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The Symbolic Turban?
The Roundtable Open Forum # 53

by I.J. SINGH

 

 

The following article by Dr. I.J. Singh lays out this week's topic of discussion on sikhchic.com's weekly "Roundtable Open Forum":

 

THE TURBAN

I don't mean to start a roiling controversy but I am afraid today I will.

A few weeks ago a young man of my acquaintance - Hartaig Singh - donned a turban for the first time.  His friends, family and the community marked and enjoyed the occasion as a rite of passage for a young Sikh preparing for adulthood. To him it was a time full of significance and much meaning.  I wrote about it for sikhchic.com and titled the essay "Dastaar Bandhi."

Now some of Hartaig's friends who joined him that day want to don the turban on a regular basis.

So, where's the problem?

The trouble is that, for Sikhs, a turban (dastaar) covers a head of long hair. But many of these young people, though mostly Sikh by religion, wear their hair in the fashion of the day; they do not have unshorn hair, nor do they have any desire to start wearing their hair like a traditional Sikh - unshorn and uncut.

How should we respond to them? 

Should we stand aside, ignore the meaning of what they want and let them enjoy the bash; in other words, do as they please and even join them in their celebration? Is it just a transient fad, little more than a whim, for them? Who knows how long it would last? 

The first thing that comes to mind is that sometimes the only thing worse than not getting what you want is to get what you want.

The more important question is: By doing what they want to do, would they be demeaning a symbol that might have evolved from Punjabi culture but is now clearly an undivided part of an article of faith - the long, unshorn hair?

I think the greater majority of Sikhs, if polled, would likely not want young Sikhs to toy with this idea any further since to us the turban and long hair are not divisible. The two are, like the old Broadway musical goes, "love and marriage; horse and carriage" - absolutely inseparable. There is, after all, a long and bloody history of the extreme sacrifices made in defense of our right to unshorn hair and the turban. It is not just a cultural symbol any more. It is much more.

I am also aware of the fact of what some very dedicated Sikhs aver - that the kes (unshorn hair) are not an article of faith but the keski (turban) is. In their point of view, the keski implies and necessitates the presence of kes and the two are not to be sundered.

Let's think awhile, but out of this box that we have gotten us into.

We have all seen many young Sikhs wearing a steel karra (bracelet) without any of the remaining visible markers of Sikhi. 

When I look at them, my gut reaction is to tolerate them and not demand that they wear all of the five markers or none at all.  My charitable view stems from the hope or conviction that this one item at least keeps them connected to Sikhism, even if minimally. And that perhaps someday they might even progress to a fuller feeling and response for Sikhi. Hope springs eternal.

I see this is a reiteration of the idea that none of us, whether visibly Sikh or not, is perfect; true, that some imperfections are more obtrusive and galling to the eye than others. In other words, a tenuous connection to our heritage may be better than none.

I wonder, could similar reason prevail here when someone wears a turban sans the unshorn hair. 

I have seen many adult males wear turbans with their street attire even though their hair is clearly snipped at less than shoulder length and their beards are no fuller than a couple of centimeters at best. And we have all seen bridegrooms wearing a turban and the shadow of a beard to go with it for the hour or two of the Anand Karaj (wedding ceremony). I routinely see some Sikhs that go about life without a turban - bare heads and smooth shaven faces - except when they attend a gurdwara function and then they always appear turbaned but still beardless. Are they Sikh?

Our popular opinion says yes, perhaps because they often come from Sikh familial antecedents. 

Some questions come to mind: Should we take joyful note of a person who wants to wear a turban on a regular or even irregular basis as a mark of his public identification as a Sikh even though he opts for short, cut hair?  Should we take special note of such a person just much as we celebrate one who wears his hair according to Sikh teaching and requirement of the faith?

Dastaar Bandhi has rightly evolved into a meaningful rite of maturity for Sikh boys. Would then any young Sikh rate the same joyful public ceremony of Dastaar Bandhi as a more visibly committed Sikh would? 

Should we look at this as a possible first step by the novitiate? Would this rite be interpreted then as something that that is woefully incomplete today but might mature into something bigger in time? 

Or are we diluting, demeaning and diminishing a signal visible marker of Sikhism?

Such reasoning, I see, leaves us flailing fruitlessly in the quicksand of reality combined with deeply held emotions. Let me explain.

A part of me wants to welcome them; another part castigates them for trifling with a traditional symbol for which many have chosen death rather than to tamper with its message and meaning or part with it. History clearly tells me so.

Our celebration of the rite of Dastaar Bandhi is often predominantly pomp and ceremony; the religious part is largely down-played and abbreviated.  I note that often the meaning is missing in any explanations of it that are rendered in language that is totally beyond the understanding of the young lad or his cohorts.  I have never heard of any extended conversation on the matter between a granthi or a similarly placed expert on Sikhi and the novitiate. Such consultation and counseling on rites such as Dastaar Bandhi, as also on the wedding ceremony of Anand Karaj, are critical and are notably missing in our community.

To add additional fodder to our conversation, I point out that one very successful initiative in promoting interfaith understanding here in New York is that once a year a retired Sikh teacher (Rajinderjit Kaur) celebrates one day by lending and adorning turbans on the heads of many school children of all races and religions. True, it is only for a day but many non-Sikhs then get to feel what a turbaned young Sikh lad feels in a crowd that is not Sikh - and what the turban might mean to a Sikh.

Therefore, are Sikh children who find themselves in families who do not follow the full discipline of the faith, be denied this very experience? 

Am I stepping into a minefield by delving into such sensitive matters? Possibly so.

But then, in the interest of fairness, I acknowledge the very fruitful exchanges on these with T. Sher Singh and with Mankanwal Singh Sehmi whose handsome, turbaned son was the subject of my earlier essay "Dastaar Bandhi."  

I deliberately leave out of the discussion today the fact that we still need to evolve some rite of passage for young women.  I also deliberately leave untouched alternative models of such a rite of coming of age that exist, such as charni lagna.

Intentionally, I posit only questions today without any visible answers or recommendations. 

Answers will come, albeit wrenchingly, slowly and with considerable angst.

Let's talk about it.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The current sikhchic.com online poll posted on its Home Page asks a similar question: "Should Sikh children who do not have unshorn hair go through Dastar Bandhi (or a female equivalent) as a rite of passage?"

 

POINTS TO PONDER

Please tell us what your views are on this topic. Your vote on the issue, supported by your reasons behind the same, will add to a healthy discussion on this very difficult but important topic.

 

ijsingh99@gmail.com

 

December 10, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), December 10, 2010, 7:28 AM.

It is a surprise when scholar like Dr. I.J.Singh calls the turban symbolic. The major problem is not with the turban itself. The problem is that most of the people talk and discuss the significance of the turban only inside gurdwaras. Sikhs have not properly explained to the world about their turban. Many feel shy when they go out because they are the 'odd man' out. Sikh leadership and gurdwara managements should invest some money in media, newspapers, TV, movies, etc., geared to the non-Sikh audience. Guru Nanak went out walking across continents for decades to teach others about his universal message. He did not have enough money. But now Sikh leadership does not have to travel that much to achieve that goal of teaching the world about us. For example, when, after 25 years, the first Sikh was taken into the U.S. Army. The news only shows up in the Sikh media. This news did not show up in any TV or mainstream newspaper. Only building a lot of gurdwaras for chaudhry-ship, and doing little else, will not get us very far in protecting our rights over the turban. [EDITOR: We request our readers to focus on the topic, please. Also, Gurjender Singh ji: please note that the title, using the word 'symbolic', has a question mark next to it. Which means: we are seeking YOUR opinion on the issue!]

2: Karam Singh (Ludhiana, Punjab), December 10, 2010, 10:09 AM.

Indeed a difficult issue, but one we must tackle. I agree that diluting the significance of the turban by trivializing it any way, or turning it into something merely symbolic, is not the way to go. However, considering the facts of life, we need in some way to introduce ALL our children to the dastaar and its central significance to our faith. If there's some way we can do it, WITHOUT instilling the idea in the children who come from families who do practice the rehat, that the turban is disposable after the dastaar bandhi, then it could do a lot of good in keeping the community together. Thank you for initiating this forum. We do need to give this some serious thought, keeping uppermost in mind the utmost respect for Sikhi, and the future of the community.

3: Waryam Singh (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), December 10, 2010, 11:10 AM.

I believe ALL Sikh children should celebrate dastaar bandhi around the age of 8 years or so. It should be held with much pomp and celebration, without being ostentatious or over-the-hill. Each child should be required to spend a few short pre-sessions with a family or community elder - one who is well-versed in how to deal with a child on such matters, in the child's language of choice (not necessarily Punjabi). The child should learn the first five pauris of Japji Sahib; to read, write, identify and pronounce the Gurmukhi alphabet; the names of the Ten Gurus; and the Ardaas, in preparation for the ceremony ... I would love to hear from other readers about how to improve on these few quick, half-baked thoughts. But I do feel that it is time to bring new life into the dastaar bandhi ceremony and make it truly universal for ALL our children. Until it becomes common-place and automatic for eight-year-olds, we should have the kids who are already older to undergo it as well. I think it will do wonders for the community and for the future of Sikhi.

4: Loveleen Kaur (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 10, 2010, 11:24 AM.

As a mother of three children - a boy and two girls - I love the suggestions so far. I promise I'm going to try and implement them as soon as I can. A couple of suggestions, though. The age should be a little higher, say TEN or so. Because - and here's my second suggestion - the child should also learn how to tie a dastaar in preparation for the event. Thus, those children who do not have kesh will at least have learnt how to tie one. And finally, I think we need to give some more thought on how to apply the ceremony to girls without making them feel that they are borrowing something from the boys. Wiser minds, I'm sure, will come up with fresh and practical ideas. Any one?

5: Aman (California, U.S.A.), December 10, 2010, 4:36 PM.

The kids just want to do what they see in the movies or the Punjabi music videos. All the Sardars have trimmed beards and dance around with women with obviously shorn hair. The turban has become more of a style in the kids' eyes vs. something religious. The other problem is that we are all trying hard for the turban to be "cool" also so that that young men continue to wear it and don't feel insecure. It's a catch-22 situation. Another point to note is that rarer than a turban-wearing man with unshorn hair is a Sikh girl or woman with unshorn or untrimmed hair. Think about it.

6: Amarpal Kaur (San Diego, California, U.S.A.), December 10, 2010, 5:15 PM.

I think Aman has raised a good point. Maybe it is as easy as getting some film-makers to depict Sikh families doing dastaar bandhi ... but in key, block-buster movies, not the home-grown variety. If done properly, it can start a trend of its own. I believe the Bollywood problem can be turned around to advantage. The trouble is we do not have visionaries at the helm of our community affairs. With the kind of dough at their disposal, they could fix things in a year or two, or at least start the process.

7: Kanwarjeet Singh  (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), December 10, 2010, 10:26 PM.

Here is a real story I would like to share with all of you. It may or may not be relevant here but I think most of you will truly appreciate the meaning of being a Sikh. My father was in the Indian Navy for 15 years and relates one of his unique experiences there. There was a Rear Admiral, a Goan-Catholic who was known to be highly disciplined or one who had strong opinions of honor. One day while inspecting a section of the armed forces at Navy Nagar, Bombay, he stepped out of line and pulled out a turban-wearing soldier from the ranks. The first thing he did was to slap this soldier and this removed his turban. As the turban fell off, a 'pyaaz' - onion, the size of a 'joorrah' (hair-knot) fell out of the turban. The rear admiral let the soldier have the full brunt of his anger. One of his comments was "You b******d, do you have any shame, do you even know what sacrifices were made to uphold that turban? People like you should be shot on sight since you are a traitor. You think it is a joke to wear a turban? If you cannot face up to your faith, how can you face up to your country. We cannot trust people like you." The soldier was immediately dismissed from the Navy. How is that for symbolic, my friends? Should we even be having a debate about "Dastaar Bandhi"? The Dastaar is there for the kesh - the importance is on the unshorn kesh. The Dastaar has no meaning without the kesh. Once a person has no kesh under the dastaar - the dastaar merely becomes a fashion symbol - easily replaceable by a hat, a cap or even a naked head. I suspect that a lot of these kids who want to have a dastaar bandhi ceremony have no idea what has been sacrificed for the dastaar and the kesh. Just as the Guru Granth Sahib is just paper without knowledge, the dastaar is just another head-covering without the kesh. I do not mean to pass judgement on anyone or their activities, but I think it is high time we draw a line and learn to discipline ourselves.

8: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), December 10, 2010, 10:31 PM.

I wish to add: It is funny how we discipline our kids in the matters of food, TV and education but when it comes to Sikhi, we have unusual flexibility. So these days we have a variety of aberrant practices: baseball caps, trimmed beards, clean-shaven faces, "cut-surds", 'tabeez' wearers and 'jai mata di' symbols - the list goes on and on. The dastaar and keshdhari Sikh has become an anomaly. Trivialize the issue of dastaar bandhi and the latter category may dwindle further.

9: Deep Singh Sethi (Dehra Dun, India), December 11, 2010, 4:55 AM.

I believe we should educate our kids about Sikhi, let them hear out what our ancestors did for the Sikh panth. We should guide them, not force them, into dastaar bandhi ... Sikhi is a way of living, not to be imposed upon anyone. The turban is something we have to respect, it needs to be earned ... don't just force it on your kids. One thing I request of every one: there is no right age for dastaar bandhi. Some schools impose it or our social pressure imposes on it. Let us not succumb to social pressure and let the greater ideal prevail.

10: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), December 11, 2010, 8:46 AM.

The turban (dastaar) represents respectability and is a sign of nobility. The turban could distinguish the Mughal samrat and the aristocrat Rajput. The Hindu Rajputs were the only Hindus allowed to wear turbans, carry weapons and have their mustache and beard during the Mughal era. Also at this time, only the Rajputs could have Singh (lion) or Kuvar (Kaur-princess) as their second name. The followers of the Sikh faith did not have the means to display aristocratic attire, nor were they allowed to, even if they had the means. (Doing so was usually equivalent to a death sentence.) It was in this context that Guru Gobind Singh decided to turn the tables on the ruling aristocracy by commanding every Sikh to carry a sword, take up the name Singh or Kaur, and have kesh (hair) and turban displayed boldly, without any fear. This effectively made his followers see themselves at a par with the Mughal rulers. When we are in the presence of the Guru, the Guru gives us the gift of his energy. That energy is sacred and when we retain it, the Guru's energy lives in us and that gives us the living experience of the Guru. Turbans go way back in history as part of a spiritual practice across all cultures. The top of your head is the tenth gate or the crown chakra. It is normally covered by hair to protect the top of the head from sun and exposure, as well as to channel sun and vitamin D energy, all of which helps you in naam simran. Guru Gobind Singh gifted each one of us a turban on the head covering the coiled, uncut hair ... [EDITOR: To all readers: please focus on the issues and questions raised in the article.]

11: Gurteg Singh (New York, U.S.A.), December 11, 2010, 8:36 PM.

Countless Sikhs have sacrificed for this unique identity which is a gift of the Guru to his Sikhs. Symbolic karra and a Sunday gurdwara turban for the sake of convenience is absolutely hypocritical and cowardly.

12: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. ), December 11, 2010, 8:54 PM.

It really does not matter who and at what stage in their life start tying a turban as a part of custom or tradition. What is important is that it should be their first step of making a commitment to the spiritual journey to meet the qualification of being the Khalsa, bearing in mind that not all will complete the journey.

13: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), December 12, 2010, 9:04 AM.

Parents, mainly the mother, can groom her child in Sikhi in all respects. Just three years ago, a mother voluntarily cut the hair of her 7-year-old child, against the will of father and the child himself. The reason she gave was that she had no time to do a joorrah and patka as she had to rush to work in the morning. Gurbani says: "Purify what is impure, and let the Lord's Presence be your religious tradition, let your total awareness be the turban on your head" [GGS:1084]. Thus Guru Arjan, described a true man of God. By the time of Guru Hargobind, turban-wearing Sikhs began to think themselves equals to the turbaned ruling class, the Mughals. Later Aurangzeb, decreed that it was to be worn only by Mughals and Rajputs. Again in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh ) manifested the Khalsa, he included the kesh or unshornhair, and kangha or comb, among the five K`s, mandatory of the faith to be worn by all Sikhs.

14: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), December 12, 2010, 3:55 PM.

There are three stages that we go through as human beings: a) becoming a human; b) becoming a Singh or Kaur; and c) becoming a Sikh. We are all born human (although there are many amongst us who are still worse than animals). Once we start understanding what it is to be human, i.e., human identity with unshorn hair, etc., we graduate into being a Singh or Kaur. When we are ready to be initiated into the Khalsa, i.e., to become a full-fledged Sikh - we have then entered the last stage. Dastaar Bandhi is a first step/ initiation of this stage. You cannot have Dastaar Bandhi at a very early age since at that point of time the human brain is not developed enough to understand the choice/ decision being made, or the consequences of taking that step. Hence an appropriate age for Dastaar Bandhi is when boys and girls understand what it means to be a Sikh (the sacrifices, meaning of Shabad Guru, concept of Miri-Piri, etc.). Remember, Dastaar Bandhi is not a ritual! The final graduation of Sikhi is becoming an Amritdhari - the process of Amrit Dhaaran is the graduation ceremony, if you will. Just as a Doctor needs to go through a few years of medical school to become a doctor, a Sikh needs to go through a few years of being a Sikh and understanding what it all means and then graduate to being an Amritdhari. Now some graduates obtain fake degress but that is not the topic here.

15: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), December 13, 2010, 10:40 AM.

Parents should create a conducive atmosphere at home to groom kids the Sikh way. Starting with language (maa-boli), culture, nitnem, etc. Rest all depends on the grace of Waheguru. The Four Sahibzaadey were saabat soorat Sikhs and sacrificed their lives at the tender ages of 18, 14, 9 and 6. Today perhaps it is impossible to find this kind of temperament in our young generation. In one of his lectures, Maskeen ji said "Today's university graduates come out with 'mansik bimari', being loaded with stress and tension. Also Bhai Vir Singh ji said: "The education system in western countries is such that their graduates are highly materialistic with the result that parents feel disappointed that they leave them alone." Well, here is the message from the Sikh Khalsa Mission, Australia: 'These days some Sikhs are replacing the turban with a small piece of cloth or a baseball cap on their heads. Do they want to lose their Sikh identity out of fashion or ignorance or to imitate other persons/ communities? O Brothers! You are being eclipsed. You are being deviated by the cleverer people and being victimized. You are being deprived of your character. Your manly look is being turned effeminate. Nay, you are being disfigured. You are being made a victim of the vices. You are being duped by flimsy honors. Your turban is being taken off. It has brought you all the honors in the past. It has made you a Sardar, why lose it? Remember, our great heritage is our pride. Why lose it? Recollect the greatness of our Gurus and the sacrifices of the Four Sahibzaadey and thousands of brave Sikhs all of whom we daily remember in our Ardaas. Let us adapt ourselves in the image of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Maintain your relations with your Guru and preserve your position of a Singh or Kaur of the Guru. That is the only secret behind our Name and Fame in the World. Keep your head high with a Turban intact and take care of it. We should always remember Guru Gobind Singh's Divine Word: "So long as the Khalsa maintains its Identity, It shall remain imbued with my vitality". A word of caution: Those Sikhs who have cut off or trimmed their hair and beards and do not tying turbans, fall into the category of apostates until they regain entry by undergoing Amrit initiation ceremony.

16: Plate (U.S.A.), December 16, 2010, 6:36 PM.

Mohan ji said it well. I cannot add more as it is a difficult and emotional subject. A seven year old boy who faces daily harassment and discrimination at school will find it difficult to understand why he has to look different with a turban. Our children need all the support from home. It has never been easy to be a Sikh, so I humbly suggest that the turban is a requirement to be a Sikh, not an option.

17: R. Singh (Canada), December 16, 2010, 7:45 PM.

Every Sikh should be included in our celebrations and ceremonies. If not, we will lose them completely to those who will embrace them as they are. Long lectures are not helpful, they turn kids off; instead, leading by example is more conducive to learning. The problem is that philosophy is not taught, only rituals and traditions are emphasised, which in times of quick change stop making sense. Without any philosophical underpinnings to make them relevant, we can cry ourselves hoarse, but moral outrage will merely reflect a disconnect. We need to find viable solutions - like dastaar bandhi for all. The following Globe and Mail article should be an eye-opener: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/young-canadians-increasingly-shunning-religious-institutions/article1837678/ It reflects our situation. We should stop burying our heads in the sand, and address the concerns of our children. We cannot teach Master's level courses to kindergartners.

18: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), December 16, 2010, 10:36 PM.

R. Singh ji - I think it may be better to reflect on Guru Gobind Singh's teachings. I am sure we can eliminate the 'head in the sand' thought: "Khalsa mero roop hai khas/ Khalse main mein karun nivas/ Jab tak rahe Khalsa nyara/ Tab tak teg deon main saara/ Jab eh karen vipran ki reet/ Main na karun in ki partit." Yes it is difficult being a Sikh but that is the whole point - a Sikh is a student and as a student you follow your teacher without compromise and follow the teachings. Let me try to lay it down even more - the example may not be a perfect fit but it should serve as a good analogy. Is it easy being rich - the answer is NO. However does that mean that if you are hard working, sincere, truthful and create wealth, that you should just hand the same over to anyone who desires to have wealth. I am sure your response is NO - and please do not associate my giving away wealth as charity. You will never give charity to someone who is not willing to ever try standing on their feet - you only give charity as a support - more about this later sometime. So, in the same way as becoming rich, to become a Sikh, one would need to do certain things and follow certain guidelines. If I wanted to create wealth I would go to someone like Buffett or Gates and similiarly to be a Sikh I would go to the Guru (I am not trying to bring Guru ji down to the level of Mr. Gates or Mr. Buffett, rather I'm trying to relate out logic). Since we are talking about kids and teenagers, I am reminded of a true story that happened in the state of North Carolina a few years ago. An extremely wealthy individual's daughter was part of a movement in her college. The purpose of the movement was to shun the capitalists and rich folks and share the wealth with everyone. Since her father was extremely wealthy, her ideals were in direct conflict with his philosophy. One day, when she came home for a vacation, her father inquired about her studies. She stated that she was excelling in all subjects and scoring a GPA of 3.8 (sort of like 90%+ marks). Next he inquired about her roommate and she stated that her roommate was very lazy, always missed classes, partied too much and was scoring about a GPA of 1.4 (barely passing). Having patiently heard his daughter, the rich (and wise) man asked her daughter to share some of the 3.8 GPA with her roommate so that both could be at the 2.6 level! The daughter furiously snapped back at her father asking if he was crazy - why would she give her hard-earned grades to someone who would not put in the same amount of effort? The father smiled and politely reminded her of what she thought of his wealth being shared with ones who were not willing to put in the same amount of effort or hard work. Similarly, why should Sikhi along the same lines be sold out - is Guru Gobind Singh's, the four Sahibzadey's, the Chaali Muktey's, Bhai Mani Singh's ... lives that cheap that Sikhi can be downgraded to accomodate everyone! Remember, Sikhi is not the Walmart of religion - for us, quality matters more than quantity. If quantity mattered, we could have sent millions to the third world converting masses for a few pennies or pounds. Our Gurus have taught us to live with pride and yet be humble. The roop is our pride and our prayer is our humility. Please do not insult the Sikh martyrs - our sorrow is that we never teach our kids the sacrifices it took us to reach where we are. We jump directly to Dastaar Bandhi as a ceremony - that, my friend, is having one's head in the sand.

19: R. Singh (Canada), December 17, 2010, 12:37 PM.

Kanwarjit Singh ji: That is exactly what I meant by "head-in-the sand". Guru Gobind Singh's philosophy will not descend through items of faith via miracles. The dastaar or any other symbol is just one of the many ways to introduce. It is hard work, more example and less posturing. At first we need to introduce the Founder of our faith, the biggest universalist ever, then the philosophy of Guru Granth Sahib to them, then finally come down to the idea of choosing the khalsa way of life, which is an informed way of life. Listening will help. The Globe and Mail article is all about it. Those days are gone when parents dictated. In a increasingly open world full of choices, our attitudes will determine if we make sense to our kids. We cannot expect humility, tolerance and all those lofty ideals we demand without exhibiting them ourselves. How much are we honouring our martyrs by chasing away our youth with our own misplaced zeal, where we label them 'apostates' and drive them away in hordes? Guru Gobind Singh did not do that, why are we?

20: Manpreet Singh (Mumbai, India), December 25, 2010, 5:39 AM.

Dastaar Bandhi is for boys. We talk of equality but what is the equivalent for Sikh girls? Must we not have some inclusive approach. Can we not coin something new and start celebrating it? I am sure we can. The ladies should help in identifying that.

21: Harsimrenjit Singh (Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir), December 25, 2010, 8:15 AM.

Faith does not belong to a community, nor a locality, not even a family. Faith rests in the heart of an individual. I am not a missionary, I am just a student. I just want to convey a simple fact. It is the responsibility of a father to inspire his son to be like him. When I was young, I wanted to grow up and be like my father, I am 22 now, but I still want to be more like him. Why is that? Haven't I witnessed Bollywood, or Holywood, or Punjabi videos? But they didn't inspire me. I saw clean-shaven "sikhs", but i didn't follow them, I pitied them. I wasn't made aware of our history in the gurdwara, but at home. I have never been forced to wear a turban, but I love to wear it. The only thing I am trying to convey is that the inspiration comes from family, or friends. You can't ask somebody to wear a turban, or not to shave, or not to cut hair. Anyone who doesn't wear a turban, or cuts hair, is not going to read this discussion. What we can do though is inspire them. Let our personality be our message, and our spirituality be their inspiration.

22: Manmeet Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 26, 2010, 2:35 AM.

Symbolic Turban ... What a nice starting point the author has chosen for this article. What is a Sikh in your view? I am sure at a point of time the turban has turned into a symbol, just as 'Singh' and 'Kaur' in our names. We talk here about Sikhi and teachings of the Gurus. But have we not forgotten that having Singh or Kaur as a last name and wearing the turban are just not hereditary but need to be earned? How many still remember the name of the first six Singhs? I know you will ask the name of sixth. We are here to talk of the right to wear a turban, but have we first of all earned the right to call ourselves Singhs or Kaurs? I will just say if we are consider it an option, then how can you decide for these beautiful souls and deny them their wish. I think the reason behind this discussion was to decide whether today it is time to be a fundamentalist or be open to options for those who want to come and learn and then it will be their choice to follow these teachings for life or to drift away. So I will request you all to open your eyes to see the world in a light of love rather than hatred. Be kind and generous and please live in Sikhi rather than impose it on others. Else we will end up like other religions with people saying they belong to a religion but will never follow it.

23: Ravi Nam Kaur (Massachusetts, USA), February 25, 2011, 6:40 PM.

Dastaar is also for women and girls. Why not teach our daughters to wear a dastaar? I wear a dastaar everyday and maintain my unshorn hair, as many Sikh-American women do. I feel we are taking something away, the opportunity and the blessing of our Guru's rehat, by not teaching girls to wear a dastaar. I believe no one simply inherits Sikhi, we all have to live by the discipline of the rehat, so our children (boys and girls) must be able to understand this before committing to wearing a dastaar and bana. Why are there double standards that girls wear only a chuni, while men wear dastaar with western clothes. This is fashion. We should teach our children the values and meaning of bana and dastaar and apply equal support and encouragement to both girls and boys and men and women. Nonetheless, I think these must be choices, not enforced, so I think children must be of an age that they can make their own choice before having a dastaar bandhi. I would love to see a ceremony created to celebrate this stage for either a boy or a girl.

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 53"









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