A steel bracelet; a wooden comb; a steel sword; cotton underwear and uncut hair. These are the five physical symbols that devout Sikhs, followers of the world’s fifth-largest organized religion, must wear.

The uncut hair must be secured firmly by a turban, a brightly-colored cloth called dastar that makes Sikhs so recognizable throughout the world. But in the religion’s birthplace, the northwest Indian state of Punjab, the practice of wearing a turban is declining.

Prabhjot Singh Lotey blames modernization and Westernization—but also discrimination and even hate crimes at home and abroad. Three years ago, the young Sikh photographer from Ludhiana embarked on a journey to document those who have chosen to keep the tradition alive. Along the way, his faith grew stronger.

“The incident of a college friend’s cutting of his hair and beard just because he could not tie a turban changed my life once and for all. Since then, we have held training camps in more than 500 rural villages of Punjab and distributed countless videos for self learning of turban tying.”
1. “My father always wanted me to be a turbaned Sikh but never expressed himself until a week before his death. I promised to fulfill his desire. Since that day I started growing my hair and now I am a fully devoted Sikh. It gives me immense happiness to be back on the path of Sikhism and more so when I see my brother following my footsteps.” / 2. Kunwarajit learned to read the Sikh religious language (Gurmukhi Punjabi) before he even started school.
The tuition center in Meerpur village, Gurdaspur district, educates children and introduces them to Sikhism. It has more than 150 students.
Damandeep Singh credits Sikhism for helping him out of a drug addiction.
1. “I have had a love affair with the turban since childhood. My greatest opportunity came when I got a chance to work at a media platform. The TV channel was initially skeptical about a turbaned woman anchoring a show. However, I was lucky when one day the regular anchor was late and I got the opportunity to host. The overwhelming response to the show made them rethink, and I was allocated a weekly show on television.” / 2. “The only reason for me to become an actor is because I believe there is a need for the world to see what an actual Sikh looks like, since the Indian film and television industry has misrepresented and abused the Sikh identity.”
“Sikh values and their outward appearance have always had an effect on me from a very young age. I was about seven when I insisted on Amritpan (a Sikh method of initiation into religion) but my parents were doubtful that I could maintain the kakaars (the 5 articles of faith in Sikhism). My persistence convinced them. I promised my father to maintain them until my last breath. Ever since, I have kept them, loved them and always tried to represent the Turban in every stage of my life.”

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