Introduction to the Traditional Dress of Sikhs

The Ceremonial Attire of Sikhism

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 dress code 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.

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Bana - Sikh Spiritual Attire

Sikhs Garbed in Traditional 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 bana of traditional colors every day.

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Chola - Sikh Warrior Attire

Chola and Kachhera Worn in Gatka Demonstration
Chola and Kachhera Worn in 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.

3
Hajoori

Hajoori Neckloth
Hajoori Neckloth. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

The hajoori (hazoori) neckcloth maybe a narrow strip of turban cloth or other fine cloth about 2 meters or yards in length. The hajoori may be from 8 to 12 inches wide or the full width of turban cloth. It is usually white, but may occasionally be orange. The hajoori is worn by most ragis or katha performers on stage at gurwara programs. It is also worn by Nihang warriors and and many Singhs or Singhis who sing kirtan. or  The Hajoori is also worn while reading devotional paath, or preparing and serving langar, or prashad and either wrapped or held to loosely cover the mouth.

4
Jutti - Footwear

Jutti Traditional Punjabi Style Slipper
Jutti Traditional Punjabi Style Slipper. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Footwear is removed before entering a gurdwara worship hall. Although western styles are worn, many Sikhs still wear the traditional Punjabi style slipper known as a Jutti. These are made of leather, embellished with embroidery, and may sport a curl up toe. Initially both slippers in a set are identical and must be worn for a while to conform to the left or right foot.

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Kakar - Required Articles of Sikh Faith

A Singh wearing kachhera demostrates gatka.
A Singh wearing kachhera demonstrates gatka. Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]

The kakar are the five articles of faith:

An initiated Sikh is required to keep the kakar on the body at all times, day and night, regardless of circumstances.

6
Khanda - Embellishment of Sikh Emblem

Orange Khanda Displayed on Blue Bana
Orange Khanda Displayed on Blue Bana. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

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.

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Kurti

goSikh Turban Worn With Cream Chunni and Embroidered Kurti
goSikh Turban Worn With Cream Chunni and Embroidered Kurti. Photo © [Courtesy Wave Street Studios / GoSikh.com]

The Kurti is traditional casual wear worn by both men and women. Fabrics include all cotton and synthetic materials. Styles include various lengths from about mid hip to just above knee. Sleeves can be full length, three quarters, half sleeve, or short. Men's kurti tend to be plain white, solid colors, striped, hatched and prints. Women's kurti range from plain white, and solid colors with contrasting embroidery often along with applique, to multi colored patterns and prints.

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Kurta Pajama - Sikh Men's Wear

Bana Spiritual Attire with Light Blue Kurta Pajama and White Chola
Bana Spiritual Attire with Light Blue Kurta Pajama and White 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.

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Salvar Kamees - Sikh Women's Wear

Salvar Kameez and Chunni over Keski
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.

10
Shastar - Weaponry

Kurta Pajama, Chola and Shastar
Kurta Pajama, Chola and Shastar. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

In addition to the required kirpan, various types of Shastar weaponry may adorn traditional Khalsa warrior attire. Siri Sahib is a term of respect applied to a sizable kirpan. A chakar is often used to adorn a turban A gurj is a kind of spiky mace historically used in battle worn at the waist. A singh might also carry a teer in the form of a ceremonial spear or an arrow.

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Turban - Headwear of a Sikh

Various Sikh Turban Styles
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.