What Is Hindu Hair?

This topic was a real surprise to me. A friend on Facebook shared a post from Kat Blaque, a well known vlogger and activist for issues of gender and race. Ms. Blaque was telling her readers about a man who said that he was growing dreadlocks as a way to express his new found religion: Hinduism.

She thought that sounded off so she was asking for input from Hindus about whether dreads are a part of the religion. To her he seemed like someone who is doing it more for vanity and finding an excuse.

To me it certainly also seemed strange. People on the householders path don’t have dreadlocked hair. You do see what are called jata in images of Lord Shiva and also on sadhus/ascetics.

One woman brought up something interesting, which is that jata are not the same as dreads. Apparently matting the hair is a different process from dreadlocks. That knowledge helped me understand why non-Black people wearing dreadlocks is often considered cultural misappropriation. I’ve always felt that if your hair does something naturally when you ignore it, then the result cannot be misappropriation. But I didn’t realize that what happens to White people’s hair when left alone is not the same as what happens to Black people’s hair.

The other thing I heard on this FB thread was that the reason you see jata on ascetics is that it is part of abandoning the world and vanity and just letting the hair go. I had not heard that as the reason before.

With a little further investigation I heard about this book called Dreads, which apparently traces the history of locks / matted hair. It suggests that the dreads worn in various cultures today grew from India.

However, I can’t say I’ve ever seen any Hindu who hasn’t abandoned the world wearing dreads or jata. My own comment was that he can do what he likes with his hair but if he thinks wearing dreads will make him look more authentically Hindu, he’s going to be disappointed!



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  • Amar

    one of my relative in USA says, that girls here in india keeps short here and aged ones long, in USA girls there keeps long here in early age, and short in later years, true? and Africans I’m sure spends the most of this, your views?

    • Ambaa

      Yes, here there is a perception that long hair is “youthful” and when you get older you should have short hair. It’s pretty rare to see older women with long hair.

      • Amar

        contrary here (length of hair Vs age).

  • Jay

    “Hindu Hair” ?? Now how this religion got into hair? Splitting hair on this topic is useless. Not cutting hair may be saves time and money. I don’t see any religion attached to this.

  • dr.viraj pradhan

    The hair/dreadlocks or jata are symbols of the 72,000 naadis( psychic channels) that a yogi is expected to master.These naadis are also represented in Krishna’s stories where many Gopis are shown dancing around him.What is conveyed in both these is an esoteric concept of bringing into conscious control the psychic channels.One who controls theese is Krishna or the jata dhari( one who carries the jatas).All those who wear these long hair are just copying the symbol without actually mastering the real.The tuft of hair that some wear at the crown represents the area at which Pranic Energy is supposed to reach(Bindu).Many Hare Krishna people exhibit this symbol.Again,it represents mastering a very high state of consciousness.Ganesha’s trunk, Buddhist Godess Ekajata and Tantrik Godess Chhinnamasta –all rich with the 3 main naadi symbolism( Ida,Pingala and Sushumna

    One needs to read many books to understand this symbolism:-God Talks With Arjun by Paramahansa Yogananda,Second Coming of Christ/Yoga Of Christ by the same Author,some books by Swami Rama and Usharbudhh Arya( Swami Veda Bharati) and translation of Hathayoga Pradipeeka by Swami Muktibodhananda( An Australian lady).One more book I have recently come across is Kriya Yoga Unlocked by Triloki Nath( many fantastic parallels drawn between the Book Of Revelation and certain Upanishads/Tantra/Yoga books).There are some others by Bihar School Of Yoga by Satyananda Saraswati( Swami Muktibodhananda was Swami Satyananda’s desciple–stayed in his Bihar School Of Yoga and mastered many disciplines. She went back to Australia.

    I hope this suffices.With Best Regards,Ambaa


    Jata is more associated with Shivism and some of his satsanghi do keep Jata as symbol of renouncing the world. But mostly it’s done by the ascetic of Shivism not the householders.

  • dr.viraj pradhan

    I meant best regards to Ambaa,since I wanted her to have this information.Thanks,

  • Agni Ashwin

    The documentary “Dreadlocks Story” might be of some interest.

  • Pliny The Elder

    So you’ve never seen a sadhu?

  • Kirran

    I’m a Hindu, and I’m letting my hair do what it wants as part of that 🙂 I do feel it’s rather just a case of giving it up to Shiva, letting it be in its natural state – which is akin to Shiva’s jata! I am not an ascetic, although that is what I am sure I will be when my current obligations are through.

  • Seeker

    I just read a book entitled Shiva Stories and Teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana by Mataji Devi Vanamali. In it she describes Shiva as “white as camphor and wears his hair in matted locks coiled in the shape of a shell.’

    Another thing that relates Hinduism and Rastafarianism is Shiva and Rasta’s
    dreadlocks. Most of the ancient Rishi’s mentioned in the Hindu
    scriptures had grown their ‘Jata’ knotted hair when they renounced
    normal living and became Spiritual Sadhus; these are some of the most
    respected people from the religion. It is also noted that in the famous
    epic ‘The Ramayana’, both Ram and Lakshman grow their hair into Jata’s
    when they went into the jungle for 14 years.

    I wish I could grow longer hair but there are so many other things I need to prefect that hair becomes very insignificant.
    Bless you Amba

  • Namasivaya!
    i am a french hatha/bhakti yogi, in particular a khecara, practitioner of khecari mudra on which i wrote a book (http://yoga-en-provence.com/khecari-mudra-when-the-divine-goddess-takes-of-in-inner-space/).

    Indeed Siva is also called “Jatadhara” (the one with Jata).
    My two cents regarding this discussion, from the yogic experimental perspective, mentioning what happens with hairs and beard
    (i do not define all the yogic term i am using for not making this post too long) :

    In yoga practice, one of the aim is to awake the energy lying at the base of the spine (Sakti, Kundalini) and to make it ascent along the spine, up to Siva, residing at the top of the crown. To help this process we use “anchoring points”, yogic tricks if you like, amongst them “moolabandha, khecari mudra and shambavi mudra”

    Some time ago, I had a dream pushing me not to cut my hairs any longer neither to brush them. It had been two years that I had not cut my hairs but they did not grow, and a lot of them were falling. However after that dream my hairs started to grow and mingle.

    Two years later, i discovered that positioning my matted hairs on top of my skull is helping the energetic flux to go that way: this is another “anchoring point” to trigger the process of making the energy going up, allowing Sakti to join Siva.
    Also this positioning of the hairs makes me more sensitive to the activity in sahasrara chakra (the crown 1000 petals lotus).
    It is one of the reasons to use hair conductivity in yogic pursuits. I had already observed since some time that hairs define some specific nadis. I had realised that the more the hair locks and get mingled and thickens, the bigger is going to be the quantity of prana that pass through them. If I pick up a lock between my fingers I can clearly feel that that lock brings energy from my hand to my skull. I then understand why two years earlier my hairs started to grow and to mingle: a device was starting to set up ! From that time my head knot pulls sushumna nadi towards the crown.
    About two years later, my beard begins to grow; I welcome this and investigate its pranic dimension. This appears clear to me: hairs of the beard are also defining nadis. The image of the Pharaohs of Egypt comes to my mind, with their false beard, considered as a Divine attribute. I can observe that the beard generates kind of a descending pranic flow; this flow then in turn generates an ascending flow, sushumna nadi rises. To summarise, the hair knot and the beard appears to me as tools for my verticality. I experience then why many yogis have long hairs dressed in top head knots and long beards. On the other hand many shave their heads and beard regularly with yogic purposes. Once more there are several ways to follow depending on our sensitivity and inclinations. Different and equivalent ways, no one is superior to another.

    Jay Jatadhara !

    All the best,