Turban Curiosity

As the long blue cloth was wrapped around my head, I began to understand the historical importance of the turban. Until that Monday morning, I’d been chatting informally with Bal Sabharwal, manager of Surrey’s Copytek Graphics and an organizer of the Vaisakhi celebrations here, about donning a turban.

The reason? Little more than curiosity.

So, at a press conference announcing details of this year’s massive parade, I agreed to have Sabharwal and another event attendee, Kwantlen University College student Davinder Singh, wrap a turban on my head.

I worried about offending Sikhs in the room by wearing the turban, but Sabharwal put my mind at ease. “We are offering this to you,” he said. “Just don’t take it off and use it to clean up your spilled drink or anything.”


The royal blue colour of the thin, bed sheet-sized cloth represents “royalty” or “status,” they told me. I was humbled, and wondered why a saffron (”spiritual sovereignty” or white (”wisdom”) was not chosen.

The Sikh name for a turban is dastaar, an article of faith that has been made mandatory by the founders of Sikhism. It is not to be regarded as mere cultural paraphernalia.

It took only a couple of minutes and the turban crowned by head. I looked in the mirror: the headdress looked huge. It felt tight, and covered my ears. “It would be great in the winter, because it’s really warm,” I said to nobody in particular.

“Yeah,” somebody in the room replied, “but don’t forget that in India, the weather is really hot.”

As others in the room at the press conference looked on, I wondered how people are able to wear a turban all day long.

“You get used to it,” Sabharwal noted.

Someone challenged me to wear the turban for the entire day, but instead I removed it after some speeches, a few pictures. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to explain myself for the rest of the day. “What’s with the turban?” is not a question Westerners are expected to answer. Not only that, I expected much laughter from friends and co-workers (and complete strangers, for that matter) who would surely find humour in a pale-skinned man of Germanic descent wearing a turban. I did not want to be the source of jokes.

Afterward, I did some research on the turban. According to www.sikhcoalition.org, there was a time when only kings, royalty and those of high stature wore turbans. Two people would trade their turbans to show love or friendship toward each other.

The turban has been an integral part of the Sikh tradition since the time of Guru Nanak Dev. All Sikh gurus wore turbans and their followers - Sikhs - have been wearing them since the formation of Sikhism.

“It is a true mark of sovereignty and a crown,” according to a passage on the website.

By adorning their turbans, Sikhs serve as “ambassadors” of the Sikh faith and commit externally to following the path laid down by the Sikh gurus. True submission, of course, occurs internally.

“The next time you see a Sikh,” the website says, “greet him or her and know that the turban you see is the same turban and stood up against oppression against those identified as lower castes in India, tyranny in WWI, the Nazi empire in WWII. As Sikhs tie their turbans each day, they should be heedful that it represents a very real commitment to the founders of the Sikh faith. The turban is deeply intertwined with the Sikh identity and is a manifestation of the mission given to all Sikhs - to act as a divine prince or princess by standing firm against tyranny and protecting the downtrodden.”

Lesson learned, with a little firsthand experience.

By: Tom Zillich



The best way to get used to tying a dastaar if you've never worn one before is to practice regularly

If you practice, when you go out it wont:

  • take you 30 mins
  • feel too uncomfortable as you'll be used to it
  • and it'll actually look like a turban!

Check out this link to learn how to tye various styles.

Be proud brothers and sisters, we're so lucky to have these gifts.

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