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THE IDEAL SIKH DRESS



THE IDEAL SIKH DRESS

by B.S.Goraya
  • ·       White is not essentially a Sikh dress colour
  • ·       What did the Gurus themselves wore ?
  • ·       Rahitmaryada-the Sikh Code of Conduct
  • ·       Is compulsion of Five Ks not ritualism?
  • ·        Can Pent-Shirt can be ideal Sikh dress?

  • ·       ls Granthi's Kameez Pyzama O.K?
  • ·       Turban or the Sikh headgear
  • ·       To hell with a Sikh with a cap on his head
  • ·       Politics of Helmet
  • ·       Helmet for Women

Notwithstanding that the Sikhism is the youngest religion of the world. Yet it is shrouded by several controversies. The reason being that the last in order or the Tenth Guru  when accomplished the formation process in 1699 AD, shortly there after Sikhism was banned by the State as it feared rebellion from the Sikhs. The extent of Sikh persecution was such that the years roughly from I 715 AD to I 760 AD there was prize fixed on the Sikh head. Obviously the Sikhs went underground. As a result of continuous ban on the ideal practices (which existed during the Guru-period) could not be maintained. And people (Udasi sadhus) who were merely sympathisers of Sikhism became its priests when they saw the Sikh temples which were lying vacant, thus occupied and commenced missionary activities with the little knowledge of the faith . As a result of which several Sikh practices do not match with the concepts of Gurbani .There are people who disputes some of the basic tenets like the present Guru of the Sikhs, the ideal food, ideal dress validity of Akhand Path and the concept of the state, surprisingly these controversies exist in spite of presence of Gurbani which has repeatedly clarified all these issues. In the last issues we have carried articles clarifying some of the concepts.
On the close of third century of Khalsa Panth there are about three centuries of Sikh 'deras' or 'seats' existing. Interestingly each of the dera or seat has its own code of conduct . Many of the so called 'saints' are illiterate and some of the other is have not read the whole of Guru Granth, even once. While there is no love last between the seats, some of them have recently joined hands to form a union like that of workers, clerks. They have one factor common among them all i.e. Saints wear and prescribe white clothes while many of them have done away with the essential five Ks. You ask them why do they prescribe white dress. Their explanation is as absurd as their dress- "white brings peace."
Let us now examine whether really the Gurus had prescribed any special dress for the Sikhs. Can the faith prescribe any dress ? Aim of all the founders of the religions has been salvation of man through his union with the God almighty. Nanak,s God was "Niranjan 'the formless which became 'sargun' are thus through his creations, All forms in the universe nothing but 'Akalpurkha' himself. All the 'Jiva, the living beings are He Himself but they are possessed by the 'haumein' a singly term for 'kama krodha, lobh, moha and ahankar' - i,e. sex. anger, greed, attachment and ego. The element of 'haumein' is essential as the God pursues this drama through this tool. Nanak tells the Sikhs to minimize their  'haumein' so that Akalpurkha is realised right inside the person himself. Cultivation of love with the creator becomes obvious. Guru's path is simple and he condemns all sorts of shows or rituals in the path of spiritualism. Thus renouncement of world, keeping 'mala', the rosary, wearing 'bhagwa', the saffron clothes, nudity,  penances, 'mundan'  the shaving of hair, idolatry, worship of graves, mechanical recitation of Gurbani etc. are forbidden. Gurus condemns wearing of 'bhagva' cloths by some religious people in severest of terms. It is thus quite obvious that the Guru, neither has  prescribed any particular colour for the garment  nor a specific garment for the Sikhs.
What did the Gurus themselves wore ?
 A religious person truly pursuing the path of God becomes somewhat careless about his dress. We wear good cloths to impress others. Whereas a religious person has to please the God not His men and creations. According to this convention the Sikh Gurus might have worn the simplest of clothes. But it is not true either. Because historical scriptures tell us that they did not necessarily always wore poor clothes. 'This is some what strange but we must remember that the Gurus were propounding a religion which prohibited renunciation. They said the world is a drama enacted by God Himsell' through the tool of' 'haumen'. A Sikh is thus to live his life and synchronise with the drama . ln this cosmic drama a Sikh is to perform the role of a hero rather than a villain . He is thus not supposed to be a saint alone. He has to be a sant sipahi' the saint soldier, the active man. Thus a teacher who advises participation in the process would not dress up himself Iike the hermits or those who renounce domestic life.
Also the Gurus were missionary of the faith and the physical appearance ol' any missionary cannot be distracting or dispelling. There are however historical evidences that at times Gurus did unusual acts just to attract attention of thc people. Bhai Gurdas a contemporary of Third Nanak writes that Guru Nanak wore e garland of bones once at Kurukshetra  on the occasion of solar eclipse, Guru also  did an unusual act and ignited hearth  the 'chulha'. Brahmins code prohibits cooking of any food during the solar eclipse period rushed to Nanak when they found dense smoke . Guru thus created a large audience to hear him  and thus passed on his message.
While at Haridwar, when the Brahmins were throwing water eastwards to Sun(a ritual). Guru started throwing water westwards to his farms at Kartarpur and ultimarety, convinced Brahmins of the futility of the ritual .
Historical references are available that the Gurus wore royal clothes . The Gurus from VI Nanak even wore crown the 'Kalgi, of the emperors. In those days. the Muslim kings and royalty wore gowns and impressive turbans . The Hindus generally did not cut hair (See Al Biruni Kital ul Hind) Guru Nanak's 'chola' the gown is preserved at Dera Baba Nanak, garments of Tenth Nanak are preserved at places in Malwa. While the colour of the old clothes preserved has since faded away but the are not surely white . Legends how, ever tell us that these preserved garments were of any colour from green to golden blue to red . India Office Library, London has a manuscript 'Janamsakhi' which contains about 57 colour paintings of Guru Nanak . The manuscript was written in 1733 AD i .e after 25 years of the death of Guru Gobind Singh when the memories of the Gurus were still a fresh . The paintings though do not tally with the description constructed from the Gurbani of the Guru himself 'all the paintings the Guru is invariably shown as bearing 'tilak', the forehead mark wearing a'Janeo' and a rosary in hand . However. we can have some rough hint from the paintings as the views of people on what the Gurus wore . In about 46 paintings related to the Guru the is shown in yellow 'chola' while the colour of printed pyzama varies. Guru Nanak is shown invariably wearing a red cap ' (This is historically incorrect-as there are clear evidences available that the Guru did not cut his hair-See Puniab Monitor- April 98 issue) . In the Mughal paintings also the emperors are depicted wearing yellow or golden coloured gowns with pyzamas tight at bottom . ln the London 'Janamsakhi' only at two places Guru is shown as wearing white coloured gown at one or two places he is in light blue or deep black clothes.'
The Sikh historical books also witness to it that the Gurus were not particularly fond of any particular colour . Opposed to hermitage (sanyas) obviously the Gurus who were against 'bhagva the saffron wearing and  cannot themselves prefer any particular colour . (See Guru Granth pages 16, 71 140, 2I3, 225, 230, 358, 372, 411, 467, 648, 751, 832, 842, 856, 1052, 1176, 119l & 1245 )
Rahitmaryada-the Sikh Code of Conduct
After the demise of Tenth Guru-- in the crises years i.e l7l5 to 1760 AD when the Sikhs felt that the meaning of faith were being changed the scholars amongst them took to writing of Sikh code of conduct. Piara Singh Padham, a noted Sikh historian has enlisted some 37 versions of the Codes of conduct. Interestingly, every author attributes these codes to Guru Gobind Singh . Only a few of these codes suggest on the Sikh dress other than the essential five Ks.
However, the one written by one of the panj pyaras Bhai Daya Singh (Sobti) has a regulation on the dress as well. But this again is meant for the Akalis (Nihangs) where he writes that their dress has to be either blue or yellow . The codes are particularly clear that Sikh should not go naked . It may also be noted that the women folks in those days wore either 'choli- lehnga' or 'Sari-blouse'. It needs to be noted that the 'salwar-kameej' is basically a Muslim dress which might have originated in the Afghanistan/ Peshawar area.
 Interestingly one of the 'Rahitnama' or code which was scribed in the middle of eighteenth century has a prescription for the new entrant's dress as well and he recommends white kurta-pyzama ' This particular code namely 'Permsumarg' is being followed by the Namdhari sect i.e the Kukas.' The Kukas however disown this code when the writer of 'Parmsumarg' gives his advice on meat eating .
 As there were conflicting views of the different codes, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has since drawn a Code of Conduct which is considered acceptable to most of the sects of Sikhism ' This code which was passed by the SGPC on Oct. 12, 1936 has obviously not prescribed any dress or colour for the Sikh dress . Though it has commanded that Five Ks are essential for a Sikh.
Is compulsion of Five Ks not ritualism?
Wearing of Five Ks namelY Kes (hair) , Kanga (comb), Kirpan (sword), Karha- (a steel bangle), and Kachhehra- (underwear) for any amritdhari Sikh is essential . lf we examine them in the light of gurbani some of the symbols appear ritualistic. 'Kes', the hair grow on body within the will of God and a Sikh is supposed to bow before His will. Comb is necessary for the upkeep of hair while 'kachhehra', the under-pents were essential in those days (about 300 years ago) when the people would be careless about what they wore and often their genitals were exposed, which the Guru thought provoked sex and thus the Sikhs were strictly commanded to wear kachhehra with tight bottoms.
Later Mughals had issued 'firmans' the promulgation directing public that they should shear their hair and the Hindus especially the shudra were forbidden to carry arms and ride horses' The Guru commanded his Sikhs (even the erstwhile shudra) to keep horses and carry arms . A small sword with a blade of about 9 inches was made compulsory for the Sikhs which they were required to wear day and night. Karha, the steel bangle was a symbolic 'gana' which was otherwise of cotton thread. While gold, silver and copper were believed to be the metals of the high castes and Brahinism had assigned iron as the metal of shudra the Guru while bestowing humility to his Sikhs made the iron kara or bangle necessary for every Sikh. Also it was a promise to Guru that the hand will not do any immoral and unjust deed . Some one may consider today a karha as superfluous  or a ritualistic but it is strange that in India even many non-sikhs are wearing it. No Sikh can defy the commandments of the Guru who wished that the Sikhs wear all the Five Ks. which also meant identity for the Sikhs and the Guru wished that his Sikhs should be identifiable from distance .  Guru passed on the Guruship on the collective body of the Khalsa whose future generations can increase or decrease the use of any particular thing-but only the collective body of it accordance with the basic tenets of Nanak's faith. which means that the Sikh will be perpetually in conflict with the evil . The five Ks are in the first place not useless and second they are a mark of identity of a Sikh and the part of  an organisation. Guru's command on the Five Ks thus did not mean ritualism. The five Ks are both meaningful and action 'oriented. Keeping in view those turbulent times who can say that sword was a useless thing , It is even relevant today, especially when you are travelling . Moreover how can we us humble beings, interpret the great Guru who sacrificed his every thing for the Panth. These symbols which some people today consider ritualistic have in fac't served the Panth or else it would have absorbed in the Hinduism long back . Kabir Sahib also gave birth to a very vibrant faith which has today disappeared from the land (UP) of its founder even .
Thus if Tenth Nanak had not sanctioned these identity, symbols, Nanak's ideology would have remained confined to the library books only' . It is for this reason that the opponents of Sikhism first attack the Five ks notwithstanding the fact that the growing of Iong hair is compulsory according to Vedas and Puranas . It is for the identity, of these -symbols that this small group ' of Sikhs is today known to every kid in the world .
Does wearing of Pent-Shirt, coat and tie violate the Sikh code ?
In the Sikh code commands wearing of 'the Five Ks which are essential rest of the garment depend upon the choice of the Sikhs in accordance with their respective weather and circumstances . But a Sikh is prohibited from wearing of such cloths which provoked 'haunmen' i .e sex, anger, greed and pride . Since the Guru said that the world is a drama in which a Sikh should participate and take the role of 'a hero, he should not be poorly or badly, dressed neither should he be appear  in such a manner which provoke haumen.
The Gurus wore royal dress of those days.
Today pent shirt or coat is the royal or the best dress of the day and it also covers the body and is thus may be acceptable as an ideal dress . Similarly, 'salwar kameej' is an ideal dress for the Sikh women and is rather better than 'lehnga-choli' . The Sikh women have therefore, rightly switched over to 'salwar kameez' in the past 300 years. Because it doesn’t fully cover the body the 'sari' cannot be the ideal dress for the Sikh lady as it leaves a major part of the body naked and rightly the Sikh ladies have rejected it. Accordingly, a question arises whether wearing of pents, and T-shirts by girls is in accordance with the Sikh code ? People who have ,specialised in fashion, explain that if a woman dresses up herself like a man she will provoke sex and if a boy wears the garments of a girls he would attract attention of the opposite sex . It is for this simple reason that fashionable boys and girls wear costume of the opposite sex . Pent- shirt we know is the garment of males and if worn by the female would provoke sex and would thus automatically fall within the category of the prohibited dresses. But supposing if in ladies every body starts wearing pent-shirt then the dress does fall in the prohibited zone. Remember the underlying principle is that your dress should not be egoistic telling that you are rare and special. An ideal Sikh in humility would not like to be noticed.
 ls Granthi's Kameez Pyzama O.K ?
 Most of the 'bhais' and 'granthis' wear Kameez Pyzama. Many people have thus developed a wrong notions that this is the approved dress for a Sikh. In fact the granthis feel comfortable in this dress as they have to sit on the floor for hours together which is not possible with the tight pents . However, if some granthi wears pent shirt it would quite simply be acceptable provided he has all the five Ks intact .
Turban or the Sikh headgear :-
The Sikh code prescribes that Sikhs must wear a turban on the head. Turban is the basic Sikh dress. No Sikh without turban. Minimum length of the turban is also prescribed . Turban has to be at least 5 yards long. keski  or a patka which is to be worn while at home during privacy has to be at least two and half yards long . Delhi Gurudwaras are themselves violating the code as the siropas they bestow on the Sikhs is less than 2 yards and many Delhites are using them as headgear in violation of the code and they  look quite awkward with their ear naked and hair partially covered . Many city boys including aged Sikhs wear handkerchiefs or a rumal on the head and even go out in public in such infant head gear in which again ears remain naked. This conduct is not approvable.
Hell to a Sikh with a cap on his head
One of the Rehatnama (of Bhai Prahlad Singh) says ‘Hoe Sikh sir topi dharey;  Sat janam kushti hoe mare. No other costume is as seriously prohibited as the cap . We find very severe condemnation terms for the Sikhs who support a cap on the head . All the earlier codes do it with one voice . ' Opponents of Sikhism have been providing leverage to such Sikhs who supported a cap . Some Jalandhar and Chandigarh newspapers and Jalandhar TV tried their utmost to popularise cap among the Sikhs . Sometimes back a letter to the editor was also published in these columns wherein it was alleged that a Govt. agency had distributed caps in the villages during Beant Singh's regime. Some of the ladies also wear turbans in a special way . For examples the Sikh ladies of Akhand Kirtani Jatha . Their style of turban called 'keski' is quite distinct from the 'turban . For the Sikhs it would perhaps better if this style is popularized.
Politics of Helmet
BABA BALBIR SINGH SEECHEWAL; HE IS A FAMOUS
UDASI SADHU IN SIKHS. REMEMBER BHAGWA THE
SAFFRON COLOUR OF RENOUNCIATION (SANYAS)
IS CONDEMNED IN SIKHISM. (This photo was not
published in the orginal magazine)
For the riders of the two-wheelers helmet had been made compulsory almost in the whole of world. It was made compulsory first in the European and American countries . The Sikhs who used two-wheelers felt aggrieved and they took up  the issue in the courts of law claiming they wore turban which also meant safety and secondly it was their religious symbol , Courts in Canada England and USA ruled in favour of the Sikhs and they were granted exemption.The Sikhs were obviously exempted from wearing helmets in their homeland . State after state was making helmets compulsory with simultaneous exemption for the Sikhs . In Punjab also, the Congress Government of Beant Singh and Harcharan Singh Brar attempted to make the helmet compulsory but withdrawn the move from opposition surprisingly not from the Sikhs but from Hindus. Strange phenomenon, is it not? Helmet compulsion was withdrawn when the Sikh boys started wearing turbans. Come the Akali Government of Badal and they also made helmet compulsory in Punjab. Hue and cry began to be raised interestingly not by the Sikhs but by the Hindus of Punjab. The reason was not so simple . It were not the Hindu riders who were affected . When the helmets were made compulsory  some Sikh boys who had shorn their hair, started wearing turbans . They made appeals to Badal through their supporters but it was of no avail . Jalandhar and Chandigarh based papers raised a hue and cry against the new regulation on helmet . Cautious Sikhs are aware that the Congress Govts. have all along pursued the policy of absorption of the Sikhs in the Hinduism . The Congress felt that their move was being shelved . Ultimately the Congress supporters moved the Supreme Court and obtained stay' on the implementation of Helmet . Like in the case of the River Waters of Punjab the Court came to their rescue when all other means were , exhausted.
Helmet for Women
The Delhi Government was the first to impose compulsory wearing of helmet by the pillion riders of the two-wheelers . The Sikh ladies felt aggrieved . After Some , days the Delhi BJP declared that the Sikh ladies are being exempted from the new regulation . The consequences were alarming for the Hindus again . Cleanshaven Sikhs started wearing turbans to get exemption for their ladies too . It was not again in the 'national' interest of the 'secular nation'. It was then announced that no exemption has been given to the Sikh ladies . Then came the elections in Delhi, BJP's vote seekers from the Sikh population were shown doors. BJP announced that once it came to power would exempt the Sikh ladies from helmet. But one can't befool others all the time . The Sikhs also rejected BJP. One Akali leader of Delhi Mr. Mela Singh . member DSGMC said the BJP can afford their electoral defeat but it cannot tolerate fence sitting Sikhs returning back to their faith as the exemption the cleanshaven Sikhs had started wearing turbans. Thus, there are two aspect of helmet regulation. For Punjab it different and for areas other than Punjab it different . The Sikhs can get exemption foreign countries but not in their homeland where the issue comes in conflict with the rulers ‘absorption’ policy…Z

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3 comments:

Jagi Singh said...

You are writing great thinks day by day keep it up. It will surely put a great effect on someone somewhere.

Anonymous said...

sikhs by the command of god and the gurus and told to wear clothes that allow them to serve the oppressed and be armed with the best weapons while promoting peace of mind and empowering people to be free. never to intimidate people and never to be intimidated

a sikhs has a purpose on earth and to fulfill that purpose must have the proper equipment
their cause must also be known to the people of earth


Bhabishan Singh Goraya said...

Best ever comments. Thanks Anonymous.

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