The Sikh Hair Debates – zzzzzzzzz!

Kamalla Rose Kaur

I have observed closely for several years now and I have found that Sikh men love to debate on 2 topics, the Dasam Granth and hair. The Dasam Granth is a non-canonical text written by Guru Gobind Singh, which Guru Gobind Singh absolutely did NOT wish to be made part of the Sikh/Guru/Scripture. Guru Gobind Singh declared that anyone who worships him is going straight to hell. He told Sikhs to worship the scripture only (The Siri Guru Granth Sahib), and to follow the voice of Guruji found there. The Dasam Granth is beloved too, but more oriented to those who are called to become part of the Khalsa Knighthood.But many would argue with me, and they do! Other than that, Sikh men love to talk about their hair. My opinion is that many Sikh men use hair, of all things, to jockey for power. I know that they use Sikh scriptual disputes to jockey for power among themselves.

Sikh women, those who speak out, seem as fed up with these endless debates as I am.

Why debate about hair? It makes sense to Sikhs, I understand all about it, but to outsiders it is strange. It is about who is an insider and who is an outsider; who is good and who is bad, and it is about cultural identity but mostly it is about keeping the Sikh culture in the face of genocide, and it is about almost having Sikh culture wiped out. Sikhs don’t read their own scripture or follow Guruji’s instruction.

I have every sympathy in truth. And I like long hair. I enjoy growing mine out.

Yet after years and years of reading the Sikh hair debates on Sikh internet forums I admit that I no longer care about hair or anything else, just shoot me. I am that bored.

So here is my take on the Sikh women’s side of the Sikh Hair Debates:

Though hair certainly is a big issue for Sikhs (it is, it is) one thing is very clear; people with purple hair in pig-tails are welcome to come to the Gurdwara and langar (food, beautiful vegetarian food). Bald men are welcome and so are little girls with Shirley Temple curls. Crew cuts are acceptable fashion for visiting a Gurdwara and tatoos.

Even Margaret Thatcher is welcome to come sit on the floor with the rest of us, as long as she takes off her shoes and covers her helmet – I mean hair. We understand that Margaret Thatcher not only cuts her hair but she hairsprays her face each day as well. Still she is welcome to come to the Sikh Guru’s house. We will feed her.

Most of the world has cut hair including many people from Punjabi families. Come on over to the Gurdwara and sing God’s praises and eat!

Frankly, I am clear that the only Sikh capable of getting me, or my children, or my friends, or your friends, or any of us, to discover, much less keep, the 5Ks, is the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture and only Teacher) and the Sadh Sangat (Good Company). And how are we suppose to form any kind of relationship with Guruji and how are we suppose to experience Sangat, if we are being shunned, preached to in foreign languages and publically shamed for being bad Sikhs, or not Sikhs at all?

Lighten up Khalsa. Nanak doesn’t need your help in showing the way, rather it is your job to help Nanak welcome everyone over for Gurdwara and langar – yes? Well, what are you waiting for?

Everybody is welcome at the Guru’s House. Even my old Aunt Agatha who grew to be quite deaf and she didn’t have a hearing aid, so she had a tendency to shout out things in church; things she probably thought she was mumbling, like:

“Stop preaching, you old bore. Or just shoot me dead now. I’m ready.”

Truly I think Guru Nanak would have welcomed my Aunt Ag to come on over to the Sikh Gurdwara – recruited her even!

Seriously Singhs, concerning the Sikh hair debates, and the Dasam Granth debates, can we table them (oops! I mention tables….), I mean can we wait a while to talk about our hair some more until after we have all had a big langar feast together?

And maybe, uh maybe, you men might like to watch some football on TV, or hammer some nails, or talk real estate together instead of debating about your hair, and other boring dry stuff, again, and again?


Oh well…..whatever…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.



Filed under Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

25 responses to “The Sikh Hair Debates – zzzzzzzzz!

  1. kamallarosekaur

    I participate in two UK Sikh forums that both do an excellent job at limiting the influence of Sant/Baba groups and Dasam Granth disputes and the zzzzz hair debates:

    Sikh News Discussion

    The Man In Blue Discussion Group – Harjinder Singh’s forum:

  2. Geeta Kaur

    I found your hair debate on the Sikh Hair debate to be “boring dry stuff”. LOL. Oh, and Guru Nanak Ji does not need our help in is we who need His Help in everything. Guru Fateh!

  3. kamallarosekaur

    Welcome Geeta Kaur,

    The Khalsa Knighthood exists to serve Guruji. Does Guruji (the SGGS) need this service? No, I agree with you that Guruji can easily upstage us all.

    Yet, given the very Victorian, Christian-sounding, and awkward/bad poetry in the English translations of the SGGS, I personally feel sorry for Guruji. Don’t you?

    Dualisms abound here, of course. Guruji and Gurmukhs are One. Yet if Guruji in the form of the SGGS is ever going to be listened to, then Sikhs will need to help, not hinder this process. I think this should be every Sikh’s top priority. How about you?

  4. Geeta Kaur

    Man Yog Jeo,

    Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa
    Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

    Thank you for the kind welcome. In my humble opinion, a Sikh’s top priority should be reading Sri Guru Granth Sahib every day, and living according to the Teachings of Guru Ji. I agree that the English translations could use some finesse, but hey, you know what, its still better than no translation at all. Those who cannot read Gurmukhi can get some sense and understanding of the Teachings with the help of these translations. Even though the translations can be improved upon, we must give credit to those who made the effort to undertake this daunting task, and succeeded to the best of their ability.

    And Bhenjeo, “personally feel sorry for Guruji”? You feel sorry for the King Of Kings? Really? I am nothing, my Guru Ji is Everything. Guru Ji does not need anyone to feel sorry for Him. I hope this answers your question.

  5. kamallarosekaur

    Thank you for being here Geeta Kaur,

    Yes, I feel sorry for Guruji because the Sikh scripture has been treated badly, compared with the other great scriptures. Think of all the beautiful English translations of the Tao de Ching and of the Gita and the Buddhist Sutras. You can read several beautiful and inspiring versions and compare.

    I am not the judge of souls – thank the Almighty, not my department – but I would NOT wish to be the soul who got English speaking Sikhs to call the Source of the Universe “Lord”. Lord is a feudal word – means “high caste male”. That is so NOT Nanak’s God.

    And the poets who wrote the Siri Guru Granth Sahib did NOT call themselves King of Kings. That is totally wrong. “Nanak” the name Guruji uses, means humble or lacking egotism. Sometimes, but actually very rarely, Guruji refers to the Creator/Creation as King of Kings.

    Rather Guruji is our “best friend” or “sibling” or “a soulbride” – sometimes Mother-like, Papa-ish…servant, even the Divine One’s slave.

    “King of Kings” is a Christian thing. Jesus is promoted as the King of Kings, and frankly I doubt Nanak wishes to compete with that, would you? Of course, I am a USAer, but even in the UK, how cool are Kings? Kings are stupid, authoritarian and hopefully of no further concern to good citizens of this tiny planet.

    Thus, I feel sorry for the Sikh scripture. Any five Sikh Papas, instead of paying for an extravagant wedding could adopt the family of a couple Gurmukhi scholars, a couple Western poets, and a Sant to do Naam Jaap, and put them together and feed them and instruct them that we need a rough copy of a better translation of the SGGS in 6 months.

    I feel sorry for Guruji that this hasn’t happened.

    At the same time, everything is the way it should be…

    yet of all the world’s scriptures I like the SGGS best and I think it has been misinterpreted, mistranslated, attacked and held back from Sikhs and NonSikhs alike.

  6. kamallarosekaur

    uh…actually…. Jesus didn’t call himself “King of Kings” either. He called himself “The Son of Man” – or dropping the sexist langugae, “The Son of Humanity”.

  7. Geeta Kaur

    Bhenjeo, Sat Sri Akal.

    I’d rather not get into a debate, so hopefuly this is my last comment on this topic. Guru Ji wrote His Bani in the language of the times, to ensure that every ordinary person could understand His Teachings. The translators attempted to do the same, that is, to write in an English form that could be understood, and identified with, in the west. It would be easier for an English speaking person to grasp, and relate to the term “Lord” as God. As a convent-educated Sikh, reading the English translation, I never doubted the translated word “Lord” to be any other than the One God, Wahe Guru Ji.

    And my dear sister, I agree completely that “the poets who wrote the Siri Guru Granth Sahib did NOT call themselves King of Kings”. They referred not to themselves, but to the One God, as King Of Kings:

    Fifth Nanak Ji said: My Friend is the Supreme King, The King of Kings.

    sajan sachaa paatisaahu sir saahaaN dai saahu.
    Ang 1426, Line 7
    Sri Guru Granth Sahib

    Again, the phrase, King of Kings, is loosely translated in English, to express the sentiment to the “masses” in a way that can be easily comprehended.

    To repeat, who am I, or who is anyone, to feel sorry for Guruji? Are we above Guru Ji to feel sorry? We are nothing, Bhenji, we are nothing. Nothing. Our Guru Ji is Everything.

    I agree with you completely that Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the best Scripture in the world. Be part of the solution, my dear sister. Instead of criticising the current translations, why not start a better translation yourself? I would love to read it.

    Guru Fateh!

  8. jagdeep singh

    i want to ask following questions:
    1.why sikh religion not become popular even after 300 years.
    2.why sikh religion is so weak that a haircut destroys it and mercy, truth,service to humanhood etc are secondary things.
    3.religion “Aadmi ko aadmi se jodta hai” why sikh look is entirely different from others.( it is not a common man look)

  9. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Jagdeep Singh,

    Those are powerful questions worthy of many articles written by the smartest people. My answers may not be correct. They are just my opinions based on my own limited knowledge of Sikh history and what I learn reading the Guru Granth Sahib.

    1. The reason why the Sikh religion is not more popular after 300 years is because Sikhs are involved in endless battles among themselves. Sikhs are responding to theological schisms, colonialism and anti-Sikh sentiment in India by pulling inwards. They are not ready for Sikhi to be a global religion yet.

    On the otherhand all sorts of people who call themselves “Sikhs” are battling on the internet to promote “True Sikhi”

    2. In the world I live in everyone cuts their hair and I like to imagine that they would all be welcome at any Gurdwara. For those born into Sikh families, keeping the Khalsa Ks got linked to cultural identity at the expense, sometimes, of True Sikhi and loving kindness. Being a soldier and being a Sant are both difficult.

    3. Guruji doesn’t care what people look like. All humans are welcome to open their hearts and do service to aid those who are suffering, including the animals and the trees, air and waters. These people are doing the Divine One’s work and when they are doing it there is no difference between them and the Beloved. That is what Guruji teaches.

    For those who wish to dedicate their lives specifically to serving Guruji in the way designed by Guru Gobind Singh, there is the opportunity to become Khalsa. Wearing the 5Ks anyone on earth can recognize that you are a student of the Guru Granth and living under Khalsa vows.

    If you aren’t keeping the Khalsa vows, don’t wear the Khalsa Ks.

  10. jagdeep singh


  11. jagdeep singh

    2.WHEN OUR GURUS SACRIFIED FOR HINDU WHY ARE THEY NOT CALLED AS HINDU GURU OR SAINT ? in my opion it was due to formation of different reliogion and their great contribution was remembered by 2% people only. COMMENT.

  12. kamallarosekaur

    Hi again Jagdeep Singh,

    I think you need to have been born in India to be able to promote the Sikh Hair Debates. They don’t make sense out in the real world. Again all people are welcome to attend Gurdwaras (in theory, though they won’t understand much if they do not understand Punjabi) and only those keeping the Khalsa vows should dare represent the Khalsa.

    How old are you? Do you wear a turban? Why?

  13. jagdeep singh

    in your previous comment you had not answered any of my questions but asked me something. I am not debating with you but want to ask my burning questions which trouble me a lot.Further i want to ask to you:
    A Gursikh girl had long ,black,thick hair for which she feels proud. One day a cancer patient bald girl comes to her & says please give me half of your hair so that i could wear a wig because all tease me saying a “Baldy girl” what should she do ? at one side there is religion and the other side is tears of helpless girl. Religion is meant for service of poor & helpless persons.

  14. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Jagdeep Singh,

    Why ask me? Personally I ask the Guru Granth about everything. I have no idea what anyone else should do. Sikhi for me is about my relationship with the Sikh Guruji.

    What does Guruji tell you when you sit down and ask? Do you have a relationship with Guruji? Do you ask your questions and read the Guru Granth everyday? Sikhi starts there.

    There is not one answer in Sikhi or on earth to every question that fits every person. If you wish to be a Sikh, talk to Guruji.

  15. Kanwar Singh Nijjer

    We need to rise abouve our shallow thinking. We are too caught up in external look, useless ritual but totaly forgot the spritual aspect of Sikhism. Guru ji offer us gurbani to Sing and it assist with meditation. Guru Nanak ji was against any sort of rituals which include recitation of scripture, offering arti with lights to god etc. He showed path to find god within. Guru Gobind Singh ji talked about selfdetermination. Which only achieved once god found within. In modern Sikhims we are to busy in external rituals, so call Gursikhs are full of ego, too busy in their outer look. Sikhism in love, seva, truth, willingness to give life to defend poor and our society.

  16. yuvraj singh

    I LOVE this article… it has been EXACTLY what i have been looking for.. the whole hair thing is just so damn stupid.. God does not discrimiate on the basis of caste, race, culture etc etc, then why would he discrimiate on the basis of hair/no hair..

  17. Nirmal

    hmm….though our image is of certain importance to us, i also feel we have let it come in front of our morals. and anyone who apears to be gursikh is believed these days…especially every westerner wh pretends they love sikhi or even a few go as far as claiming to love khalistan only for attentionn (esepcially one who calls herself mai harinder kaur, has a blog on khalistan, claims she was in the broadway lay hair, and more, plus she openly praises the 3ho)…or when they belong to their cult. and people think this is great and respectful. nah, frankly, kamalla is right. and kamalla – you’re the only western sikh i know who is honestly true. u have a legion behind you..we have to remeber our morals and who we are and not let our hearts be blinded by foolishness and exploits then we can speak of the lesser issues such as hair. there r far worse things misleading us down that bad path!

  18. kamallarosekaur

    “u have a legion behind you..we have to remeber our morals and who we are and not let our hearts be blinded by foolishness and exploits then we can speak of the lesser issues such as hair. there r far worse things misleading us down that bad path”

    Nirmal Kaur,

    Truth is, 60 readers arrived at this blog yesterday, and most of them were not Sikhs. Don’t think I have “a legion behind me” – and I don’t want one anyway.

    Rather I pray to have legions of Sikhs in front of me!

    Thanks for the praise, sweeeeeet Sista. You make me feel good.

  19. ME

    four year old asked me to cut his hair. my heart broke….

    • Sikh Delhi Da

      Its very common 9 out of 10 kids ask to cut his hairs. My 5 years old son asked me to cut his hair many times.

  20. kamallarosekaur

    Blessings ME,

    Guruji’s hand is on the head of this child. Guruji loves him particularly. By Grace someday this child will hear the calling to become Khalsa, if that is his destiny. Meanwhile Guru Gobind Singh’s army only needs five good disciples.

    Guruji talks of loving all the same. Guruji loves nonSikh as much as Sikhs. A few are called to become Khalsa. Best to not pretend to be Khalsa when you can’t live up to the vows yet, or when your relationship with Guruji is too new and unformed.

    I fear that forcing youngsters to wear turbans proves counter-productive. Religions that push strict dress codes on their children lose their teens. Personally I’d rather have youngsters told they can’t grow their hair and wear the Khalsa turban unless they are willing to keep the Khalsa vows. Guru Gobind Singh doesn’t want immature or sloppy recruits. Set a high standard and keep it.

    What do you think/feel?

  21. Sat shri akaal, Me! Perhaps this little story will be helpful.

    My son and his kes. This little story is from one of my blogs, about my son Sandeep Singh. I’m not sure how old he was when this happened except it was before he started school. (BTW, the scissors mentioned were plastic, made for kids, not something dangerous):

    “[Sandeep] had his moments, of course, but he was a lot of fun. I cannot remember having to seriously punish him for anything really bad. He’d threaten things when he got mad, but never follow through. He was rarely disrespectful of me and practically worshiped his dad. One time he was angry and threatened to chop off his hair. I think he was about six and he was tired of being ‘different’ from his friends. I handed him a pair of scissors, and said, “Here, if you can face Daddy afterwards.’

    He looked up at me with those big, grey eyes. ‘What will Daddy say?’

    ‘I don’t think he’ll say anything.’ I looked directly into those eyes. ‘I think he’ll just cry.’

    His eyes got huge. He didn’t say anything; he just handed me back the scissors.

    I told Mani [my husband] about the incident and that afternoon father and son had a real heart-to-heart talk about hair and then played catch in the yard.

    The next morning I was informed that hair is a wonderful gift from Waheguru and if the other kids didn’t understand that, then they were just uneducated and narrow. Very funny words coming from such a young boy. But he never again threatened to cut his hair.”

  22. Sikh Delhi Da

    hypocrisy of sikhs
    Our sikh prechers say; this body will not go with us after death, Not there will be pockets is our kafan (the white cloth covers the dead body), It means our long hairs will burn here , our long beard and mustaches (uncut) will burn hair then why we put so much efferts to keep those hairs on our body and Fight with others on the topic.

  23. Baldev Singh

    Dear Kamall Rose Kaur
    thank you for this extraordinary website, and may i contribute by saying THE HOUSE OF GURU NANAK-GOBIND SINGH is the most advanced ideology ever! the legacy is everywhere, even the suffix ‘SINGH’ is the most famous in the history of Humankind and Guru Nanak is the GREATEST HUMAN BEING who existed on beautiful planet EARTH and tells us that this PLANET was created to WORSHIP TRUTH…THE TRUTH about hair or khesh in SIKHISM or the ‘KHALSA’ ( PURE ) is simply that the whole body is ‘kept intact’ ( as mother nature and the CREATOR of Mother Nature intended ) because in 1699 THE HOUSE OF GURU NANAK was going to be iradicated by the MUGAL ( Islamic ) Empire and GURU GOBIND SINGH took a journey from Anandpur Saheb to the banks of the SUTLEJ RIVER and meditated on the CREATOR BEING, asking for help to save the HOUSE OF GURU NANAK…The CREATOR responded and told GURU GOBIND SINGH that it was going to give the VICTORY to GURU GOBIND SINGH as a joyous gesture,but part of the deal was the ‘KHALSA’ the ‘PURE’ and non-mutilation of the Human Body was part of the ‘code of conduct’ of this new FORCE which won it’s victories against the Islamic Armies as the CREATOR itself willed…THE HAIR to an understanding ‘SIKH’ are his or her faith in that event which was TRUE and remains TRUE as the Islamic world does not dare take on people wearing the insignia of the ‘KHALSA’…”Khalsa Kaalpurkh ki Fauj, Pargatio Khalsa Parmautham Ki Mauj” The Khalsa is the army of the Creator, The Khalsa is the joy of the Creator….This is the reason we have so much faith in the HAIR and TRUTH and our extraordinary freedom won by the Khalsa and the respect afforded to us everywhere we go on Earth.

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