In the Sikh religion, the turban is a mandatory headdress. All Sikhs are commanded by our tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh to tie a turban or wear a turban as a symbol of Sikh identity.
In 1699, he baptized Sikhs and set five physical tenets for all Sikhs.
These were the Kirpaan (a small steel dagger), Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a small comb), Kara (a steel bracelet), and lastly Kachera (specially sewn shorts).
Along with these physical tenets, he also ordered Sikhs to recite scripture for spiritual growth and development. The doctrine of baptism, especially the uncut hair, is interrelated to wearing a turban.
In most religions of the world including devotees in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity (Catholicism) and Islam the headdress was an essential part of dress.
In some religions developing during the Middle Ages, it was customary to cover the head when going to a place of worship as well as in public places, celebrations or meeting a scholarly man or leader.
Sikh Gurus preserved this tradition and made the turban mandatory as headdress and made it a symbol of religious identity.
The turban as a headdress in the Sikh faith shows distinction, leadership (Sardarji), honor, and shows a unique recognition.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Master, made Sikhs wear the turban to be in his own image. He wanted Sikhs to be recognized in a multitude of thousands. These qualities make Sikhs brave, courageous, doughty and fearless.
Sikhs were created in the image of a Saint-Soldier. They served in World War I and World War II in Europe and Africa, so the turban has been recognized as a symbol of religious identity in all parts of the world.
Sikhs paid a heavy price to maintain this identity against oppression during the Mogul Empire in India. Sikhs stand out among thousands and in big crowds. They become victims of hate crimes, verbal abuse, and violent attacks. They are often called "ragheads."
Turbans are expensive, costing $25 to $30. They are five to six yards long. Sikhs most commonly wear blue, yellow, black, and white colored turbans. Even some Sikh women wear turbans.
Because of turbans, Sikhs are harassed and embarrassed by security personnel at airports and suspected by law enforcement agents of hiding weapons or other objects.
Sikhs are law-abiding, peace-loving, God-fearing and friendly people.
Sikhs believe in justice, equality, freedom and democracy for all.
They are friendly and tolerant people.
Young people who meet Sikhs should ask questions before resorting to verbal abuse or physical violence. America is a great country and Sikhs are proud to be American-turbaned Sikhs.
Kirpal Singh Gerwal has been an educator for more than 40 years. He retired in 1995 but now works as a substitute teacher of math, English, history and social studies at high schools in the Merced area. He is also a consultant with the Merced County Office of Education on bilinqual education.