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Above: How to wear a chunni.


What Shall I Wear?





Dr. Gunisha Kaur, a Sikh-American human rights activist who is also an anesthesiologist, spends most of her day in scrubs. She is Director of the Department of Anesthesiology's Global Health Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College.

On Friday, September 25, 2015, when she takes her place as one of only a few people who will lead an interfaith service with Pope Francis at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan, Gunisha needs a different outfit.

She has known for some weeks about her role in the event, where she will deliver a Sikh prayer with her father, Sardar Satpal Singh.

"But what do you wear to meet the pope?” she has been asking herself.

She finally figured it out.

“I decided to wear a traditional Punjabi salwar-kameez in deep blue,” Gunisha said. “It is a three-piece outfit with a long tunic top (kameez), traditional loose pants (salwar) and a headscarf (chunni).”

The salwar-kameez is the regal Punjabi female costume which has now become universal as the daily and formal wear of choice by women across the length and breadth of the Subcontinent.

Gunisha, who usually doesn’t cover her head in public, will wear the chunni -- the head scarf which forms the third constituent of the salwar-kameez combination -- throughout the interfaith service, as women do during Sikh services.

“It is particularly important to me as I represent my Sikh faith,” she said.

[Courtesy: Religion News. Edited for]
September 24, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Dwight McCormack (New York, USA), September 24, 2015, 9:55 AM.

Regal, indeed!

2: Harsaran Singh (Denpasar, Indonesia), September 24, 2015, 12:57 PM.

It is a matter of honor for Satpal Singh ji & Dr. Gunita Kaur to represent the Panth at the ceremony. The fact that ardaas will be performed along with other inter faith prayers makes us all very proud for the saroop bestowed upon us by our Gurus. Though personally I have my reservations about politicians attending the congregation at the September 11 memorial. Making friends and enemies as per their convenience, these are the people who eulogized the terrorists in movies like Rambo I & Rambo II and named them "Mujahideen", now they are called a threat to humanity. Had the tragic incident of September 11 not happened, what would have been their status?

3: Harinder Singh 1469 (New Delhi, India), September 24, 2015, 2:12 PM.

Also, it has a lot to do with colours. No Punjaban is complete without a paraandi, Muktsar di Jutti, phulkari, etc. Then, they stand out and instantly turn into trendsetters.

4: Arjan Singh (USA), September 24, 2015, 5:46 PM.

Intelligence ... Elegance ... Courage ... I could go on and on.

5: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), September 24, 2015, 10:14 PM.

It is my understanding that Dr. Gunisha Kaur will deliver a Sikh prayer with her father, Dr. Satpal Singh, both representing Sikhism which is a world religion, not a Punjabi ethnic religion. Thus it is not required that she wear any specific ethnic or regional dress; she can wear any decent dress that pleases her. Yes, when we are in front of our Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, we must cover our head to show respect. Also, Guru Arjan gave us a very universal prayer given on page 268 of GGS. “You are my only icon of worship; to You may I open my Heart. May all I am and all I have, my body and my soul, belong only to You. All are within Your domain. You are my mother, You are my father; I am Your child ... In Thy will, may all humankind thrive and flourish!"

6: Arjan Singh (USA), September 25, 2015, 1:31 PM.

I agree with Dr. Lal. Dr. Gunisha Kaur does not have to dress in an attire of the Punjab region as Sikhism is a world religion and not tied to any garb. That she chooses to do so is her choice entirely; just as a Scottish New Yorker would wear his kilt or a Texan would wear his hat or punk-rock star might wear his Doc Marten boots. This is the reason why we have a democracy and its accompanying freedom of expression. Democracy exists. Would it not be boring if we all had to dress in Mao-style tunics as most did in authoritarian China or drive the same car (Lada) as did most in the erstwhile Soviet Union?

7: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), September 26, 2015, 10:54 AM.

The glory of the Sikh religion is its universality. Guru Nanak was the Guru not of Sikhs alone but of all people of all ages. Guru Nanak set out on his mission of love and service and he covered in his travels not only the subcontinent but beyond to Egypt, Turkey, Arabia, Afghanistan, etc., etc., despite the fact that facilities for travel did not exist then. And Guru Arjan synthesised faiths in our scriptures that had gone before to present the message of Sikhism which is Unity in Diversity. The principal belief of Sikhism is Love, Tolerance and Universal brotherhood. However, people generally wear the garments to indicate the origin of their religion when they attend such a service.

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