God is blinged


jo bin paratheethee kapattee koorree koorree akhee meettadhae oun kaa outhar jaaeigaa jhoot(h) gumaan
Those who lack faith may close their eyes, hypocritically pretending and faking devotion, but their false pretenses shall soon wear off.
-Guru Ram Das Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 734

In an age where image is everything, more and more youth are beginning to define their spiritual connections, not by public display of devotion but by showcasing their alliances in the form of tattoos. While no religion specifically condones them, tattoos however, raise suspicious and sarcastic looks from those that find them undesirable, no matter how simple and clean they may seem. The Sikh youth are abandoning the Guru’s form (specifically the turban and unshorn hair) and replacing it with their own alternative – by expressing their pride through ways that find them acceptance with their peers who can longer bear the weight of conforming to their age-old tradition of wearing dastaar and unshorn hair. The turbans have swiftly lost their princely status and replaced with chic statements of tattooed arms, chests, backs and necks. Today’s generation is into the GenerationX thing – technology, luxury, image and peer-respect. It no longer matters what the Guru thinks is better – our educated youth know better and have given godly status to their outer displays of fashion statement. Tattoos have today joined the legions of body piercings, crew cuts and blings. It seems like God is in fashion these days, regardless of how aloof or ignorant we want be in trying to understand His Will, and attempting to win His attention with our artistically decorated bodies. Whether it is to show your religious alliance, to make a fashion statement or to try and interpret your version of spirituality, tattoos may not be condemned by religion, but they lead you no where.

The Sikh Gurus revealed to us what Akaal Purakh had envisioned for His peoples. Over 240 years, the Sikh of Guru Nanak was groomed into the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Abandoned were all rituals and meaningless aspects of life, and replaced with those that would stand the test of time and be of purpose and lead us to our Creator Lord. One may argue that while tattoos are of outer display, then so are the turbans and beards. Valid arguement, but . . . the dastaar and kesh of were marks of our affiliation to the Guru, a form blessed to the adherents of the Sikh way of life. One may adorn the Sikh turban and even maintain his kesh, and yet still pierce his body and tattoo his skin, is far more close to manmat and foolishness than those that have forsaken the Sikh roop altogether. Tattoos are nothing less than body-modification which is a process of deciding who you are and what you want to be. Tattooing and its allied arts, in other words, are increasingly understood as substitutes for more traditional religious rites of passage. Body art may be considered as an individual expression but it will never find favour with religion, no matter how much one may claim to defend it as their way of spiritual expression.

Many who decorate their bodies with religious icons as tattoos claim to educate those that catch their curiosity. This is simply a sign of cultural starvation, resulting from rebelling against the norms and established way of a religious life. People claim to wear meaningful tattoos, but unless their life is dedicated to the inner self, the outer statements are as good as decorating a dead body. When we lose our intrinsic values, we attempt to guise that vacuum with alternative, self-defined ways. By ignoring the path of religious teachings and claiming to be wiser than the masters, we do nothing more than condemning ourselves into the darkness of meaningless existence.

The greatest show of religious affiliation and devotion is a silent and humble one. When one sees a turbaned Sikh with a full kesh, he says more than one who has discarded the form of his Guru. While one cannot completely condemn tattoos, they can never find acceptance either. Just because religion does not condone body piercings and tattoos doesn’t mean such body-works are accepted. What God wants to see is not your self-defined image, but the one that He commissioned, through teachings of faith. In the end, the outer is to rot away anyway, whether it is adorned by the dastaar or by tattoos, but what will matter in the Court of the True Lord is how much of our being we offered to the Guru and accepted as good what they instructed us to do, not what our fickle minds thought so otherwise. A life lived without contemplation on the Word of God is far worse that exhibiting our decorated bodies that insult our divine form.

naam binaa jaethaa biouhaar || jio mirathak mithhiaa seegaar
Without the Naam, all occupations are useless, like decorations on a dead body.
-Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 240



  1. Prabhu Singh said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Singh Ji,
    You wrote ” tattoos may not be condemned by religion.” I think Sikhs don’t generally condemn people or things, but any body modification is a clear breach of the rehit. I’m always surprised to see so many piercings amongst ‘Sikhs’ at the Gurdwara. I don’t see tattoos and piercings as any less of an offense than cutting hair.
    Any alterations of the natural form, is denying “Akal Moorat” the image of the undying. We have the temple of the soul, the body, that God gave us and we should respect it.
    I agree with you that expressing faith through tattoos can never compare to the expression of faith shown when wearing the crown of spirituality given by the Guru. Tattoos are cheap, unhealthy expressions of ‘modernity’ the modern age being stuck in the ways of Kaliyug. The natural human body is timeless. And the immoratl nectar of the Guru is beyond any cheap, temporary indulgence.

  2. Sifar said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Well said. I also think that Sikhism if do not opposes any form of modification on the body be it a tatto, or piercing of eare, nose, navel, tongue or dying of the hair, it never approves of it either. I find it real ironical when Sikh girls who get baptized, stop plucking the hair on their face but instead go for removing the hair from its roots with laser.

  3. April 18, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    yeah i’ve seen a growing trend of tattoos amongst the youth in the uk. It’s a shame they have khanda’s tattoed on their arms or chests, yet no pyaar for sikhi in the heart….

  4. Mai said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    My body, the way God made it, is clean, pure, perfect. I have always been taught that it is wrong to modify it. I personally was appalled at the huge khanda tattoo in Rang De Basanti and asked myself where would it lead in this copycat world. I myself had my ears pierced when I was younger but as my understanding grew, I let them close. The scars, however, remain.

    These outward signs in and of themselves may say little or nothing in the long run, but while we are here and now, the outer does speak of the inner, and while that doesn’t always speak the truth, usually it’s pretty close.

    It isn’t for me to judge, but it makes me slightly ill to see Sikhs with tattoos and piercings. Their understanding may grow, as mine did, but those tattoos, even if removed, leave unsightly scars. In a physical sense, you can’t go back.

    On the other hand, when I see a Sikh, man or woman, with the dastaar, I feel good. Being a Sikh of the Guru takes courage and dedication and is beautiful to see.

  5. nQ said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Interesting blog, its different – I like it.
    I just posted about body “art” if you wanna check
    It out to give your opinion 😉

  6. 5rivers said,

    June 15, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Really enjoyed reading your post about the current ‘trends’ youngsters are following, and the awaeness posters and Panjabs lost innocence.

    If you got a minute please visit: 5Rivers
    This will feature many articles and images with regards to real Panjabi culture and roots.

  7. 5Rivers said,

    June 15, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Sorry, the url did not appear, the website address is http://www.5rivers.wordpress.com

  8. November 26, 2007 at 11:03 am

    sat sri akal,
    i totaly disagree with you on the point that you made that Sikhs are allowed, or not stopped from piercing their bodies. the sikh rehit maryada clearly states that a Sikh may and will not pierce his body, neither will the Sikh put any markings on the body. one of the points of keeping kesh is to signify a Sikh’s determination to maintain a simple and Natural way of life.your image and your body is blessed to you by Waheguru Ji.

  9. Sunny said,

    December 18, 2007 at 12:09 am

    One should respect the body Waheguru has blessed them with, just to be a human to begin with is the greatest blessing.

  10. Jasprit Singh Kahai said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I have read this article and I do not agree with what is written about tattoos and body piercing. What harm is it doing? If one decides to have a tattoo or a body piercing so what.

    I am a Sardar living in the UK. I wear a turban, and have a tattoo. No one can see it, it is personnel. Does this mean I am bad and not a good Sikh. What is a good Sikh?

    Today’s youth will follow trends and fashion, why because the older Sikh generation have confused many younger Sikhs. All you have to do is go to the Gudwara and look, how many elder ladies are wearing gold and diamonds. How many older Sikh men are driving BMW and Mercs? What is this? They may not have a tattoo or body piercing but they too are bowing down to bling. When a big Gianni from India comes you will see they are driven around in a big Merc or a Roller, why do they not walk or use public transport. How many Sikh families in India have house workers or so called servants that are under paid, how many Sikh girls are still forced into marriage. How many married woman who give birth to a girl is looked down upon. How many fathers have had to pay a dowry when there daughters get married. This is what needs to be resolved not someone who has a Kanda tattooed on there arm or a bit of metal through there lip! The bigger issues need to be resolved first.

  11. Sarnjeet Kaur said,

    March 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    regarding jasprit singh.
    ‘How many Sikh families in India have house workers or so called servants that are under paid, how many Sikh girls are still forced into marriage. How many married woman who give birth to a girl is looked down upon. How many fathers have had to pay a dowry when there daughters get married. This is what needs to be resolved not someone who has a Kanda tattooed on there arm or a bit of metal through there lip! The bigger issues need to be resolved first.’
    The issues you talk of are linked with Sikhs who think their indian culture comes before their dharam.
    All issues need to be resolved, no matter how big or small someone percieves them to be. Any issue arising in sikhi is a problem in need of tackling to keep our dharam protected.

  12. Kamal Singh said,

    May 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I have to say i agree heavily with Jasprit bhai. As Jasprit bhai, I am a Keshdhari Sardar living in the UK. I recently got a Tattoo that is personal to me but really it also sums up my beliefs on 99% of issues. Obvious topics such as, Nasha (intoxicants) and eating meat for amritdharis are clear issues that need to be addressed (i am not amritdhari and enjoy both). Pretty much all of the things Jasprit bhai mentioned are more important than someone getting some ink on their skin. As i said before, the tattoo i have sums up my feelings not just on this subject, but pretty much everything. My tattoo is on my forearm and says “Bakki Diya Gallan Chado, Dil Saaf Hona Chahida” (sorry i don’t know how to put Punjabi text on here), in Punjabi, a lyric from one of my favorite Gurdas Maan songs. Having a tattoo, to me isn’t something that can be viewed as detrimental to Sikhi, the youth militancy and almost evangelical behavior of young Sikhs who feel the need to impose views on other Sikhs, i feel is a much bigger problem.

    Rabh Rakha

  13. May 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Sikhism is being destroyed from within and without the only way to combat this disease is the educate

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