(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)
A turban peculiar to Nihangs is known as a ‘Dumaala’ (also ‘Damaala’) which, along with a long ‘Chola’, is the distinguishing mark of a Nihang.
A Nihang wearing the ‘Dumaala’
Before we give the background of Dumaala’s tradition, it is necessary to understand that there are other different meanings of word ‘Dumaala’ out side of the Nihang tradition. It is necessary to appreciate these meanings before discussing the Dumaala popular amongst Nihangs: –
(1). The word of Persian origin: – The word ‘Dumaala’ originates from the Persian word ‘Dumbaalah’, which means ‘tail’. (There is also another Persian word, ‘Dum’ meaning ‘tail’). Thus, ‘Dumaala’ is a loose piece of cloth, which is made from one end of the turban which hangs free behind like ‘Dumbaalah’ or ‘Dum’ (tail), so is called ‘Dumaala’. In Punjabi, this ‘Dumaala’ is known as ‘Shamla’.
(2). The gift to winning wrestler: – In Punjabi, the word ‘Mal’ means wrestler. It is a trend in traditional wrestling competitions that a cloth is attached over a long bamboo pole. This cloth is called ‘Maalee’ and usually the prize money is tied with it. When a wrestler wins a wrestling match, he lifts this bamboo to show the audience as a sign of his victory. Obviously the prize money tied in ‘Maalee’ is kept by him. Traditionally, if the ‘Maalee’ (prize money) was big, it was called ‘Dumaalee’ or ‘Dumaala’ (double ‘Maalee’).
During old times in Punjab, it was a trend amongst wrestlers to tie the ‘Maalee’ like turban, making a fan like adornment from one end of the ‘Maalee’. This too was known as a ‘Dumaala’.
In Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the word ‘Dumaala’ has been used only for this meaning: –
Haun Gosaanyee Da Paihalvaanrha. Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha.
(I am a wrestler belonged to the Lord of the World. I met with the Guru and got a ‘D’umaala). (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 73).
(3). Double turban: –In some parts of India, a ‘storey’ or level of a building is called ‘Maala’. The word ‘Du’ means ‘double’. Thus, the word ‘Dumaala’ (Du + maala) refers to a ‘double-storey’ which if used as a term for a turban, shows the ‘Dumaala’ to be nothing more than a double turban. It is very common amongst Sikh people to tie a a small turban (keski) under their main (long) turban.
As mentioned earlier, a particular style of turban is also known as a ‘Dumaala’ in Nihang tradition.
In ‘Sri Gur Panth Prakash’, Giani Gian Singh has written that Bhai Naina Singh Ji tied a tall turban and recited the holy line from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, “Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha“. Since then, his followers started to wear tall turbans, which were called ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’.
It should be noted that in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the word ‘Dumaala’ has been used in a specific meaning (see above). Perhaps Nihang Naina Singh Ji was trying to indicate that he was the winner and received the prize from the Guru.
In ‘Mahaan Kosh’, ‘Sardaar Bahaadur’ Kahan Singh Nabha corroborates the story given by Giani Gian Singh that tall ‘Dumaalas’ were started by Bhai Naina Singh.
Akali Phoola Singh Ji was disciple of Bhai Naina Singh Ji. According to the ‘Mahaan Kosh’, Akali Phoola Singh Ji was born around Samvat 1818 Bikrami (1761 AD). From this, we can reason that Bhai Naina Singh Ji introduced this style of tall turbans, known as ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’ in second half of 18th century.
In our times, the ‘Dumaalas’ have become popular among even non-Nihangs. Many Sikhs tie a ‘Dumaala’ occasionally, some even regularly tie a Dumaala’, whether Nihang or non-Nihang although they maybe dressed in western clothing (shirts and pants for instance).
It can be noted that many Nihangs try to wear as long ‘Dumaala’ as possible, such as Nihang Major Singh Ji who wears a ‘Dumaala’ over 400 meters long.
Nihang Major Singh Ji wears longest ‘Dumaala’
References in Sikh old texts
As mentioned above, Giani Gian Singh has written in ‘Panth Prakash’ that Bhai Naina Singh Ji tied a tall turban and recited the holy line from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, “Main Gur Mil Uch Dumaalrha“. Since then, his followers started to wear tall turbans, which were called ‘Naina Singheeye Dumaalas’.
The ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ (1711 AD), written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s court poet Sainapati (Saina Singh) does not use the word ‘Dumaala’. This is also the case for ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ written by Bhai Kuyer Singh and texts written by other Sikh writers, like Kesar Singh Chhibbar and Bhai Sukha Singh, who also do not mention ‘Dumaala’.
It is interesting to note that even ‘Guru Keeyaan Saakheeyaan’, which mentions ‘Pharara’ and blue dress/turban, does not use the word ‘Dumaala’.
Many Nihangs like ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, because it uses the word ‘Nihang’ repeatedly. Interestingly, even ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ does not make mention of the ‘Dumaala’ tradition and does not use the term ‘Dumaala’.
The ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ has used the words ‘Dastaar’ and ‘Paag’ (‘Paage’, ‘Pargrhee’ or ‘Pagrhe’) for turban, for instance: –
Kes Sees Sir Baandhai Paagai;
Pagrhee Apnee Sees Savaaree
Tau Lau Singh Akaal Uchaara. Pagrhe Sane Su Chubbha Maara.
Bhai Gurbaksh Singh ‘Shaheed’ is a very famous name in Sikh history. Ratan Singh Bhangu in his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ referred to him as a ‘Nihang’. When Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Ji was getting ready for the battle, he tied turban around his head here, Ratan Singh Bhangoo has used the word ‘Pagg’ for turban, not ‘Dumaala’: –
Sees Pagg Lyee Khoob Chhikaaye.
Sikh texts written in 18th century do not mention the word ‘Dumaala’. ‘Sri Gur Sobha’ (1711 AD) written by Kavi Sainapati, ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’ (1751 AD) written by Bhai Kuyer Singh, ‘Bansaavalinaama’ (1769 AD) written by Bhai Kesar Singh Chibber and ‘Gur Bilaas’ (1797 AD) written by Bhai Sukha Singh are included within such a category of texts.
Giani Gian Singh writes in his new ‘Panth Prakash’ that the ‘Dumaala’ style of turbans was started by Bhai Naina Singh Ji. If Giani Gian Singh’s views are acceptable, then we have to say that this style of turban was not popular among Sikh masses, otherwise Bhai Sukha Singh must have mentioned it in his famous book ‘Gur Bilaas Paatshaahee 10’, which was written after Bhai Naina Singh Ji. As mentioned above, ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’ does not use the word ‘Dumaala’.
All this indicates that the word ‘Dumaala’ was not used commonly among ordinary Sikhs of 18th century. The words ‘Dastaar’ and ‘Pagg’ have been used in old Sikh texts, which were in frequent use by Sikhs.