Border restrictions deprive Sikh community of traditional headwear

Suspension of religious tourism with India has exacerbated the shortage of fabric used to make turbans.


Out of all those who wear a turban, it is the Sikhs who have truly owned it. Commonly known as Dastar or Dumalla, the headwear has become the most discernible symbol of Sikhism.

But due to pandemic-related trade restrictions and suspension of religious tourism Sikhs inĀ PakistanĀ are unable to acquire the world-famous full voile fabric made and imported from Amritsar, India resulting in an acute turban shortage.

Apart from the turban obligation Sikhs follow the Five Kakars. Kesh, to grow their hair in a natural way, carry a kirpan which is a small sword, wear a kara which is a steel bracelet, keep a kangha which is a wooden comb, and wear kaachera which are undergarment pants. Since there are very few Sikhs in Pakistan, there is a lack of production of these articles of Sikhism.

Textile is Pakistan's largest manufacturing industry, so it indeed could produce alternatives to the 'full voile' fabric. Well, it turns out that cotton and velvet turbans are not comfortable enough. Furthermore, not only is full voile easy to tie into layers, it neither has slits and nor does it loosen quickly; hence the default option is importing the fabric from India...

...Talking to the Express, Bishan Singh said, "We are trying to produce essential items for the Sikhs locally so that they do not face such problems in the future."

A variety in turban colors also plays a vital role in acquisition from India as the colors found there are considered attractive. Prof. Kalyan Singh Kalyan highlighting the need for a vast color palette says, "Sikh youth and men wear matching turbans with shirts, but blue, saffron and black turbans are worn on special festivals. Sikhs in Pakistan wear green turbans on national holidays."

Local Sikh leader Sardar Amir Singh, called attention to the fact that new turbans are essential, especially since they are worn at weddings and celebrations. "Since swords and bracelets are made of metal, they last longer, but turbans have to be replaced within six months to a year," he told the Express Tribune.

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