April 18, 2015


A Dastaar (also known as Pagri or Pagg) is a turban worn by South Asian men whose faith is Sikhism.  Wearing a Sikh turban is mandatory for all Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh, both genders.  And I saw a lot of men, a few ladies wearing a Dastaar during the Vaisakhi parades in Vancouver and Surrey, British Columbia April this year (2015).

Among the Sikhs, the Dastaar is an article of faith that represents honor, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety.   Sikh men and women wear the turban partly to cover their long, uncut hair.

Guru Gobind Singh, the last human Sikh Guru, wrote:
Kangha dono vaqt kar, paag chune kar bandhai.  "Comb your hair twice a day and tie your turban carefully, turn by turn."

During Vaisakhi, there is a stage where any boy or man can step up and have their Dastaars done on them regardless of race or personal faith.  Mandeep  did my Dastaar using an orange cotton fabric 16 feet long and 3 feet wide  - similar to the white strip in the above image that two men are stretching taut.  You can take your pick of colors: orange, blue, or white.  In general there are no rules on color or design or pattern.  One often coordinates their Dastaar with an outfit or vice versa.  See post on Kurta Pazam.

I thought wearing sunglasses would hide the fact that I am not South Asian.  But people noticed and some even asked for a photo op with me.   A lady told me my skin color gave me away.

There are many styles of Dastaar.  See http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/sikhs-punjab-pagris-dastaar-pagri-turban-karan-singh-chhabra/1/201561.html.  Some styles are called dhamalla or damalla – hence the turban can be referred to as such.  On how to tie one, http://www.sikhnet.com/pages/tyingturbans

I wore my Dastaar from early afternoon till late evening: during Vaisakhi, a dinner at Surrey Pentecostal Church, and the hour-long home commute on the train and the bus.  How did it feel?

I thought it was too tight at first – then as I moved about, the turban loosened up a bit and felt less secure.

Walking around, talking with others, and driving, my Dastaar, which covered my ears, did not really affect my hearing.  Warm at first, I knew I would get used to it like wearing a shirt.

I did not notice anyone batting an eye when I took public transit.

Canadian journalist Harpreet Singh wrote that the Dastaar symbolizes a faith that “challenged the divisions in the society on the basis of caste and color” and seeks to “eliminate the concept of high and low.”

Now, when I see a man or woman wearing a Dastaar, I see a person who has the qualities of fairness and integrity.

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