There’s Nothing Wrong With Gucci’s Use of Turbans! - OP-ED

The turban is of particular spiritual and social importance to us Sikhs, but it has been worn by many others

Editor's Note: This article follows on the heels of a previous SikhNet article: The Pagdi Predicament

Authors' Note: We preface this essay by stating that we prefer the term “dastaar” to that of “puggri,” or “puggh,” but will use the word turban here from now on. “Dastaar” is of Persian origin and connotes learning and distinction.
It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When someone copies you, it usually means that they admire you! We Sikhs have always been taught that actions speak louder than words. It is fine if people say that they like our turbans, but when people express an interest in having one tied on their heads and then wearing it for a while, that demonstrates something more.

It was the Mughals who restricted the wearing of the turban. Prior to our Tenth Guru, the turban was a sign of nobility reserved for certain high-status Muslims and Rajput Hindus. For this reason alone, we are opposed to any restrictions on its use in the modern world. Mughal restrictions on baana [attire] made us oppose most Mughal actions – therefore, they should not be our role models.

Hence, we have trouble with any limitations on the wearing of turbans. We should also not forget that there were other restrictions imposed on the populace during the period of Mughal domination. The Rajputs were the only Hindus allowed to wear embellished turbans, carry swords, and have ornate mustaches and full beards. The names, “Singh” and “Kaur” were restricted as well.

History suggests that the most common turban worn by Sikhs, the Patiala-style, was an adaptation of a pre-existing style worn by other communities. Cultural diffusion, the spread of beliefs and practices from one group to another for a variety of motivations, has been studied by anthropologists for centuries. How can we claim some sort of monopoly on this?

This is the style Gucci adopted for its models on one of its catwalks during the recent Milan Fashion Week, but there are other Sikh turban styles that would be almost indistinguishable from head coverings worn by men and women in the East and the West. We are getting free and rather positive publicity here.

Of course, the turban is of particular spiritual and social importance to us Sikhs, but it has been worn by those of other religions in past times as well as now. Moreover, it has always had secular as well as sacred usage. Religious boundaries are a delusion. We should keep things simple.

Guru Arjan, our Fifth Guru, teaches us:  “Of all religions, the best religion is the worship of God, coupled with righteous actions.” [GGS:266]

We also make valiant efforts to familiarize non-Sikhs with the turban by hosting turban-tying events all over the world. Familiarity, we hope, will reduce fear, prejudice and misunderstandings.

I, Fateh Singh, happen to be a fan of Florida State University sports and when there was some controversy over their choice of name, “The Seminoles,” members of that Florida indigenous tribe stated unequivocally that they were honored that the university chose them for the purpose.

We feel similarly with regard to Gucci or other fashionistas using turban styles in their high fashion shows. We would hope that Muslims would have no problem with their use of the hijab and the niqab in a similar manner!

We have always been saddened by misbehavior on the part of keshdhari and  Amritdhari Sikhs – even in diwan halls in front of our Guru Sahib. The turban, while of utmost importance, is no guarantee of upright behavior consistent with Sikh principles.

We have also known several what we refer to as “Sunday Sikhs” who only wear the turban at diwans. When, for example, you see them during the week, if they are wearing head coverings at all, they are wearing baseball caps. We should be reluctant to judge others - we have enough to keep busy with ourselves.

We have Guru Gobind Singh to thank for gaining a psychological upper hand on the Mughals in power by having his Sikh followers carry shashtar, keep unshorn hair, wear the turban, and take the names Singh and Kaur. Let non-Sikhs make use of the turban in respectful, even though they are non-religious, ways.

In addition to our turbans, we take pride in our unshorn hair and long, flowing beards. Can we, or should we, resent others for having long hair and beards consistent with their religious precepts or simply persons making fashion statements? God gave the gift of hair to all mammals.

Rumi, the great Persian poet, scholar and Sufi mystic wrote:

“O Man, your purpose of coming to this world is for uniting the people, not for dividing human beings.”

It is unfortunate that even though we have experienced much prejudice and discrimination - in the land of the birth of Sikhi, India, and even in the post-9-11 era in the West - there are fellow Sikhs who sadly want to be restrictive and insular. Our Langar tradition is what should be our inspiration here - we welcome everyone! We Sikhs believe in love to all and hatred towards none.

March 6, 2018 - Conversation about this article:

1: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), March 06, 2018, 1:51 PM.

I agree with you completely. I find Gucci's models pleasing and wish today's Sikhs would learn from them how to tie a turban properly and fashionably. I particularly enjoyed the turban on the model depicted on this page because it has the exact colours worn by my father through much of his life. He would have smiled his approval, I guarantee you! The colours are those worn by the Sikhs who gave their all during the Independence struggle, as representing one's commitment to freedom. Moreover, Gucci's adaption of those very colours is a nod of honour to the Sikh freedom fighters who were instrumental in driving out the British from the subcontinent.

2: Balwinder Singh (New Delhi, India), March 06, 2018, 4:04 PM.

I can't imagine even a single intelligent Sikh objecting to the Gucci turban fashion show. I believe the objections have come - as they have surfaced in the past in similar situations - from Indian trolls who make it their mission to raise hell every time there is anything positive in the world press about Sikhs. And, in doing so, they try to magnify their mischief by making it sound as if Sikhs are the ones objecting to the idea. This happened, to take one example, when the Canadian government first issued a Sikh stamp. Again, when JK Rowling published a book with Sikh characters. And, of course, the Hindutva crowd got instantly belligerent when Trudeau appointed four Sikhs to his cabinet. It's the same gang of trolls that went about its mischief when Trudeau turned up here recently, boasting his Sikh-adorned cabinet. The weaker ones in our community either jump on the troll bandwagon, not understanding the issues, or they are amongst the mercenaries like so many of our politicians here who can easily be manipulated to toe the Hindutva party-line in order to garner crumbs from the scoundrels currently in power in this blighted land.

3: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), March 06, 2018, 10:02 PM.

@2 Balwinder Singh ji: Veer ji, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is a combination of the Indians as well as a few in our own community who don't understand the games which are being played with our community. The model depicted on this page looks absolutely amazing. The colour of the turban and the colour of the model's hair matching together is pretty darn cool.

4: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA ), March 07, 2018, 8:33 AM.

I agree with Balwinder Singh ji, these people who are against Gucci's turbans are silent on various issues such as in recent days during Holla Mahalla in Anandpur, the RSS Hindu chief of Punjab issued a statement that Sikhi is not a separate religion, that Sikhs are just police to protect Hindus. Even the SGPC is silent on this outrage. These are the same people who protested the historical movie 'Nanak Shah Fakir' and forced to shut it down.

Note: This article was originally published at Sikhchic.com

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