Illustration of Arab men in the fourth to sixth century, wearing turbans and keffiyeh (middle)

In English, Turban refers to several types of headwear popularly worn in the Middle East, North Africa, Punjab, Jamaica and Southwest Asia. A commonly used synonym is Pagri, the Indian word for turban.



Yemenite Jew in the early 20th century wearing keffiyeh wrapped as a turban

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

  • Middle Eastern, Central Asian, 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.
  • Traditionally, "turban" has been the name of a type of headwear worn by women in Western countries. The wear of such turbans by women in Western societies is less common than it was earlier in the 20th century. They are usually sewn to a foundation, so that they can be donned or removed easily.
  • Women in many parts of Africa and the West Indies often cover their heads with intricately tied scarves which may be called scarves, head wraps, or turbans.
  • Men of the Tuareg, Berber, Songhai, Wodaabe, Fulani, and Hausa peoples of North and West Africa wear turbans, often veiling the face to block dust.
  • People of Kenya tie a distinct style, sometimes called "valeti style".[citation needed] The cloth they tie it with is sometimes starched and the finishing normally includes a sharp point. This style is most commonly tied in the UK and in Kenya.

Kurdish turbans

Kurdish people wear a turban which they call a Jamadani. The Jamadani is worn in many different ways across Kurdistan depending on the style of the locality e.g. the Barzani Kurds are a tribe which wear the turban in a colour (red and white) and style which is typical of their clan. Mostly Kurdish turban consists of a length of striped cloth known as kolāḡī wound around a conical hat; the tassels that border the kolāḡī are allowed to hang down over the face.

Afghan turbans

Turbans are part of the national dress in Afghanistan. In this particularly pious country, they are used more widely than elsewhere in the Muslim world, and are worn in a wide range of styles and colors. The turbans worn by the Taliban are either black (for descendants of Muhammad) or white, and have particularly long tails, while most other Afghans prefer shades of gray, green and brown. In the country's southeast, turbans are wrapped loosely and largely, whereas in Kabul turbans tend to be smaller and tighter. In traditional Afghan society, Turbans also serve practical purposes such as for wrapping oneself against the cold, to sit on, to tie up an animal or to carry water in the cap.[1]

In 2011 during the war in Afghanistan, a number of suicide bombers used their turbans to hide bombs in – a phenomenon termed "turban-borne improvised explosive device" (TBIED) by American troops. In response to this, turbans are now systematically searched during security checks, a practice perceived as demeaning by many Afghans.[1]

Indian turbans

In India the turban is referred to as a pagri, meaning the headdress that is worn by men and is manually tied. There are several styles, specific to the wearer's region or religion, and they vary in shape, size and colour. The pagri is a symbol of honour and respect everywhere it is worn; it is a common practice to honour important guests by offering them one to wear. Colours are often chosen to suit the occasion or circumstance: for example saffron, associated with valour, is worn during rallies; white, associated with peace, is worn by elders; and pink, associated with spring, is worn during that season or for marriage ceremonies.

During the British period the Muslim elites of South Asia, especially in western Punjab, used to wear a long pagri which was also a symbol of nobility, honour and respect. In the Muslim majority regions of Punjab and Sindh members of the land aristocracy always wore elaborate turbans known as the pagri. It was a part of the full formal dress that included the sherwani.

Turbans in Islam

Habib Umar bin Hafiz (left), a notable Sunni Muslim scholar from Yemen wearing a white turban.

The men of many Islamic cultures wear or wore a turban-style headdress, often in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have worn a black or white turban.[1] In Islam, the turban is a Sunnah Mu'akkadah (Confirmed Tradition)[2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. Head wraps that men wear are called several names and worn in different ways depending on the sect of Muslims, region and culture. Examples include (Arabic: عمامة‎) in Arabic, (Persian: دستار) in Persian.

In Shi'a Islam, a black head wrap around a small white prayer cap is worn by descendants of Muhammad, and black turbans by well-educated persons and scholars. Black or white turbans are worn by the Taliban symbolizing they are descendants of Muhammad.[citation needed] Green turbans are a distinctive feature of a Hajji.[citation needed] In Sudan, large white headdresses connote high social status.[citation needed] Other sects of Muslims would wear a green head wrap around a small white cap or just the white prayer cap alone.

In most countries of the Arabian peninsula, the preferred form of turban is a plain or checkered scarf (called keffiyeh, ghutrah or shumagh), though the Arabic Amamah tradition remains strong in Oman (see Sultan Qaboos of Oman), Egypt, Sudan and some parts of the Arabian peninsula.

In Pakistan the prayer cap is called a topi, see Topi cap and the traditional men's attire is called a salwar kameez. Women of Islam are not allowed to wear turbans, women's clothing is called a Burqa which is to cover their face and bodies in public places.

Sikh turbans

The Sikh turban, known as the Dastar or a Dumalla, is mandatory for all Khalsa Sikhs to wear. (In the West, many Sikhs who wear pagri, olden Arab style turban, are sometimes mistaken for Muslims or Arabs.[7]). The Rajastani turban is also commonly called the pagari. The Sikhs have a long history of being warriors and referred to as saint-soldiers, since their rise in the 1600-1700's. Their turban style and attire gives the identity of a warrior religion.

Sikhs in Punjab wearing Sikh turbans or Dumalla

All Sikh Gurus since Guru Nanak Dev Ji have worn turbans. However, covering one's hair with a turban was made an official policy by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. The main reasons to wear turban are to take care of the hair, promote equality, and preserve the Sikh identity.

Sikh man demonstrating strength of his Dumalla

As a symbol of respect for God, Sikhs do not cut their hair. The turban protects the hair and keeps it clean. People from many other religions including Hindus, Jews, and traditionally many Christians including Catholics only cover their head during worship (Source: Christian Head Covering). Because Sikhs believe God to be present everywhere, they wear their turban at all times.

As Sikhs only form 2% of India’s population, their warrior style turbans also help identify them. When he institutionalized the turban as a part of the Sikh identity, Guru Gobind Singh Ji said, “My Sikh will be recognized among millions.”

The Dumalla or full name Chand Tora Dumalla is the style of turban generally worn by Sikhs in battle. The "Chand Tora" is a metal symbol consisting of a crescent sword and a double edged sword, it is held in place at the front of the turban by a woven chainmail cord tied in a pattern within the turban to protect the head from slashing weapons. The Chand actually is a symbol of Shiva who is always shown with a crescent in his hair. Shiva is considered a very powerful mythological figure. So the crescent (Chand) being in the Singh's Dumalla along with a Khanda and Kirpan shows that Singh's are as mighty, if not more, than Shiva. The purpose of the Tora is to keep the dastaar together. It goes over the bunga to protect it and protect the dasam dwar. Also used for keeping shastars together. In the past every Sikh wore this type of turban, known as a Dumalla, even still to this day many Sikhs in the Punjab still wear the Chand Tora Dumalla, known as the Nihangs.

In addition, turbans were formerly associated with the upper class, and many cultural elites still wear turbans. This distinction between the turban-wearing upper class (Sardars) and commoners promoted segregation and elitism. In order to eliminate the class system associated with turbans, Guru Gobind Singh Ji declared each and every Sikh a Sardar. He also rejected the class system by giving all Sikhs the last names Singh and Kaur.

Sikhs do not usually wear red or green, which are Muslim and Hindu orientated colors. The most common colors worn by Sikhs are blue, orange, white and black. Sikhs also decorate their turbans or Dumalla in a warrior way by wearing small weapons known as Shastars in their turbans.

Rastafari turbans

Members of the Bobo Shanti mansion of the Rastafari movement keep their hair and beards, mainly keeping their hair in dreadlocks, they have been wearing turbans over their dreadlocks protecting and keeping their dreadlocks clean, along with wearing robes since their founding in the 1950s,[8] being a small population it makes them more distinctive in appearance in Jamaica and elsewhere.[9]

Turbans in Western countries

Camila Batmanghelidjh wearing a turban and matching robe
A Moroccan Berber in the valley of the Draa river wearing turban

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. 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.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians usually wear short white turbans made of thin cotton, as do the Ethiopian Muslims[citation needed]. Although the turban is mentioned in several translations of the Bible, such as in Zechariah 3:5, Christians in general do not see wearing turbans as part of their religious practice[citation needed].


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • turban — [ tyrbɑ̃ ] n. m. • 1538; d apr. it. turbant, tourban 1540; altér. de tulban, tolliban (1490), turc tülbend, mot persan→ tulipe 1 ♦ Coiffure d homme faite d une longue bande d étoffe enroulée autour de la tête. « Ils [des Kurdes] ont la tête prise …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • turban — TURBÁN, turbane, s.n. Acoperământ pentru cap format dintr o bandă lungă de stofă, de mătase sau de pânză, de obicei albă, pe care o poartă bărbaţii din unele ţări orientale înfăşurată de mai multe ori în jurul capului. ♦ Acoperământ pentru cap… …   Dicționar Român

  • Turban — Sm erw. exot. ass. (17. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus it. turbante, dieses aus türk. tülbent, aus pers. dulbänd.    Ebenso nndl. tulband, ne. turban, nfrz. turban, nschw. turban, nisl. túrban; Tulpe. ✎ Littmann (1924), 113; DF 5 (1981), 530 532.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • turban — TURBAN. s. m. Coiffure des Turcs & autres peuples de Levant, faite d une longue piece de toile, ou de taffetas, &c. qui fait plusieurs tours autour d un bonnet. Il n est permis qu à ceux qui sont issus de la race de Mahomet de porter le turban… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • turban — [tʉr′bən] n. [earlier turbant < MFr < It turbante < Turk tülbend, dial. form of dülbend < Pers dulbänd, turban, sash] 1. any of various styles of headdress worn by men in the Middle East and S Asia, consisting of a length of cloth… …   English World dictionary

  • Turban — Tur ban, n. [OE. turband, turbant, tolibant, F. turban, It. turbante, Turk. tulbend, dulbend, fr. Per. dulband. Cf. {Tulip}.] 1. A headdress worn by men in the Levant and by most Mohammedans of the male sex, consisting of a cap, and a sash, scarf …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • turban — (n.) 1560s, from M.Fr. turbant, from It. turbante (O.It. tolipante), from Turk. tülbent gauze, muslin, tulle, from Pers. dulband turban. The change of l to r may have taken place in Portuguese India and thence been picked up in other European… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Turban — Turban: Die Bezeichnung für die aus einem in bestimmter Weise um den Kopf geschlungenen langen, schmalen Tuch ‹mit kleiner, eng anliegender Kappe darunter› bestehende Kopfbedeckung besonders der Moslems und Hindus wurde während der Türkenkriege… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Turban — (v. türk.), 1) (Dülbend, Tulbend, Türkenbund), der Kopfputz, welchen ehedem alle wohlhabende Türken trugen; er bestand aus einem langen Stück Musselin, Seidenzeuge od. Leinwand, welches um eine cylindrische od. halbkugelförmige Mütze gewunden u.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Turban — (pers. dulbend), die bei den Muslimin übliche Kopfbedeckung, eine Kappe, die mit einem Stück Musselin oder Seide umwunden ist, die Kappe gewöhnlich rot, die Umwindung weiß, ausgenommen bei den Saijids (Scherifen), denen ausschließlich eine grüne… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Turban — (pers. türk. Tülbend, Dulbend), Kopfbedeckung der Türken und anderer orient. Völker, bestehend aus einem viermal um eine Art Mütze gewickelten Stück farbigen oder weißen Baumwollstoffs …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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