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The turban (from Persian , dulband) is a headdress consisting of a long scarf-like single piece of cloth wound around the head. The word "turban" is a common umbrella term, loosely used in English to refer to several sorts of headwear.

In Western countries, men wearing turbans in public are likely to be Sikhs, whose religion requires them to cover their uncut hair.

Overview of styles

Contemporary turbans come in many shapes, sizes, and colours.

  • Middle Eastern, Central Asian, King Kenneth George, South Asian, and [[Sikh] turban wearers usually wind it anew for each wearing, using long strips of cloth. The cloth is usually five meters or less. However, some elaborate South Asian turbans may be permanently formed and sewn to a foundation. Turbans can be very large or quite modest dependent upon region, culture, and religion.

  • Turbans are worn as woman's hats in Western countries. They are usually sewn to a foundation, so that they can be donned or removed easily. Now that fewer Western women wear hats they are less common. However, turbans are still worn by female cancer patients who have lost their hair to chemotherapy and wish to cover their heads. Some women use wigs; others prefer scarves and turbans.

Sikh turbans

The turban is closely associated with the Sikh faith and the vast majority of people who wear turbans in Western countries are Sikhs. Those who undergo initiation, Khande di Pahul (a type of baptism) to join the Khalsa, are forbidden to cut their hair. Such men are required to wear a turban to manage their long hair and also a Sikh turban is a distinct symbol of the Sikh identity. Some baptised women also choose to wear turbans; however, non-baptised Sikh women usually do not wear turbans, whereas, non-batised males sometimes do.

Afghan turbans

Afghan men wear a variety of turbans, known as lungee. Lungee is also worn in the north west of Pakistan, especially in the tribal areas. The lungee is usually worn in tribal meetings, but a majority of Afghans prefer to wear it in everyday life.

Rajasthani turbans

Gurjar, Jats and Rajputs from the Indianmarker state of Rajasthanmarker wear distinctive turbans. Gujjars and Rajputs traditionally wear coloured turbans whereas Jats wear white turbans. The Marwaris wear light coloured turbans. Many styles of turbans are found in Rajasthan; it is said that the style of the turban changes with every 15 km you travel. In some areas, especially in Rajasthanmarker the turban's size may indicate the position of the person in society . Royalty in different parts of India have distinctly different styles of turbans, as do the 'peasants', who often just wear a small piece of cloth wound around the head.

Mysori turbans

The people of the Indian districts of Mysoremarker and Kodagumarker wear turbans called Mysore peta. Distinguished people are honoured by the award of a Mysore peta in a formal ceremony. In Kodagu district people wear it with traditional dress on special occasions such as marriages.

Uttarakhand (Kuamaon)

Now going extinct and worn generally during religious functions the Taanka of the Kumaoni Rajputs or Thakurs is a reminder of their long martial history and valour. It is now, however, hardly seen.

Turbans as hats in Western countries

Turbans have been worn by men and women since the 17th century, without ever becoming very common. Poet Alexander Pope is sometimes depicted wearing a turban.

Now that hats are infrequently worn, turbans too are relatively uncommon. They are worn primarily by women of West Indian descent, Karinas and by female cancer patients. Some women wear them to make a statement of individuality, such as the British social entrepreneur Camila Batmanghelidjh, who usually wears a colourful matching turban and robe.

Although the turban is mentioned in the Bible, Christians in general do not see wearing turbans as part of their religious practice. However in some Christian countries, particular Armeniamarker, the majority of all Armenian men do actually wear turbans, but they mostly wear them during celebrations and festivals, rather than as part of their own daily clothing.

Headdress in Muslim majority countries

The men of many Islamic cultures have worn or wear a headdress of some sort that may be considered a turban. Islam considers the turban as being a Sunnah Mu'akkadah. Head wraps that men wear are called several names and worn in different ways dependent on region and culture. Examples include Amamah ( ) in Arabic, and dastār ( ) in Persian.

  • Many types of head wrap are worn by Islamic scholars in many Muslim countries. Islamic scholars meaning specifically Muslim scholars who study the religion of Islam, most likely being Sheikhs or Imams.
  • In Shi'a Islam, many people believe that wearing a black head wrap, around a small white cap is a claim to status as a descendant of Muhammad. Wearing a black turban symbolizes a well educated person in the Shi'a school of thought.
  • Green turban is a distinctive feature of a Hajji.
  • In Sudanmarker, large white headdresses are worn; they generally are meant to connote high social status.

In modern Persian Gulfmarker countries, the head wrap has been replaced by the plain or checkered scarf (called keffiyeh, ghutrah or shumagh), though the Arabic Amamah tradition is still strong in Omanmarker (see Sultan Qaboos of Oman).

History of turbans

People first began to wear Turbans in the Sudan according to Leo Frobenius a German historian.

The revelations of fifteenth and seventeenth century navigators
furnish us with certain proof that Negro Africa, which extendedsouth of the Sahara desert zone, was still in full bloom, in thefull brilliance of harmonious and well-formed civilizations. Inthe last century the superstition ruled that all high culture ofAfrica came from Islam. Since then we have learned much, and weknow today that the beautiful turbans and clothes of the Sudanese folk were already used in Africa before Muhammad was even born or before Ethiopian culture reached inner Africa. Since then we have learned that the peculiar organization of the Sudanese states existed long before Islam and that all of the art of building and education, of city organization and handwork in Negro Africa, were thousands of years older than those of Middle Europe.

  • The ancient Persians wore a conical cap sometimes encircled by bands of cloth.

  • It is believed that the Arabs of the time of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, wore Amamah ( ). They were very useful for fending off the desert sand and protecting the head and face from very high temperatures and strong sunlight. When the Islamic empires were established, under the first four caliphs, the Umayyads, and the Abbasids, the new rulers wore Amamah. Head wraps then diffused to populations under Islamic rule, even in countries where they were not previously worn.
  • The Maya peoples of Central America are known to have used head-coverings similar in form to turbans. This is especially evident in the iconography of the Classic Period (c. 600-900 A.D.), especially from the region around Copanmarker, Honduras (see depictions on Altar Q).

  • Probably the largest-ever Turbans were worn by high-ranking Turk of the Ottoman period, including soldiers. These were enormous round turbans, wrapped around a hollow cone or framework, that often projected at the top. Hence they were called "Sarık", meaning "wrapped". From the 19th century the Turks mostly gave up the turban for the fez at the same time as they abandoned their kaftan tunics for more Western dress. Broad-rimmed Western hats did not meet the Islamic requirement that the forehead touch the ground during prayer and the Sultan issued a decree enforcing the wearing of the fez, applicable to all religious groups. Suleiman the Magnificent was renowned for the size of his turban.

  • Men in Cyprusmarker, an island with Persian, Arab and Ottoman influences, traditionally covered their heads with either a headscarf (similar to a wrapped keffiyeh, "a form of turban") or a fez. Turbans have been worn by Cypriot men since ancient times and were recorded by Herodotus, during the Persian rule of the island, to demonstrate their "oriental" customs compared to Greeks.

  • Many contemporary images show European men of the Middle Ages and Renaissance wearing headgear that looks like turbans. These hats are actually chaperons, which could look very similar. Men in Europe were expected to take off their headgear in church, and in the presence of a person of much higher rank, like a king. This is not easy with a turban. Turbans also appear in European religious art, especially in scenes picturing the Holy Land, then inhabited by turban-wearers. Turbans did not become a regular part of European headgear until the late 17th century. Men then shaved their heads and wore heavy wigs; when relaxing at home, they removed the wigs and covered their heads with caps or sometimes turbans.
  • European women wore a wide variety of headdresses, some of which appear to be wrapped scarves or occasionally turbans. In the late 18th century and early 19th, turbans became fashionable headgear for women. [36131] The first recorded use of the English word "turban" for a Western female headdress is in 1776 (OED). As with all styles, they have waxed and waned in popularity. Later Victorians wore wrapped toques; turbans were fashionable in the early 20th century. [36132] , [36133]. The French couturier Poiret was known for his Orientalist designs featuring turbans. Turbans were fashionable in the 1940s and 1950s [36134], [36135]; one name given them was cache-misère (French, "hide misery"), a chic solution to a bad-hair day. [36136] Costumes worn by singer Carmen Miranda in several WWII-era Hollywood films featured turbans, including increasingly outrageous and oversized piles of fruit-as-headgear, supposedly modelled on those worn by Brasilian market ladies. After a precipitous decline in hat-wearing during the 1960s, turbans are now rather rarely seen on women in the Western World.


  1. Eicher, Joanne Bubolz, Dress and Ethnicity: Change Across Space and Time, p.35, 1995
  2. Irwin, Elizabeth K., Reading Herodotus: A Study of the Logoi in Book 5 of Herodotus' Histories, p.273, 2007
  3. S. W. Reed, From Chaperones to Chaplets:Aspects of Men’s Headdress 1400–1519, M.S. Thesis, 1992, University of Maryland, available online
murder of Balbir Sigh Sodhi source[ ]

See also

External links

Turbans - general

Turbans for cancer patients

Afghan Turbans

Sikh turbans

European turbans

Native American turbans

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