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Dr.Raghbir Singh Bains- Surrey, BC, Canada

From  Gurmeet Singh

Understanding the Fundamentals and Articles of Sikh Faith


Vancouver, April 07, 2010

Dr Raghbir Singh Bains

Sikhism is 5th largest religion of the world. Due to globalisation, around 26 million Sikhs live in more than 161 countries of the world. Their major population lives in Punjab, India. The Sikhs are the harbingers of harmony, love, tolerance, peace, prosperity and universality to this diverse world. Like other migrants, the Sikhs have also carried with them the memories of their cultural, historical and socio-religious values where ever they migrated. They celebrate the intrinsic and ethno-religious values of their faith, heritage, festivals and historical events with fervour everywhere in the world.

 Articles of Sikh Faith

In the month of April, the Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, the day when Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs revealed the ‘Order of Khalsa’ and gave the Sikhs a distinct norm and form - Bani and Bana (Internal and External Virtues). He ordained the Sikhs to wear the five articles of Sikh faith i.e. Keeping of Kes (unshorn hair as an emblem of divine gift), Kangha (wooden comb to clean hair as an emblem of cleanliness and sanctity), Kara (iron/steel bracelet as an emblem of constant reminder not to use the hands for unjust and immoral acts), Kachhehra (special kind of underwear as an emblem of chastity) and Kirpan (sword as an emblem of dignity and protector of truthfulness). He ordained the Sikhs to wear turban to respect blessedness of Hair and stand distinctly as forerunners of human wellbeing. The Sikhs accept these gifts of the Guru in totality without any deals, bartering or betraying.

Significance and Sanctity of Sikh Turban

Turban, called Dastaar is an exalted gift of the Sikh Gurus to their followers. It is an emblem of spirituality, righteousness, human dignity, discipline and distinct identity. It is mandatory for a Sikh to tie a turban. It is inseparably related to 5K’s of Sikhism: Kes or unshorn hairs; Kangha, a wooden comb; Kara, an iron-steel bracelet, Kachhehra, a specific style of underwear and Kirpan, a ceremonial sword.

All the ten Sikh Gurus in human form had been wearing turban. The Sikhs are ordained to wear turban to keep hairs clean and tidy for sanctity of divine endowment. Dastaar is crown of a Sikh and knocking it down is treated as an insult. Wearing of turban is essential for Sikh males; females have an option to wear a turban or a Dupatta (Long Scarf-Chunni). Colours of the turban are mostly a personal choice. Almost the Sikh children start wearing turban when they are around the age of 10 or so.

 Slipping from the Norms and Forms

It is felt at occasions that many of the Sikh children are not exposed enough to the true principles of their faith by their parents or by their religious institutions. Resultantly, the wavering children slip away from the ideals and requirements of the code of their conduct under fear of racial slurs or misunderstanding about their identity in new countries of their adoption.  Most of the parents simply surrender to an easy path and let the Guru-given Sikh identity go down the drain while they watch it happen passively.

It has clearly been identified that keeping of unique identity in western world is little bit an uphill task for the Sikh progeny because parents after migration to new lands become busy in amassing materialistic fortunes and building mega houses and thus paying less attention to future of their children. As a result of the past happenings, the Sikh children underwent influence by peer pressure in western world and they got sandwiched and lost in two cultures.

However with spurt in immigration, there has been an increase in school going Sikh children but alas!  turn out of turban wearing students has still been overcast by misapprehensions of dominant population although many governments have recognised turban and other articles of Sikh faith in different ways. It needs help of the religious institutions and parents to thwart the downward trend by supporting the falling youth.


Celebrations of Turban Competitions

Because of little knowledge about turban and other articles of Sikh faith, there have been misapprehensions, misconceptions and misunderstandings in the global community. However, few of the Sikh organizations have now started holding turban tying competitions throughout the world to promote awareness in the broader sense.

It is a good juncture that such competitions provide opportunities to the Sikh youth to remain adhered to their value system on one side and awareness to larger communities about the fundamental principles of Sikh faith, its golden principles and ‘Sikh Code of Conduct’ on the other side.  However there is always room for more betterment and the Sikhs must move forward to fully understand and learn to respect beliefs of other religions also.

Knowledge and Understanding about Turban is Essential

The Sikh immigrants in Canada, America, England and France are part of a mosaic of multicoloured and multicultural global people. The Sikhs are living in these countries for more than hundred years.  Unfortunately, there are still misapprehensions and misunderstandings about articles of Sikh faith. Perhaps there is problem on both sides, the immigrants and the host population to respect the ‘give and take’ policy. Turban wearing students are still bullied by class-mates. Turbans are knocked at road sides. Turban wearing Sikhs still find it difficult to get jobs.

People are mildly forced to shave off their facial hair. Although companies deny having any corporate discriminatory policies but there are still hidden guiding principles prohibiting employment of people with facial hair and turban. Without understanding the articles of Sikh faith, its beliefs, concepts and uniquely distinct appearance different than majority, there could be likelihood of such undesirable events happening in future also. It is reciprocal duty of the host and immigrant community to understand, respect and tolerate the beliefs of people other than one’s own faith to serve the globe in a healthier way.


Create an Atmosphere of Mutual Respect and Harmony

Hatred, discrimination and suppressions have not been adored by most of the nations inhabited predominantly by broad-minded people. I have travelled dozens of countries. My experience has mostly been positive. To reduce bullying and harassment, it is our own responsibility as well to educate communities around us including our youth.

To foster interfaith relationships with good understanding and harmony, awareness classes and workshops can be arranged by socio-religious institutions.  I feel that it is obligatory to teach wonderful beliefs, customs and teachings of Sikhism to our youth also so that they stay away from the gild of glamorous life influenced by drugs, gangs and flesh trading.

Furthermore, it is duty of parents, community organizations and religious institutions to imprint the fundamentals of Sikh value system into their daily lives  so that youth understand their roots, history, heritage and mission in life to become high spirited Sikhs to better serve this globe.  The governments need to hold awareness programs like sports, festivities, seminars, interactive workshops, excursions and get-togethers to prevent bullying and mutual discrimination based on race, religion, gender and more.

Let’s celebrate beliefs and customs of the Sikh religion and also celebrate values of other faiths!

(Dr Raghbir Singh Bains is renowned encyclopaedist, museologist, drug therapist and community activist)





Dr. Raghbir Singh Bains O.B.C
M.A. LL.B. Ph.D
, Surrey, B.C. Canada.

Dr Raghbir Singh Bains