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Nihang Turbans–oh my!

Turbans in Punjab
Turbans in Punjab

Fascination with Turbans

I don’t know why but I’ve always been fascinated with turbans. While commonplace in much of the world, they were seldom seen in the sheltered small town where I grew up in Western Michigan. That’s changed now, of course, but the mystique of a man wearing a turban has always fascinated me—evoking images of faraway exotic places I might like to visit.

Turbans in Punjab
Turbans in Punjab

Well, I have visited countries where wearing a turban is the norm and I’ve learned that turban is much more than a length of cloth. In some parts of India, the color and design denotes one’s occupation. I chronicled this in a blog post five years ago. Turbans and Saris add splashes of color in India  I was particularly drawn to the wonderful red ones worn by the shepherds.

On a recent trip to Punjab and Gujarat provinces of India, I learned of the importance of a turban to the Sikhs. The men of the Sikh religion never cut their hair, keeping their heads and hair covered with tidy turbans.

Turbans in Punjab
Turbans in Punjab

I was curious about colors and was told that the most common colors are blue, orange, yellow and white, but a dapper Sikh man might just as easily coordinate the color of his turban to his outfit.

He would buy his turban at a turban shop. We visited one in Amristar before entering the Golden Temple. Since head coverings are a sign of respect some of the men in our group bought turbans and had them wrapped. I’m sure they’ll always remember this experience.

If you didn’t want to wear one, small orange scarves were provided for both men and women. Since I was aware of the custom of women covering their heads in India, I traveled with a light weight cotton scarf to wrap around my head.

Jim Cline Three Festivals Tour group
Jim Cline Three Festivals Tour group

A turban means a lot to a Sikh. I read where some consider to be it such as important symbol of their religion that wearing one gives the person “a standard to live up to.”  Impressive.

Nihang Turban
Nihang Turban

I found the turban wrapping process fascinating. As you can see from the following photos the selected fabric, (about five yards) was stretched and  spritzed with water. My assumption is that the fabric stretches even more when wet. Once around the head it would dry and give that nice tight fit. Here are some photos of the process.

Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar
Turban Tying in Amritsar

I was also fascinated with the turbans worn by the Nihangs. Like…..how do they keep the big ones on? How long does it take to wrap? The Nihangs are described in Nihangs–Warrior Monks of the Sikh Religion. 

Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla

The guys doing military demonstrations wore slightly smaller turbans and clearly the big honchos or senior members of the community wore the gigantic  ones.

Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla

The adornments fascinated me so I did some research. Many include the Sikh symbol, lengths of metal, some chains representing rosary beads.

Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla

What intrigued me the most that historically a Nihang   tucked their weapons into their turbans including scary ones  to gouge out the eyes of an enemy. Whew. Small daggers and swords were hidden in turbans as well.

Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla

While we saw them at Hola Mohalla festival in a ceremonial role, it was clear to me that I won’t want to mess with one of these guys. They come prepared to do battle.

Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla/paint from Holi Festival
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla
Two toned Nihang Turban at Hola Mohalla

I took these photos on the Jim Cline Three Festivals Photography Tour in India in March.  Stay tuned for more from this fascinating experience.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

7 Comments
  1. posted by
    Margaret Idema
    Aug 21, 2017 Reply

    Fascinating blog…I love all the colors and the decorations on them but I can’t quite imagine having to wear turbans in the India heat!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Aug 22, 2017 Reply

      Actually we were in Northern India so I don’t know whether they get the extreme heat that exists in the south. Would be interesting to be there during the hot seasons.

  2. posted by
    Michelle Slikkers
    Aug 22, 2017 Reply

    These photographs are ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! World Class!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Aug 22, 2017 Reply

      Thank you so much. You are very kind.

  3. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Aug 22, 2017 Reply

    Fascinating subjects, fantastic images!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Aug 22, 2017 Reply

      Thank you, Marie, I really appreciate your comment.

  4. posted by
    Richard Edelen
    Aug 27, 2017 Reply

    Hello Susan , I thought I had kept up on your stories but had missed this one, seeing him try it brought back a very fond memory. Thank you and keep up the writing and traveling.

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