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Young Sikhs opt for Bollywood hairstyles

Tuesday, April 03, 2007
First they did it in 1984 from fear of being targets of public backlash following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Now they are at it again, but for fashion. Young Sikhs are abandoning the turban in favour of 'Bollywood haircuts'. The younger generation of the community is doing away with Sikhism's most distinguishing symbol, the turban. They are abandoning the traditional headwear and the elaborate ceremony of maintaining long hair and knotting it in six yards of starched cotton.
"Across Punjab a large number of Sikh youth have cut their hair and, sadly, the turban-tying ceremony for teenage boys has also become rare, even in villages" lamented Avtar Singh Makkar, a senior clergyman.

As a result barbers in rural Punjab who historically had to supplement their incomes due to lack of customers, are now back in business. Cutting the hair renders a Sikh apostate, or "pati". But many boys are now copying the hairstyles of Bollywood stars.

Alarmed by the trend, Sikhism's leading religious group, the SGPC, has declared the April 13 harvest festival of Baisakhi as International Sikh Turban Day.

In addition, two turban-tying schools have been set up in the community's holiest city of Amritsar, and a competition to select "Mr Singh International", is expected to attract widespread participation.

Every region in Punjab has its own unique style of tying a turban, with each claiming theirs to be the best, and 'Mr Singh' contestants are to be judged on how stylishly their headgear is tied.

The reigning champion, Navjot Singh Sidhu, an MP and former cricketer, recently held a procession in Amritsar to instill a sense of pride among Sikh youth.

Overseas campaigns are also on to 'dignify' the headgear in the backdrop of acts of violence against the Sikhs in the West where they are often mistaken to be members of the Taliban, who also sport turbans.

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