How much attention is paid to Indian beards shows the recently released book, Hair India: Bizarre Beards and Magnificent Moustaches of Hindustan, by Richard McCallum and Chris Stowers. The duo followed Indian men for two years, sprouting their own beards to break the ice, and clicked hundreds of photographs – while they still could. The BBC jumped on the bandwagon and declared, India Moustaches ‘Face the Chop’ in a 1st January 2009 article. But whether this is true remains to be seen and will depend on etiquette in offices and the wearer’s tradition and culture.
This man is so famous, he has to hide behind black glasses – indeed he gained entry into the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest moustache. Here he’s dressed for the occasion and has picked the perfect spot in front of one of Rajasthan’s great structures, getting himself clicked for a few rupees. But how does he ever cycle or eat soup with that thing?
Leaving the long moustaches now, this man’s moustache is quite a common sight on Indian roads. Is this still a moustache or a moustache cum sidelocks? In any case, this is a very well-kept specimen with a proud owner.
This young man has taken the concept further and seriously merged sidelocks, beard and moustache, while his friend in the background has given up on any grooming. But the picture is proof that though especially among urban youths, clean-shaven more often than not wins the battle, some young men still hold on to the Indian beard tradition.
Here’s a shoe seller in Hyderabad. The henna that he dyed his beard with indicates that he has undertaken the pilgrimage to Mecca.
This man’s bright red beard could indicate such a hajj (pilgrimage) but he might also be from Kashmir, where dying beards with henna is common. Also, it is forbidden for Muslim men to dye their hair or beard with anything but henna.
This hookah-smoking man in Jodhpur seems very relaxed. He has parted his beard in the middle and seems to go for the bushy look that even covers his ears.
Here are two Indian holy men (sadhus) clicked at the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad in 2007, the largest congregation of Indian sadhus that takes place alternately at Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar. Though only held every twelve years, each Kumbha Mela lasts for three months. The sadhu in the front seems to be of the Naga sect, whose followers remain naked and let their hair grow in dreadlocks called jata. So yes, what looks like a brown turban is actually fat strands of hair, piled up high!
For Sikhs, long hair is part of their religion and they are not allowed to cut their hair nor trim their beards. The old man in this picture seems to enjoy time with the younger generation. The boys wear casual turbans called keski or patka , preferred by young Sikhs and when playing sports. Don’t miss the pink popsicles!
This last image shows a young Sikh with traditional beard, moustache and a formal turban called dastar or pagri. The great thing about beards and beard fashions is that while they distinguish one community from another, they also transcend barriers built by religion, caste and class. After all, only a man who sports one himself can truly appreciate another man’s beard!