The Meaning and Significance Behind Shikha

Why do we see some priests and monks have a shaved head with a tuft of hair in the back? First of all, this tuft of hair is called a shikha. When long enough, it tied in a knot at the crown-point (right above the suture) on the central top of the head. This point is given distinctive importance in the science of yoga and spirituality as the point of contact with the brain-centre of intellectual and emotional sensitivity. It also indicates the body as a temple.

The Shikha symbolizes the presence of discerning intellect, farsightedness, and the deity of knowledge upon our head. It is a flag of human culture. It reminds us of the religious principles of morality, righteousness, responsibility, and dutiful awareness.

This body is the fort of the individual self upon which the flag of the shikha is hoisted as the mark of the dignified values and virtues of humanity. The foreign invaders, the crusaders against the Vedic (Indian) culture had attempted to eliminate the roots of this divine culture by first cutting the shikha and removing the sutra (sacred thread) from the bodies of the followers of the Vedic religion. Thousands of innocent heads were cut off just for protesting against this attack. It was for protecting the glory of these universal emblems of human religion that Maharana Pratap, Vir Shivaji, Guru Govind Sigh, and other great martyrs of India had dedicated their noble lives. Today, we have forgotten their sacrifices and done what even the foreign invaders of the medieval times could not do.

The commencement of wearing of the sutra and tightening of the sikha at the time of initiation (diksha) into Gayatri sadhana is referred in the shastras as dwijatva – the second birth, and the one who wears the sacred thread (sutra) and keeps the shikha is called adwija, or twice-born as a brahmana. That means that regardless of whatever family line one has been born into, he has now attained his second birth as a brahmana.

The shikha also represents the sirsa (top) of the Gayatri Mantra. It reminds the devotee of the subtle presence of the pure divine intelligence in the human mind. Tightening the hair knot right above the suture induces marvelous psychological benefits. It helps in harmonious blood circulation in the brain in normal conditions and augments alertness. As described in the yoga-scriptures, it also lends support in increasing mental concentration and meditation. In terms of its sublime spiritual effects, the shikha works like an antenna in the outer domain of the sahasrara chakra (topmost extrasensory centre) to link the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness in the elevated state of Gayatri sadhana.
~ Stephen Knapp


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  • Thank you. Very illuminating article. It is important to know the meaning behind our symbols. Do you have any sastric references that we could reference to help explain these concepts to others?

  • Hello
    This is one part of explanation. Actually the Shikha will tell from which school of veda is the student learning during vedic period. If student is from Rig veda school he will have small portion at the back center rest shaved, if the student is from Yajurveda school his front half moon shape will be shaved and center portion of the head will have long shikha which will be left. If the student is from Samaveda school he should not cut his hair, a long shikha will be left, if the student is from Atarvaveda he should not grow hair on his head or face completely shaved. This the vedic system representation for the student. Now a days these system no one are following only for fashion they are leaving the shikha.
    During vedic period males used grow long hair and used have flower in there shikha. Secondly one who is having very long and beautiful shikha in his head used call them as shikhandi (shikha means long hair and andi means rounded on the head with beautiful flowers).

  • Good article on shikha, good rejoinders from readers. Kindly provie some referances from ancient texts such as puranas and sutras to get into indepth knowledge about Dwijstvs,Shikha, Mounji etc.

  • I think these type of articles must be published continuously so that these can get imbibed and the concerned would respect this principles since they understand the meaning. They would also be able to explain the reason behind such practices to other . Please continue postings such articles

  • Jay prakash sorry your thinking is wrong shikha or tuft and sacred thread is mandatory for a brahmin and is provided during upanayana. Still this is not closed chapters still our vedic culture is followed by many places in south India we can see Sanskrit speaking people were there in mathur ,shimoga,Karnataka

  • Do we need to tiedup the shikha everytime, and we should not eat outside, are there some eating restrictions relevant to keeping shikha n sacred thread.
    pls let us know.

  • Shikha is not purely for particular Varna. It was prescribed for all varnas. What has been mentioned here is only in reference to one varna.

  • Even in present days also several people have been sporting shika, not only Brahmins but also a large number of people belonging to other communies. Comparitively the practice is scanty in southern states. Here only Brahmins that also fewer those acting as priest in temples and others acting as purohits are sporting shika. Others sport it symbolically during thread marriage and also while performing funeral rituals etc.