ji? I don't think so. Dastaar is a sign of dignity. Men still have

their dignity but where is women's dignity? They have lost it in fashion. Not

many Sikh women wear Dastaar but their numbers are growing. Even white Sikhs men

and women wear Dastaar. Women must wear turban as instructed by Guru Ji himself

because that's what makes them unique and an image of Guru Ji.

Right up to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sikh women had been

steadfast in following the edicts of the Satguru in respect to their spiritual

inner life as well as dress, including Dastaar. That is what J. D. Cunningham

himself saw and wrote in the middle of the Nineteenth Century when he wrote his

book, History of the Sikhs. He writes: "The Sikh women are distinguished from

Hindus of their sex by some variety of dress but chiefly by a higher top knot of

hair." Even after the Punjab came under the British rule, Dastaar was

conspicuously seen in case of Sikh women as well as men right up to the

Gurudwara movement and the establishment of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak

Committee in 1926. Until then, no one - man as well as woman was allowed to be

baptized (by taking Amrit) at Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib without Dastaar. At the end

of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the present one, as a result of

the Sikh renaissance movement, a number of Khalsa schools for girls were

established in Punjab. Small Dastaar was prescribed as an obligatory head dress

for students as well as teachers in such schools at Jaspalon, Ferozepur and

Sidhwan in Punjab.

Many famous Rehatname also support wearing of Dastaar. Here are some quotes:

"Each candidate for Baptism be made to wear kachhehra, tie hair in a topknot and

cover the same with Dastaar; wear Sri Sahib (Kirpan) in Gaatra (shoulder belt).

Then he/she should stand with folded hands." (Rahitnama Bhai Daya Singh Ji)

"...Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa should keep his hair unshorn, have flowing beard and

have simple Dastaar which saves him from impiety. Then the Sikhs asked what

would happen to those Amritdhari who start cutting their hair or do not keep

their hair covered. The Guru replied that they would be stupid and will lose

their sensibility It is a blemish to remain bareheaded...Always keep two

turbans. When the bigger turban is removed, the smaller be kept. The smaller

turban should not be removed."(Bijai Mukat Dharam Shastra - Sakhi- 8

"(A Sikh) who eats food with turban removed from the head (i.e., bareheaded) is

destined for 'Kumbhi' hell." (Rahit Rama Bhai Prahlad Singh Ji)

"One who combs hair twice a day, ties turban fold by fold and cleans teeth

everyday will not come to grief." (Tankhah Naama Bhai Nandlal Ji)

"Whosoever roams about bareheaded, takes food bareheaded and distributes the

'prasad' bareheaded is considered punishable." (Uttar-prashan Bhai Nandlal Ji)

"Women should tie their hair in topknot and should not keep them loose."

(Rahitnama Bhai Daya Singh Ji)

"Keshas be washed. Turban or Dastaar should not be placed on floor but should

always be kept with due respect. Food should not be eaten bareheaded." (Bijai

Mukt Dharam Shastra, Sakhi 70)

It is thus, absolutely clear from the above quotations that remaining bareheaded

at any time (except when washing, drying, and combing) and keeping hair loose

and unknotted are basically against the Sikh Code of Conduct, which is

applicable to all, men and women alike. For obvious reasons, therefore, the use

of Dastaar is indispensable. There is no other way to keep the head covered all

the time. Sikhs women who wear only dupattas, mostly remain bareheaded, at least

in the privacy of their own homes, while taking food, etc., and thus are,

perhaps unconsciously, infringing the Sikh Code of Conduct in this respect.


1. Well-known Sikh historian Bhai Sahib Bhai Santokh Singh has given a somewhat

detailed description concerning Mai Bhaag Kaur (commonly known as Mai Bhago) of

Forty Muktas fame in his well known historical work GUR PARTAP SOORAJ. He

mentions that Mai Bhaag Kaur had reached the highest stage of enlightenment and

had almost lost her body consciousness...so much so that when her clothes became

worn to shreds, she did not care to replace them. Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

called her in His Holy presence and instructed her to always stick to the

Gursikh dress as prescribed in the Code of Conduct. In particular, she was

ordered to wear Kachhehra and Dastaar. In fact, according to some chroniclers,

the Dastaar was tied on her head by the Satguru himself. If this Dastaar was not

a part of Sikhi, where was the need to include this item in the instructions

given to a lady who had reached almost the Brahmgyan stage? It apparently shows

that the Satguru gave very high importance to Dastaar.

2. In the Museum of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's fort at Lahore and Victoria Museum

at Calcutta, the pictures of Sikh women of old time can be seen even now,

depicting them with Dastaar.

3. Bhai Sahib Veer Singh, in his well known poetical work, RANA SURAT SINGH,

depicts Rani Raj Kaur as a Saint Soldier or Rajyogi of the highest order. Her

very impressive picture given in the book depicts her with a well-tied Dastaar,

on which is also affixed a khanda-chakkar, the emblem of Sikhism. In another of

his book "Mata Satwant Kaur" Satwant Kaur is shown as wearing Khalsa dress

including Dastaar.

4. The Sikh women belonging to the Jatha of Bhai Sahib (Sant) Teja Singh Ji of

Mastuana, have been seen doing Kirtan in congregations wearing Dastaar. He was

instrumental in establishing Akaal Academy - a Higher Secondary School at Baru

in Himachal Pradesh wherein all students - boys as well as girls - are required

to wear Dastaar as a prescribed school uniform.

6. Jathedar of Damdami Taksaal Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale's

whole family, including his wife, two sons and their wives practiced wearing


7. It is a historical fact that there was a time when a price was put on the

head of a male Sikh. Greedy and unprincipled people, both Hindus and Muslims,

availed of this opportunity to make money. When they could no longer find male

Sikhs in the villages and towns, they started beheading Khalsa women and

presenting their heads as the heads of young unbearded teenager Sikh lads. Even

in those dark times Sikh women did not stop wearing Dastaar. It was only because

of fashion and their misunderstanding of Sikh faith that they stopped wearing

Dastaar and started piercing nose and ears.

8. S. Shamsher Singh Ashok who has been an active member of the Singh Sabha

movement and an erstwhile Research Scholar of the S.G.P.C., while discussing the

prevalence of the use of 'Dastaar', states: "...and, consequently in the

Amrit-Parchaar at the Akaal Takhat Sahib, this was a precondition even for

ladies before they could be baptized there. Any woman who was not prepared to

wear Dastaar was not baptized. This practice continued even after the end of the

Gurudwara movement. Relaxation was made only when Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafar

became the Jathedar of the Akaal Takhat."

The wearing of Dastaar enables Sikh women to show their distinctiveness of

being Sikh or Khalsa like men. The importance of this Khalsa distinctiveness has

been clearly emphasized by the Tenth Guru for the Khalsa as a community, both

men and women, and not for men only. At the time of the baptismal ceremony, the

same Amrit (Khande-Ki-Pahul) is administered to all without any distinction,

including that of sex. The title of Khalsa is bestowed on all of them. The same

way of life and Code of Conduct is enjoined upon all of them. All of them are

forbidden to roam about, take food, etc. bareheaded. How, then, have women

become exempt from any of these injunctions? Dastaar is the only answer to this


In view of all the aforesaid, it is clear that Dastaar has been

traditionally worn by Sikhs, or Khalsa men and women, right from the birth of

the Khalsa Nation. This practice has been enunciated and strongly emphasized by

the Satguru himself. Akhand Kirtani Jatha, white Sikhs and a few other

individuals and organizations are preserving this dignified Khalsa tradition

with Guru's grace. Having become aware of these facts, the Sikh intelligentsia

has also started showing a remarkable response in this regard. If the Khalsa is

to live in accordance with the Rules of true Gurmat , both Khalsa men and women

have to accept it. Dastaar is the crown bestowed by the Satguru for the head of

the Khalsa, whether man or woman, who stands bestowed with the special form of

the Satguru himself. By refraining from the use of Dastaar, a Sikh becomes a

follower of his own ego instead of the Will of the Satguru. Wearing of Dastaar

by Sikh women is decried mainly because modern day Sikhs want their women to

fall in line with other women with respect to the so called modern way of life,

including the modern fashions of dress. Sikhs - both men and women - will

continue to be guilty of showing disrespect to the sacred hair by keeping them

uncovered. In fact, it is the Dastaar's nonacceptance (and not its acceptance)

that is very unconsciously eviscerating the Rehtname of their "tremendous and

literally unlimited potency that operates on the collective subconscious level"

of the Sikhs in general. One fails to understand how the use of Dastaar

"...destroys the purity of the Khalsa and sabotages the unity of the Khalsa", as

alleged by some. In fact, the shoe is on the other foot. If Dastaar is accepted

by all Khalsa men and women, it will help in maintaining the purity and ensuring

the unity of the Khalsa, as even women of the Khalsa faith, like the Khalsa men,

will be distinguishable.

Writer: unknown

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  • 11 years later...

Physical items are tools that are meant to help us go inwards and realise the true self. Excess focus on physical appearance strengthens the bonds of attachment to physicality. Women are bombarded with enough in this world, already. I don't think we need to encourage yet another mandatory sheath over the Atman.  

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