The turban became a requirement for the Sikhs on Baisakhi Day of 1699. The Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, after giving Amrit to the Five Beloved Ones, gave us bana, the distinctive dress that includes the turban. It is helpful to understand the historical context of his action.
During Guru Gobind Singh’s time, the turban, or “dastar,” as it is called in Persian, carried a totally different connotation from a European hat. The turban represented respectability and was a sign of nobility and royalty. At that time, a Mughal aristocrat or a Hindu Rajput could be distinguished by his turban. The Hindu Rajputs were the only Hindus allowed to wear ornate turbans, carry weapons and keep their mustache and beard. Also at this time, only the Rajputs could have Singh (“lion”) or Kaur (“princess”) as their second name. Even the Gurus did not have Singh as part of their name, until the Tenth Guru himself took that name.
The followers of the Sikh faith did not have the means to display aristocratic attire, nor were they allowed to, even if they did have the means. (Doing so was usually equivalent to a death sentence.) It was in this context that Guru Gobind Singh decided to turn the tables on the ruling aristocracy by commanding every Sikh to carry a sword, take up the name Singh or Kaur, and have kesh (hair) and turban displayed boldly, without any fear. This effectively made his followers see themselves on a par with the Mughal rulers.
It is said that in Sikh Dharma, there are no slaves, and there are no masters. It is a discipline that allows each person to live to their highest excellence, and the Sikh community is one of equals. The bana (dress) of a Sikh who has taken Amrit is the visible manifestation of the belief that each person is sovereign, noble, dignified and divine. and that no human being is higher or lower than any other human being.