The Hair and Other Religions
Tracing back the importance and significance of human hair to the dawn of civilisation, we find that all the Vedic gods – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma — are depicted as having uncut hair in mythological stories as well as in legendary pictures. The same is true of Hindu Avtaras (phophets) — Rama and Krishna, the epic heroes of Ramayna and Mahabharta. It is generally accepted that Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha kept their hair uncut as did Zorathustra and Mohammad.
In the Bible, it is mentioned that God created man in His own image. God said, Let us make man in our own image after our likeness. It is, therefore, self-evident that the human form is complete only with uncut hair. The story of Samson, a man of prodigious strength and valour, is a pointer to the fact that human hair is a great source of courage and strength if it is kept uncut. Samson was brave and strong because his father and mother obeyed God and did not cut his hair. He was able to kill hundreds of enemies single-handed. He told the secret of his strength in these words — A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazarite to God from my birth. If I be shaved my strength will leave me and I shall become weak and be like other men.* Later, when he was enticed and his hair was cut, he became totally powerless.
* The Holy Bible – Judges 16.17
The name Samson is derived from the Hebrew word for sun (Shimshon from which the Arabic word Shams is derived and it means sun hero) Samson’s strength lay in his hair, the sun’s in its rays.
Again it is interesting to note that John, the Baptist never cut his hair. The line The very hair of your head are all numbered.* makes it clear that we should not meddle with God’s gift. As a matter of fact, only the lepers were required to shave off all their hair, beard and eyebrows in the whole of Christendom. Leprosy is an awful disease, and there being no cure for it in those days, the lepers were made distinctly recognisable by shearing off their hair. As in Hinduism, the Hindu also used to shave off a part of their hair only when a very close relation died. Shaving was thus a sign of mourning. A fine beard was thought to make a man look handsome and in order to dishonour or disgrace a man, the worst punishment was to shave off his beard when he was defeated or caught. Likewise women everywhere have kept long uncut hair and luxurious growth of hair has always been considered a hall mark of female beauty and elegance.
* New Testment, Mathew 10.30
Prophet Mohammad is said to have laid down that a Moslem should undertake the holy pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca with his hair uncut. In Gaul (France) hair was muche steemed,hence the appalation, Gallia Commata. Cutting off the hair was a punishment. The royal family of France held it as a privilege to wear long hair artfully dressed and curled.
In the Vedas there are many reference about the hair and its sanctity. The hair has always stood for holiness and saintliness. In Manu Smiriti, catching hold of the hair or snatching it in any way is forbidden even in a fight. Again it is mentioned that a good and just I should immediately punish anyone who, out of wickedness, dishonours someone by snatching and dragging him by his hair and the punishment would be to cut off both his hands. The reason was that Kesh has always been considered as giving great prestige to its possessor. The Hindus scholars in India, especially those dedicated to Sanskrit literature are inclined to keep long hair and also to wear a turban. Even today one can meet many a Hindu Pandit (Scholars) at Varanasi, Hardwar and other holy places wearing turbans in token of their learning and scholarship in theology. Many of the celebrated men of all countries kept their hair unshaven. It is worth naming a few of them — Moses, Ibrahim, Socrates, Plato, Confucious, Homer, Galilio, Dante, Goethe, Tolstoy, Karl Marx, Rabindra Nath Tagore and George Bernard Shaw.