Tartan and Turban

It’s not just Good Friday today, it’s also National Tartan Day so greetings and felicitations to all you national tarts out there.

I’ve been waiting for this day all year, and have managed to store up a large number of desi angles for this story, most of which, oddly enough are Sikh. The bagpiper at right is easy enough to explain – bagpipes came with the British army all over the world. It’s just a great image, as is this.

But the connections go far deeper than just bagpipes. For example, there is actually a Sikh Laird in Scotland, Baron Sirdar Iqbal Singh, who commissioned his own family tartan:

Mr. Singh, 67, who lives in Little Castle, a turreted Elizabethan mansion in Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire, and holds the title Lord of Butley Manor, Suffolk, said … “I remember thinking ‘I’m in Scotland, so why not have my own tartan?’”

The new plaid, which is on display at Paisley Museum, incorporates the Singh family colour of blue, yellow for peace, green to represent the landed gentry and red as a tribute to Gertrude, his Swiss wife. [Link]

Here is the plaid as registered with the Scottish Tartans Society.




p>The Baron is also a patron of the arts, having commissioned a series of paintings from the Singh Twins, two British sisters who combine Indian miniatures with western elements. At right is their image of the Baron, and you can see two other images from the same series here and here. [You can also see some of their more modern efforts here and here.]

But there’s far more to being Scottish than just the Baron. For example, there are various versions of Punjabi Haggis!

By using an exotic blend of fresh tomatoes, green chilli and garam masala, the women of an Edinburgh community group believe their dish will appeal to Scots looking for a healthy alternative this Burns Night… They hit upon the idea of curried haggis while trying to come up with ways of making the traditionally high-fat Sikh diet healthier. [Link]

There’s also haggis pakoras and haggis curry.

How do the Scots feel about all of this masala fusion? Well, I can’t speak directly to their opinions on haggis pakora, but surprisingly enough for a group that is trying to assert its separate identity from that of England, Scots don’t feel that you have to be white to be Scottish:

More than half thought a “true Scot” had to be born in Scotland but only 16% thought a “true Scot” had to be white…. [Link]

That said, they’re not equally welcoming to all desis. They are even more negative towards Muslims than they are towards the English, although a majority felt that there should be a law banning discrimination against both!

So just remember, for today at least, if it’s not Scottish it’s ….

p.s. are these guys the next Tigerstyle or what? [I think this link came courtesy of Fuerza Dulce but I've forgotten now]

24 thoughts on “Tartan and Turban

  1. Oh, my. Burns Night. The “intelligentsia” of the tiny town where I grew up used to celebrate Burns Night. I used to march around a table with haggis in a plaid skirt belonging to my mother which was held around my waist with safety pins. I had forgotten.

    (What was the rest of the article about? Something… South Asian???? Can’t remember. ^__^)

  2. Ennis, thanks for the wonderful post – I certainly learned a lot! And that No. 1 Punjabi in the first picture looks so cute and protective of his pipes :)

    Random question, but has anyone seen that Scottish/desi movie “A Fond Kiss?” I think it revolved around a Pakistani-Scottish family. Anyway, it was cute and fun to watch even though it was the typical desi son + white girlfriend = familial melodrama sort of thing :)

  3. European culture is kind of weird to me being an American from chicago.. But this article makes it seem cool..

  4. Brilliant Post Ennis. I’m a huge fan of Tartan Day myself and there are quite a few celebrations around NYC this weekend. That ole videos is one of my alltime favorites.

  5. Tartan. Kilts. Kilts = men with no knickers on = happy Sin.

    Yes however you forget that the ones who don on Kilts here in NYC whether it’s Tartan day or St Paddys day are not the ones I’d like to picture without knickers much less see!!!

  6. Random question, but has anyone seen that Scottish/desi movie “A Fond Kiss?” I think it revolved around a Pakistani-Scottish family. Anyway, it was cute and fun to watch even though it was the typical desi son + white girlfriend = familial melodrama sort of thing :)

    Yeah, its like a Indian movie sans songs, I remember my Scottish pals telling me its Ken Loach’s (The Film Maker) weakest film to date.

    Tartan. Kilts. Kilts = men with no knickers on = happy Sin

    I don’t know about America, as far as I know most of younger generation Scots in Scotland do wear knickers.

  7. I’m a huge fan of Tartan Day myself

    JoAt – I actually wrote the post with you in mind. I remember you had written about it on your own blog last year, which is how I found out about the holiday.

  8. Just a little note: The bagpipe and dhol is not a new combination. This combination used to be prevalent at various celebrations(Marriages etc.) in rural Haryana before the brass band came (and then the DJ’s and the ban, but that’s a different story).

  9. hey sonia… if by “these guys”, you mean the guys in the Sikh bagpipe band, then they’re all from Malaysia.. the video clip is from a malaysian tv station and thus it’s in malay..

  10. hey im on of the guys playing the bagpipe in the vids. the guy in black t shirt on the left. well all i got to say that it was just at a unofficial event that we played that with the dhol!. kinda fun at times. well we come from the malaysian sikh band. this is our video and real costume.. in tartan and turban!



  11. I have just noticed that this page is two years old but I’ve come this far so…

    I’m trying to promote the idea of re-naming “Prestwick Glasgow international Airport”. Many believe it shuld be “The Robert Burns International Ayrport, Prestwick, Scotland ” as was the Sikh Laird in Scotland, Baron Sirdar Iqbal Singh. Is there any chance of him having a say on the worldburnsclub forum?


    Cheers, Geoff

  12. “malaysian sikh band” i didn’t know there was sikhs in malaysia. wow