Religion Today

March 29, 2007

The Times reports that Sikhs in India are upset because large numbers of their young men have been getting their hair cut and abandoning the turban. Turbans are inconvenient for sports, it takes too long to wind the long hair up and oil and pin it every day, they just don’t want to stand out anymore.

This in Amritsar, not just in more cosmopolitan places like Delhi.

Sikh heritage groups are taking urgent action, giving courses in traditional grooming etc.

Are those efforts working?

Not according to Namrata Saluja, manager of the Color Lounge hairdressers in central Amritsar, which every week turns away young Sikh men who want their long hair cut off. “Kids come in groups,” she said. “There’s a lot of peer pressure. But we won’t unturban them here. We don’t want to be responsible for that upheaval in their families.”

Instead, the barbers advise the boys to cut their own hair at home and come back for styling.

“It’s usually college-going students who are more worried about looking good than about their spiritual identity,” Ms. Saluja said. “It’s a thrilling moment for them. You can see a flush on their faces. Taking eight or nine meters of cloth off your head releases a certain amount of pressure.”

But while it is good for business, as a religious Sikh she feels ambivalent about the trend. “At the end of the day, it is a bit hurtful,” she said. “It means one more identifiable Sikh is missing.”

“Spiritual identity” is of course a term I take issue with. It’s more a matter of tribal or ethnic identity. People followed the teachings of Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak long before the “5 K” uniform was adopted, and they can still do so if they so choose.

This is something I want to write about at length. We too easily attribute real religious faith, spirituality, understanding and assent to the tenets of their tradition, to people who adhere to the tradition merely because they were born into it.  For most people “faith in God” really amounts to faith in whoever it is that told them about God…

Meanwhile, in Israel, the Green Leaf Party has acknowledged that marijuana is not kosher le-Pesach. It seems the Rabbis classify cannabis seeds with beans and other potentially fermentable items.

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