Gandhara - terracota - 1st Century A.D.

Ancient references of the Sikh Jooda

I have always wondered why Guru Gobind Singh made all Sikhs wear un-cut hairs on their head, in the form of a head-bun, which we commonly call the ‘Jooda’.

What emerges is very interesting. It is said in the Dasam Granth, a Sikh granth attributed to authorship of Guru Gobind Singh that in a previous incarnation, Guru Gobind Singh was a Rishi called ‘Dusht Daman’. The Sikh Shrine of Hemkunt Sahib is in remembrance of the spot where Rishi Dusht Daman is said to have meditated. The spot was identified by Sikh ex-armymen from the descriptions as given in the Dasam Granth.

Dusht Daman

And when Guru Gobind Singh had to give a distinct form to the Sikhs, the form was derived from his own form in his previous birth. Some Nihangs I met told me that Sikhs were given the Head bun in Siva’s Swaroop (Siva’s Image). Nihangs however are known to adopt many practices that the hard-core Sikh clergy rejects as not ascribing to the Sikh Maryada. However, it is indicated in Sikh scriptures that the Guru wanted them to behave and act like Rishis, in knowledge, as well as in physical endurance.

Rishi as depicted in Undavalli Caves – 4th to 5th Century A.D.

There is a lesser known granth of the Sikhs called the Sarbloh Granth. Most Sikh scholars, clergy and researchers question the authenticity of the Sarbloh Granth and its credibility remains in doubt. A copy of the Sarbloh Granth is however ceremonially maintained and honoured at Hazur Sahib. The Sarbloh Grant describes the creation of the Khalsa as follows:

ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਆਗਯਾ ਪਾਇ, ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿ ਭਯੋ ਰੂਪ ਮੁਨਿਵਰ ਕੋ ॥
Akaal purakh ki agya paayi, pargati bhayo roop munivar ko ||
By the command of Akal Purkh, [the Khalsa was created] with the form of [sacred] Muni’s.

ਜਟਾ ਜੂਟ ਨਖ ਸਿਖ ਕਰ ਪਾਵਨ, ਭਗਤ ਸੂਰ ਦ੍ਵ ਰੂਪ ਨਰਵਰ ਕੋ ॥
Jataa jut nabh sikh kar paavan, bhagat soor dwa roop narwar ko ||
With the long hair from the topnot to the nail of the toe, like a Muni, and the form of both a devoted worshipper [bhagat] and warrior [soor/ soorma].

ਚਕ੍ਰਵੈ-ਪਦ ਦਾਤ ਧੁਰਿ ਪਾਯੋ, ਧਰਮਰਾਜ ਭੁੰਚਤਿ ਗਿਰਿਵਰ ਕੋ ॥
chakwaye-pad daat dhhuri paayo, dharamraj bhunchti giriwar ko ||
The ‘Chakarvarti Raj’ [Kingdom which is victorious wherever the Army is present] has been given by the Lord, not even Dharamraj has been given such a high status

ਉਦਯ ਅਸਤ ਸਾਮੁਦ੍ਰ ਪ੍ਰਯੰਤੰ, ਅਬਿਚਲ ਰਾਜ ਮਿਲਯੋ ਸੁਰਪੁਰ ਕੋ ॥੪॥
Uday asat samud prayunt, abhichal raj milye surpur ko ||4||
From where the sun rises to where it sets, across all the oceans, [The Khalsa] has received the timeless Raj [kingdom] from Sachkhand

As we go deep into historical references, it emerges that the jooda was an integral form of ancient Indian traditions. It was known as the ‘Jata Mukuta’ (जटा मुकुट). I could find some distinct styles on scouring the net:

  • Karanda Mukuta (basket like hair crown),
  • Kirita Mukuta (cylindrical hair crown),
  • Jata Mukuta (crown with much matted hair).
  • Siraschakra (adorned on the back of the crown), a Chakra almost like Vishnu holds but it is a halo of Siras or head (Sanskrit “head”)
  • Jatakas is the tangled hair worn by an ascetic. It is the one typically worn by Shiva for example.

Kirti means glory, kirita is gem stoned crown of glory. It is the one typically worn by Vishu and Surya.

The Jata Mukuta is widely depicted in ancient statues depicting Buddha during the Gandhara period; Bhagwan Mahavira of the Jains and various Hindu Gods like Siva, Vishnu, Surya, Agni, Kuber etc; and also on coins of Selucid Empire (issued by Selucus after Alexander’s invasion) , Mauryan Empire (Chandragupta Maurya coins, Asoka coins), Gupta Dynasty, Ikshvaku dynasty and many many more.

It is clear from ancient Indian references that Kshatriyas, Rishis and many others wore the Jooda as a sign of authority and knowledge. (I degress slightly here: most of the Bollywood movies or TV serials depicting emperors like Ashoka, gods like Rama etc, forget this important head-wear while depicting the personalities. Coins/ Busts of Ashoka  clearly depict him wearing a Jooda. It is quite probable that Lord Krishna had a Jooda and so did Lord Ramachandra as avatars of Lord Vishnu)

I need to qualify here that Rishis of yore were people of knowledge from all parts of the society, some were Dalits (Valmiki), some were Kshatriyas (Vishwamitra) and others were Vaishyas or Brahamins. Any person who acquired deep temporal or worldly knowledge was seen as a Rishi. Shastras were written by these Rishis from astronomy, astrology, medicine to surgery, mathematics, economics and whatnot.


(I have collected many pics of these ancient references and if you have read this far, you might care to see more of those pics at

The Jata Mukut however receded into the background with the advent of Brahminism as the institute of renowned Rishis mutated into Pandits. Pandits as well as the ruling class gradually cut of their Jata Mukuts. It seems that the head bun disappered from Indian images around the time the Muslim invasions started. It did remain on the head of ascetics though, especially the Siva Bhakts like Naga Sadhus.

So, the Jooda or the Head Bun was absent from India till the 17th Century till Guru Gobind Singh brought it out again into mainstream.

It is quite clear from Guru Gobind Singh’s writings in the Dasam Granth that he used stories of Hindu Avatars and their symbolism to instill martial and spiritual values in his Sikhs. He also did try to create a class of fearless warriors. It is quite possible that the Jooda was another inspiration drawn from ancient Indian tradition. It is also in this context that the Sikh concept of Miri-Piri (a balance of temporal and physical power) becomes more understandable.

Sikhism seems to have been a product of the times when the masses were fighting a battle of survival against the despots. Inspiration it seems was drawn from ancient Indian traditions to amalgmate the masses into a fighting force.

P.S: The Sikhism followed these days rejects most Hindu symbolism unequivocally. However that is another subject altogether, with strong arguments on either side of the ideological divide. I dont wish to take sides in the matter, as that is something for scholars and theologians to decide. The purpose of the post is not to establish antecedents of the Jooda, the purpose is to seed an enquiry into its origins and to thus seek to learn from reactions.

P.P.S: And suddenly I don’t feel bad that I had my Jooda pulled in class. They did not know that I was the only Bhagat-Soorma in their class.

Ancient Indian noblemen as depicted in European Encyclopaedia