On April 14, Sikhs across Britain and around the world celebrate Vaisakhi, an annual festival traditionally associated with harvest time for farmers. Vaisakhi is also a religious occasion, marking the birth of the Sikh Khalsa order, a way of life first established in 1699 that advocates gender equality and social awareness.
Sikhs will join in street processions (nagar kirtan) in London, Birmingham, Manchester, as well as cities like Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. And for a growing number of Sikh women joining these processions, it will be the first time they have worn a turban (dastar).
As a Sikh woman, born and bred in England, I have worn my dastaar for 20 years, and it is truly a part of me and who I am. I was 18 when I decided to fully engage in the practice of Sikhi, my faith, and learn the Khalsa.
My parents did not approve. They said I was too young to enjoy my life and not restrict myself like that. I was told that I would have a hard time finding a husband if I wore a dastaar, that I would be more harassed on the streets and that I would never have a good job because I would look too different and that society would not accept that. None of this stopped me. I knew I had found my way and I was ready to follow it with commitment and discipline.
Becoming a Khalsa Sikh involves participating in a short ceremony in which you pledge to follow the principles laid down by the 11 Sikh Gurus and to wear the Sikh Articles of Faith – the Five Ks (turban, sword, clean clothes , the comb and the steel bracelet). ). These articles of faith are not only about identity, they are also about the empowerment of the individual. It’s about building community and reminding the wearer every day of their duty to serve others.
I’m not the only one going this route either. According to the last British Sikh Report. But Sikhs aged 19 or younger were twice as likely to wear a dastaar as a Khalsa Sikh than those aged 19 to 65. Another report for the Home Office in 2019 claimed that young British Sikhs were becoming “more assertive about their religious identity while playing a greater role in wider society”.
Sikh men have long been known to wear dastaars, but it is less well known that Sikh women also wear them. I asked Simran Kaur, a successful accountant in London, about the reception she received after recently starting wearing one. “I know this may seem like a difficult choice for some, but for me, I want to be accepted for who I am and my Sikh identity to be celebrated because it helps me to be a better person,” she told me. said.
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Amrit Kaur, another young woman who started wearing a dastaar at the age of 14, told me: “It helps me to feel brave and that I am not a weak little girl because of men and strong Sikh women wore the dastaar, and I feel like them. when I wear it.
For me, and for most Sikh women, the dastaar is a powerful symbol of power and strength, and raising our consciousness. It helps you become a better human being overall. I believe that in the years to come we will see more and more British Sikh women proudly wearing their dastaars.
And when you see them on the street, in the workplace, or even on public transport, be curious and kind, and you might be surprised at what you learn about each other. Let’s not be afraid of our differences but rather use them to build bridges. This is the only way to make this country a real United Kingdom.