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Q: Why Sikhs do not cut their hair but they cut their nails?

A: It is often argued that Sikhs do not cut their hair so why do they cut their nails. Sikhs only cut the dead gray part of their nails, not the alive pink/red part. This is similar to combing and removing dead hair while retaining live hair. Just like we do not cut the pink/red part of our nails, why should we cut our perfectly live and healthy hair? If anything dead grey part of nails should be compared to dandruff or dead hair removed while combing.

In addition, hair is not a hindrance to anyone. Because hair can be placed in a bun and kept clean and does perform a number of functions, it is only practical to realize that keeping hair is not hard. On the other hand, having long nails is a hindrance to the body. An individual with long nails cannot functions and do everyday chores comfortably. In order to ensure that one can perform the tasks of everyday life, only the dead part of nails is trimmed.

In addition, whereas the hair grows from a tubular pit (hair follicle), formed by sinking in of the most actively dividing layer of the skin (stratum germinativum) into the lower dermis, the gray part of nails is only modifications of the upper dead layer (stratum corneum). Further, the base of every follicle bulges out forming an inverted cup, which receives blood capillaries for nourishment and nerve fibers to make the hair sensitive. An oil gland, known as sebaceous gland, opens into every hair follicle, the secretion of which lubricates the hair. A muscle is also attached to the base of every hair for bringing about movement. Pigments are added to the shaft of the hair as it grows. None of these features is associated with the dead part of nails.

Structurally, hair is extremely strong, and resists breaking due to its elasticity and flexibility. Strength of hair can be estimated from the following facts, a human hair laid on a bar of steel and then passed through a cold rolling mill would leave an imprint on the face of the steel. A hair of a man’s beard is about as strong as a copper wire of the same dimensions. If a rope were made out of strands of long hair, it would be strong enough to lift an automobile. Dead part of nails, on the other hand, are very brittle and rigid, breaking off easily. Hair are countless (upto 125,000 on head region alone), thereby increasing the surface area. Hair protects us against the harmful Ultra Violet radiations and skin cancer while the dead part of the nails do not seem to provide a similar functionality.

The differences between the two do not end with the structural features. Even the body’s response towards the two is totally different. Our body, throughout life, tries to maintain a particular length of hair. Every individual has a specific length for hair. Once the hair reaches its specific length, it stops growing. If the hair is cut, the body responds by growing it again to the specific length. It clearly indicates the link of the body with the hair all along its length. The body shows no such response to the nails, which grow from birth to death at the same rate, irrespective of whether cut or not. It follows, thus, that cutting of the dead part of nails does not tell on the body at all, whereas, cutting of hair puts extra load on the body. To sum up, if there is anything on the head that can be compared with the dead part of nails, it is either dandruff or dead hair which are removed by combing.

Nature knows best what to retain or discard. Whatever is retained is not without purpose. Hair is a gift from God, not a burden. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in his infinite wisdom, instructed us to respect hair and refrain from tampering with it. This is the visible token of his affection for us, as well as our faith in him.


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