The practice of wearing fabric to cover the head is common in many parts of the world, ranging from Central Asia across to North Africa and the Middle East. People living in these areas first invented the turban to protect their heads from the heat and dust. There are a huge variety of turbans in existence–the Indian state of Rajasthan alone boasts around a thousand.
Safas are turbans originating and still used in India. They are made from a single strip of colorful cloth measuring around 30 feet long and 4 feet wide. The color, shape and size of a turban are an indicator of a man’s origin, profession and position in Indian society. Colors and patterns can change according to the season and to signify special occasions.
Males following the Sikh religion most commonly wear a peaked turban. Their faith dictates that they should not cut their hair, so the turban allows them to neatly stow it. More devout Sikhs also refrain from cutting their beards. This extra hair may also be stored in the turban. Peaked turbans are made from cloth measuring between 20 and 26 feet in length. The required width is gained by sewing lengths together.
A pagari is a type of turban made from cloth measuring 82 feet in length and 8 inches in width. The Pagari Rasam is a formal Indian occasion where the eldest son wears a pagari to signify that he has taken over as head of the family following the previous head’s death. Families who wish to express their loyalty to another family may conduct a symbolic exchange of pagaris.
The patka is a type of turban worn by young Sikh boys who knot their hair at the top of their head. Adult Sikhs may wear a patka beneath their main turban as a form of undergarment. The patka is sometimes worn for sports or as a casual headdress.