Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance! ~Coco Chanel

Lets start by asking ourselves a question - Why do we cover our heads? Most Hindu cultures (from which I belong) say that covering one's head is a sign of respect. It is also a symbol of total surrender; when you cover your head in front of someone, it shows that you are surrendering yourself and your pride to the one in front of you. This practice has been in our culture for generations. No one really knows when exactly it started but we still practice it today. The most common you can see is when newly married brides are required to cover their heads, as a sign of submission to the authority of the in-laws.

Covering of the hair also signified status. In earlier times it also signified division of women who were respectable. It meant either they were married or taken and not available to others or from a particular class who were higher than the rest.

We Hindus also cover our heads before entering a temple. The most logical explanation behind this being, hair is the most attractive part of our body, so by covering it, we prevent attracting any unwanted attention from men around. We do not want people's attention diverted from God now, do we!! It again symbolizes total submission and surrender to God. The Sikhs for example are required to cover their head at all times. The purpose of modesty for the Sikhs is just not to cover the head but to keep their head clean, as a constant reminder to do good deeds in life.

While the world is stuck on Muslim women covering their heads, many of us will be surprised to know that in all religion covering the head or your hair, is an important and integral part of faith. 

With the advent of modernity, many of us do not cover our heads, or cover only at specific occasions. With the passing of each day and trying to fit in the modern world, many of us have forgotten the traditions and practices that our ancestors were deeply rooted in.  This also includes me. I only cover my head and also my face to beat the intense summer heat and the pollution. Other times I am just myself, forgetting the rules of society and floating in a world that is only mine.

Then again how much can we identity the religion of someone, just by looking at their head covering.

If you take a look at the above image, you will probably think that all these women follow Islam. But let me surprise you....the women is in the first picture wearing black burqas, hugely mistaken for Muslim women is actually Yemenite Jewish women. The second image again represents Coptic Christians in Bethlehem from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Its what I say always - clothes identify you but does not stereotype you.

Here are some of the head coverings from all over the world...

African Gele


  1. Hi Mitana, a great article you have compiled here, and what lovely photos. Are these your own photos? I would love to use them as a part of world hijab day on February 1rst to increase awareness on headscarfs in all cultures, and I would love to use photos from your blogspot here. Would that be ok? my email:


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