This Is What My Turban Means

05/12/2015 9:02 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Photo by tf A demonstration in favor of the right of Sikh children to wear their turbans in French public schools. Paris, 31 January 2004.

"Don't you feel hot under your turban?" asked a colleague. I smiled, and replied to his curious question, "No king has ever felt hot under his crown. And for Sikhs the turban is our crown."

I am sure many of my Sikh brothers and sisters would have been asked this question and would have given a similar reply.

Over the years I have found a deeper answer to this question: What is the importance of a turban? A Sikh turban symbolises the virtues and values that our Gurus have taught us. Each time a Sikh ties his/her turban (yes, some women do tie them), he/she promises to abide by those values.

So what are these values and how are they connected to the turban?

A Sikh turban has several folds or laad as we call them in Punjabi. Each laad signifies a value -- truth, honest hard work and satisfaction, fearless seva (service to others), faith and equality.


The first laad is a promise to the Almighty that as a Sikh I shall always stand and support the truth. No situation will shake my belief in truth and I am ready to face any consequence to make it prevail.


The second laad is a promise to have faith in the Almighty and to surrender oneself by chanting his name (naam japna).

Honest hard work and satisfaction

The third laad is a promise to work honestly and be satisfied with what one has, and to thank the Almighty for this. This is one of the reasons why you are unlikely to find a Sikh begging and to instead see them working hard to earn a living. .

Fearless seva

The fourth laad is a promise to serve humanity without any fear. If you see someone in need of help, don't think twice and offer your help.

Remember Harman Singh who removed his turban to save a young boy's life? Or how two Singhs (Inderpal and Kamalpreet) saved four people from drowning?

Or do you remember "12'clock jokes" about Sikhs? Do you know that "12 o'clock" is significant because it is relevant to a true story of Sikh bravery, where Sardar Jassa Singh (commander of the Sikh Army) and his soldiers saved the lives of women and children from the oppression of Persian invader Nadir Shah? Midnight, 12 o'clock, is the time when a small army of Singhs led by Sardar Jassa Singh attacked the enemy's sleeping army using guerrilla warfare.


The fifth laad is a promise to never discriminate against anyone based on his or her caste, creed, gender, race, colour, wealth, etc. Every human, plant and animal has been created by the Almighty and is born to perform a certain duty. So a true Gursikh will always respect others by welcoming them with a Sat Shri Aakal.

One of the best examples of equality is langar seva. People of all faiths and religions are welcomed to have Guru ka langar. Whatever your status, you will be made to sit down on the ground along with the sangat to have the meal.

The other example of equality comes from Guru Nanak Devji's verse (Raag Aasaa Mehal 1, Page 473) where he expounds on the importance of women:

From woman, man is born;

within woman, man is conceived;

to woman he is engaged and married.

Woman becomes his friend;

through woman, the future generations come.

When his woman dies, he seeks another woman;

to woman he is bound.

So why call her bad?

From her, kings are born.

From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.

That is the true value of the turban. It is not a piece of cloth tied to one's head. It is a promise to serve humanity and share goodwill.

So the next time you see a Sikh, welcome them by saying Sat Shri Aakal. By doing so you are honouring the values the person stands for. And in return you will get a smile and a friend for life.

And that is my answer to how hot I feel under my turban.

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