An Indian monk was walking slowly along the roads, and people were looking at him with astonished interest. Dress, attire, and posture were foreign to Westerners, but it was the matted strands of hair on the monk’s head that caught their attention the most. This is exactly what we call dreadlocks, the hair on the head is allowed to take the form of matted threads without being cut, combed or brushed.
One of the universal phenomena that has survived the onslaught of time, the dreadlock has its origins in ancient Vedic Hindu culture. In Hindu mythologies, it is told that Lord Shiva got power from the holy Ganges River that came to earth on a dreadlock and thus saved the world from destruction. Historically, the earliest evidence of the dreadlock is found around 2500 BC, and it was often the favorite hairstyle of sages and monks.
Hinduism has had an impact on Buddhism, Jainism and even the Greek and Roman cultures of the past. In Roman Celtic culture, dreadlocks were referred to as hair knotted like snakes. Royal families in ancient Egypt not only adopted the dreadlock, but also used dreadlocked wigs, as archaeological discoveries reveal.
Dreadlock was used not only in Egypt, Rome and Greece, but also in Germany, Mexico, the Far East, Africa and many other countries. Vikings in Germany, the Naga tribe in the Far East, the Bishops of Jerusalem, the Aztecs of Mexico were all well connected to Dreadlocks. Dreadlock, AD 14-16. It was one of the most popular hairstyles in these countries in the 19th century and was also found in Senegal with the Sufi Order.
In 1950s Jamaica, followers of the “Young Black Faith” heavily took up the dreadlock style, following the cue of poor people who have been using dreadlocks since the 1930s. It is said that when Hindu and Naga saints started visiting Jamaica in search of work in the 19th century, the dreadlock culture came to Jamaica with them. A few more trace its origins to the Mau Mau rebels of the time who fought against British colonialism.
Dreadlocks have been used by people from different cultural backgrounds for different reasons. It sometimes stems from their religious and spiritual beliefs, such as being sacred among Hindu saints and monks, and other times from social and political settings such as used by the Mau Mau rebels. To avoid the pejorative use of the term, the term “dreadlock” has been replaced by a new term, often referred to as “African Locks”, to remove the scare from terminology.
The importance of dreadlocks in eastern countries
Dreadlocks are considered sacred by Indian religious preachers as their origin is from the holy Lord Shiva. In China, too, nobles and hermits wore dreadlocks combined with long nails, denouncing all earthly devotions. In some other Asian and African countries, the dreadlock expresses the fear of the omnipotent.
Dreadlocks and the western world today
When reggae music took a big leap in the 1980s, the dreadlocks used by the world-famous singer and songwriter Bob Marley caught the imagination of the audience all over the world and there was a rush to wear dreadlocks. This has become most popular among African-Americanized people, but whites are not far behind. In particular, people raising their voices for anti-globalization and activists supporting the cause of environmental protection find dreadlocks in their choices as a symbol of recording their protest against the possible evils of globalization and environmental pollution.
Learn more: How to wear dreadlocks
Learn more about: History of Dreadlocks