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Introduction to the Traditional Dress of Sikhs

The Ceremonial Attire of Sikhism

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The traditional attire of Sikhs dates back centuries. Sixth Guru Har Gobind initiated the warrior the tradition of wearing two swords which are depicted in the khanda, or Sikh crest. His grandson, Seventh Guru Har Rai, wore a chola when training at arms and riding horseback. Tenth Guru Gobind Singh, established the tradition of wearing kakar, five required articles of faith, for the initiated Sikh. The Sikh code of conduct specifies the wearing of kachhera and a turban for all Sikh males, giving Sikh females the option of wearing a head scarf to cover hair. The name for such traditional spiritual attire is bana.

Bana - Sikh Spiritual Attire

Sikhs garbed in traditional spiritual attire.
Photo © [Khalsa Panth]
Bana is the word for the traditional spiritual attire of a Sikh. Many Sikhs wear ceremonial bana when attending worship programs and ritual ceremonies at the gurdwara, or during holidays and festivals. Very devout Sikhs may wear traditional bana daily.

Chola - Sikh Warrior Attire

Chola worn during a Gatka demonstration.
Photo © [Dharam Kaur Khalsa]
A chola is the name of a particular style of bana worn traditionally by Sikh warriors. It is a kind of dress or robe which has a wide flared skirt made with a panels to allow for freedom of movement. A famous story tells how Guru Har Rai, snagged his chola on a rose bush, and the lesson of self mastery it entailed.

Kakar - Required Articles of Sikh Faith

A Singh wearing kachhera demostrates gatka.
Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
The kakar are the five articles of faith:
  • Kachhera - Loose undergarment.
  • Kanga - Wooden comb.
  • Kara - Iron Bangle.
  • Kes - Unshorn hair.
  • Kirpan - Ceremonial short sword.
An initiated Sikh is required to keep the kakar on the body at all times, day and night, regardless of circumstances.

Khanda - Embellishment of Sikh Emblem

An orange khanda displayed on a blue chola.
Photo © [S Khalsa]
The khanda is an emblem representing the Khalsa crest, or Sikh coat of arms. It consists of a double edge sword in the center a circlet and two swords. A khanda embellishment may be appliqued or embroidered on ceremonial Sikh clothing, or worn as a turban pin.

Kurta Pajama - Sikh Men's Wear

Kurta Pajama and Chola
Photo © [S Khalsa]
Kurta Pajama is Sikh men's wear. A Kurta is a kind of long tailored shirt with side slits up to the pocket. A kurta may have a finished or straight edge cuffs and a rounded or straight hem. The pajama is a loose pant often made of fabric to match the kurta. The very devout wear simple styles in solid colors to express humility.

Salvar Kamees - Sikh Women's Wear

Salvar Kameez and Chunni over Keski
Photo © [S Khalsa]
Salvar Kamees is Sikh women's wear. Salvar are a baggy loose fitting pant with an ankle cuff called a ponche. The salvar is worn beneath the kamees, a dress top which is available in as many styles as there is imagination, and color, often decorated with embroidery. The color of the salvar and kamees may match or contrast, and is worn with a color coordinated matching, or contrasting, chunni or dupatta. The very devout tend to wear simple prints, or solid colors with little embroidery, as an expression of humility.

Turban - Headwear of a Sikh

Various Sikh Turban Styles
Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Sikh turban is worn in a variety of styles. Required wear for a Sikh man, a turban is optional for a Sikh woman who may choose instead to wear a scarf, alone, or over a turban.

Turban styles:

  • Domalla - Double length turban of 10 or more yards (meters).
  • Pagri - Double width turban of five to six yards (meters).
  • Dastar - A single turban of four to six yards (meters).
  • Keski - A short turban of two or three yards (meters).
  • Patka - A square of half to one yard (meter), tied over the joora (top knot) and head.
  • Fifty - A half yard worn beneath turban.

Scarf Styles:

  • Chunni - A sheer lightweight veil of up to two and half yards (meters).
  • Dupatta - A double wide fabric veil of up to two and half yards (meters).
  • Ramal - Square or triangular head cover.

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