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What Is The Fifty?
Sikhing Answers - II

 

 

 

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We’ll fine tune this process as we go along and, before long, hope to have several questions on the table at the same time, with their closing dates staggered so as to allow you to concentrate on one question at a time.

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We suggest that you encourage each of your children to participate separately, as can each adult in a family or household.

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TODAY'S QUESTION - # 2

The 'fifty' is a band of cloth, visible in the form of a triangle on the forehead of a Sikh wearing a turban, just below the cusp or peak of the turban. It is usually in a colour that contrasts or matches that of the turban itself.

Is it a necessary part of the turban?

Why is it worn? What purpose, if any, does it serve? What are its origins? What is the significance, if any, of its name?

 

Posted January 27, 2012

Closing Date: February 3, 2012

 

Conversation about this article

1: Gagandeep Singh (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), January 27, 2012, 8:34 AM.

A fifty is small piece of cloth that Sikhs wear on their forehead. It means a 'half turban'. Why is it worn? When we wear it with a turban, it distinguishes Sikhs distinguished from other turban-wearers (Hindu, Arabic, Pakistani Muslims, Jewish, etc.). It makes our turban distinctly different. What purpose, if any, does it serve? A fifty helps the turban to stay firm.

2: Sandeep Singh Brar (Canada), January 27, 2012, 8:58 AM.

I've actually been studying the subject for a future SikhMuseum.com exhibit. Basically the fifty is a cultural remnant of a inner turban called the keski that was worn by Sikh Sardars and royalty. They would first tie a inner turban and than the outer turban. You could often see small parts of the inner turban, usually at a diagonal at the front, rather than the neater triangle that we see today. Some Sikhs still tie an inner turban under the main turban. Eventually, over time, many who tied the inner turban just started tying a small band of cloth, which when the outer turban is tied, looks like a complete inner turban, but of course it is not, it is just a simple strip. While the inner turban was worn by Sardars and royalty, interestingly it does not seem to have had as large an acceptance among the farmer classes of Punjab. While I wear a fifty as did my father and my maternal grandfather who never really farmed, my paternal grandfather who was a farmer never wore one and my in-laws' large family - who also come from a farming background - never wear one.

3: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 9:02 AM.

I have been researching, without success, the origin of the pointed/ triangular dastaar. The fifty is the new form of keski, i.e. the inner dastaar of a 'gol' dastaar or dumalla (called fifty since it covers half the head). Fifty was probably invented to give a cleaner look to the triangular turban, i.e., preventing stray hairs from sticking out. I think during the Guru period, it was only the nihang style round turban in use. Also, in World War II videos, you can see Sikh soldiers tying several yards-long dastaars without the fifty - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_tZrD07Sc0&feature=related

4: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington, U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 9:54 AM.

I mainly wear it to add a bit of style to the turban and it does help to keep turban firm. I think it's a smaller version of the keski.

5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 27, 2012, 10:30 AM.

The fifty blocks or covers the small area of hair at the top of the forehead and also anchors the dastaar to the head.

6: Ravinder Singh Khalsa (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 10:37 AM.

I wear the fifty to keep the turban firmly in place but I prefer a turban without it. The point of the turban without a fifty leaves the "third eye" uncovered which I believe is a way to connect with others. By covering it, you tend to protect yourself, but by leaving it uncovered, you open yourself to those you encounter.

7: Gobinder Singh (U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 12:16 PM.

"Fifty' commonly refers to a small strip of cloth tied around the forehead before tying a turban. Seems like it got popular with urban Sikhs around the 1950s-60s as my father and uncles wear it but none of the earlier generations in my family did, as far as I konw. They simply tied the turban without any keski or fifty. It seems to be going away again, as I see most youngsters tying a patka (under turban) underneath the turban or they are back to tying a small keski before donning the full turban. It helps keep the long and unshorn hair neat and tidy under the turban so that the stragglers are not sticking out and also helps in keeping the turban firm on the head. I know I can't even tie a turban without a patka or keski underneath.

8: Amrit Matharu (Edmonton, Alberta, U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 12:47 PM.

I find that the fifty helps keep my turban from riding up my forehead.

9: Ranjeet (Southampton, United Kingdom), January 27, 2012, 4:34 PM.

My father claims that it's a mispronunciation of 'futt/fitt' (to tear), which then became 'fifty' over the years. This would seem plausible as most 'fifty's' are bits of cloth torn from the end of puggrri material. Also, I do some Sikh soldier re-enactment and Victorian era Sikh soldiers wore an 'under-puggrri' or keski, which often showed through. An under-puggrri is most definitely required if you want to get the required bulk that Sikh troops wore.

10: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 27, 2012, 7:22 PM.

The fifty is just to cover visible hair sticking out from the front of the turban triangle. But through the decades, it has become a fashion to have it colorful or multi-colored.

11: Kanwaljit Singh (Canada), January 28, 2012, 6:25 PM.

I think the Patiala style turban was a sized down version of the Nihang Dumalla. And a fifty tries to emulate the triangular portion of the dumalla.

12: Devinder Singh (Canada), March 29, 2014, 5:35 PM.

I heard somewhere that to save time, the British government made the Sikh Regiment agree to half the keski or domalla and that is why it is called 'fifty' (fifty-fifty!). Does anyone know more about this, please?

13: Jagdeep Singh Sahota (San Francisco, California, USA), June 24, 2015, 10:01 PM.

'Fifty' was the name given by the British Army to the smaller under-turban that was given to Sikh soldier as part of the uniform. Sikhs asked for a 5 meter turban and a 2.5 meter smaller turban that would be worn under the turban to ensure sturdy and firm grip in war. Though the size of the Fifty has changed a lot over time, the names comes from British empire days when they issued a turban and a "fifty" to each Sikh soldier.

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Sikhing Answers - II"









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