The turban or “pagri” often shortened to “pag” or “dastaar” are different words in various dialect for the same article. All these words refer to the garment worn by both men and women to cover their heads. It is a headdress consisting of a long scarf-like single piece of cloth wound round the head or sometimes an inner “hat” or patka. Traditionally in India, the turban was only worn by men of high status in society; men of low status or of lower castes were not allowed or could not afford to wear a turban.
Although the keeping of unshorn hair was mandated by Guru Gobind Singh as one of the Five K’s or five articles of faith, it has long been closely associated with Sikhism since the very beginning of Sikhi in 1469. Sikhism is the only religion in the world in which wearing a turban is mandatory for all adult males. Vast majority of people who wear turbans in the Western countries are Sikhs. The Sikh pagdi (ਪਗੜੀ) is also called dastaar (ਦਸਤਾਰ), which is a more respectful word in Punjabi for the turban.
Sikhs are famous for their many and distinctive turbans. Traditionally, the turban represents respectability, and has long been an item once reserved for nobility only. During the Mughal domination of India, only the Muslims were allowed to wear a turban. All non-muslims were strictly barred from wearing a pagri.
Guru Gobind Singh, in defiance of this infringement by the Mughals asked all of his Sikhs to wear the turban. This was to be worn in recognition of the high moral standards that he had charted for his Khalsa followers. He wanted his Khalsa to be different and to be determined “to stand out from the rest of the world” and to follow the unique path that had been set out by the Sikh Gurus. Thus, a turbaned Sikh has always stood out from the crowd, as the Guru intended; for he wanted his ‘Saint-Soldiers’ to not only be easily recognizable, but easily found as well.
More appropriately known in the Panjab as a dastaar, the Sikh turban is an article of faith which was made mandatory by the founder of the Khalsa. All baptised male Sikhs are required to wear a Dastaar. Though not required to wear a turban many Sikh Kaurs (women) also choose to wear a turban. For the Khalsa, the turban is not to be regarded as merely an item of cultural paraphernalia.
When a Sikh man or woman dons a turban, the turban ceases to be just a band of cloth; for it becomes one and the same with the Sikh’s head. The turban, as well as the four other articles of faith worn by Sikhs, has an immense spiritual and temporal significance. While the symbolism associated with wearing a turban are many — sovereignty, dedication, self-respect, courage and piety, but!, the main reason that Sikhs wear a turban is to show–their love, obedience and respect for the founder of the Khalsa Guru Gobind Singh.
“The turban is our Guru’s gift to us. It is how we crown ourselves as the Singhs and Kaurs who sit on the throne of commitment to our own higher consciousness. For men and women alike, this projective identity conveys royalty, grace, and uniqueness. It is a signal to others that we live in the image of Infinity and are dedicated to serving all. The turban doesn’t represent anything except complete commitment. When you choose to stand out by tying your turban, you stand fearlessly as one single person standing out from six billion people. It is a most outstanding act.” quoted from Sikhnet.
Sikh men commonly wear a peaked turban that serves partly to cover their long hair, which is never cut out of respect for God’s creation. Devout Sikhs also do not cut their beards.