What is a Saropa? (Culture and Society)

This article details the origins and meaning of the word Saropa (Siropa)

In the Sikh culture a ‘Saropa’ is a robe of honour.

Literal Meaning of Saropa

Saropa, also spelled ‘siropa’, is a contraction of the Hindi phrase ‘sar de upar’ meaning literally ‘Upon the Head’. Like a crown or a garland, the saropa presentation is a form of a felicitation and the siropa identifies the person who is being honoured.

Alternatively, according to the definition from “Dictionary of Sikh Philosophy”: “SAROPAI/SAROPAO; Saropa is a Persian word, which literally means: (a dress) from head (Sar) to feet (Pao).

The Saropa Garment

Currently, it is saffron in colour which signifies penance, peace, purity, simplicity, and piousness. Saffron holds symbolic meaning in Sikhism, representing spirit and sacrifice. Originally a shade of yellow called basanti (spring), the field of the modern Nishan Sahib (Sikhs triangular flag) is saffron. Turbans are worn by Sikhs most often blue or white, but saffron is common.

In the ceremony of presenting Saropa people generally present Saropa with some phrases which says “Bole So Nihal… Sat Sri Akal” is a slogan or Jaikara (literally shout of victory, triumph, or exultation). It is divided in two parts or phrases. The first, ‘Bole So Nihal’, is a statement meaning "whoever utters (the phrase following) shall be happy, shall be fulfilled," and the second part "Sat Sri Akal". "Sat" means "truth", "Sri" (an honorific word) means "great" and "Akal" (or Akaal) means "the eternal timeless being, i.e. God"; thus, the phrase can roughly be translated as "God is the Ultimate Truth". In some Saropa ceremony people generally present the Saropa along with some gifts as a token of love but in most cases they only present Saropa.


The tradition of Siropao in Sikhism is very old. This tradition was introduced by Muslim invaders in India. Though there is no particular reference from the life history of Guru Nanak Sahib it seems likely that the tradition might have begun during that period.

The first clear reference to Siropao, however, dates to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, who, at the time of judging the credentials of the Masands, presented Siropao to those who were honest missionaries. Guru Angad also bestowed upon Guru Amar Das a scarf every year. The latter treated these scarfs as sacred gifts and carried them tied on his head one above the other.

Siropao is a special honour, it is recognition of the services or contribution of some personality, and hence it must be given to a few persons only and that even with great caution.

Since the early period of the twentieth century, when Darbar Sahib Amritsar and other Gurdwaras came under the control of the Sikh gurdwaras), who were mostly Hindus, they began presenting Siropao to English officers, the kings, the princes, feudal and other rich persons who made offerings of a lot of money or valuables.

The Mahants, however, changed Siropao from a cloak/dress to a blue turban (later, under the Hindu tradition, they changed the colour from blue to saffron, the colour of the Udasi ascetics (Religious sect based on the teachings of Guru Nanak’s elder son Sri Chand). They also changed the colour of the Sikh flag from blue to saffron. The Nihangs, however, continued the original colour). Sometimes later, the size of the Siropao turban was reduced from five yards to about two yards.

Kinds of Saropa

There are two kinds of siropas - the intrinsic and the political. First, the intrinsic one: In 1733 the Mughal rulers realized that they could not contain or fix the Sikhs and decided to make peace with them. Subhag Singh was then in the Mughal diplomatic service and was chosen to identify a Sikh leader and to confer upon him the title of ‘Nawabi’ together with other expensive gifts that went with it - which included a jagir and suzerainty over 12 villages and a monthly stipend of Rs. 5000.

When Subhag Singh reached Amritsar, a diwan was in progress where some were reciting Gurbani while others were engaged in various seva/chores. Nobody paid any attention to Subhag Singh. One Darbara Singh was then spotted and was asked to take the ‘Nawabi’. His snap reply was: “oye, mainu satguraa(n) nay nawabi bakhshi hoi hai” - “I am already a Nawab - it’s a gift of the Guru!” Subhag Singh was quite quick to point out: “Yes, indeed, this is not fit for the likes of Sardar Darbara Singh, but it would not be good to spurn this offer if it were to bring peace." "Then," replied Darbara Singh, "Why not chose any simple sevadar for this title?" Just at that moment, someone spotted and pointed out Lord’s service and is admitted into the mansion of His presence, unto whom the Satguru is compassionate.” This ‘tuk’ worked like magic and amidst jaikaaras and unanimous approval of the community, Kapur Singh was compelled to accept the title of Nawab.

In abject humility, he first placed the robe of honour - the siropa - at the feet of the Panj Pyare, among whom were Baba Deep Singh, Bhai Karam Singh and Jallianwala Bagh by General Dyer on Vaisakhi Day, 1919, he was conferred a siropa in the Darbar Sahib itself by a clergy handpicked by the British themselves. It sent shock waves through the community! Now, a ‘siropa’ is even more cheaply obtained if you just pay Rs. 100 or so donation and are promptly issued, painlessly, a saffron coloured scarf and a ‘patasa’ (sugar cake) at the Harmandir Sahib and elsewhere. This is seen as making economic sense to sell ‘siropas’ as artifacts and instant recognition.

The Real Saropa

The real Saropa of the Gurmat is given/taken at the level of the mind or Aatmaa! The SGGS teaches us that such worldly honour (praise, recognition, glory, grandeur, “ਵਡਿਆਈਆ” …) to be false and temporary, which inflates one’s ego and separates him from his own Mool (Source, Truth…), as well as rest of the people. Thus, it puts one on a wrong path.

As evident from the Gurbani, the Gurus and Bhagats tried to transform worldly Siropa into Divine Siropa or Spiritual Siropa. They counseled people to imbibe in Virtues (ਗੁਣ) like Satt (Truth) Santokh (contentment) Giaan (Wisdom-spiritual Knowledge) Daya (compassion) Dharma Dheeraj (patience), etc., and the Wisdom or Giaan through Bhakti.

Reference of Saropa from GGS

“aau baith aadhar sabh thaiee uoon na katahoo(n) baataa || bhagat sirapaau dheeo jan apune prataap naanak prabh jaataa” ||2||30||94|| I am asked to come and be seated, everywhere I go, and I lack nothing. The Lord blesses His humble devotee with robes of honor; O Nanak, the Glory of God is manifest. “sunee pukaar samarath suaamee ba(n)dhan kaaT savaare || pahir sirapaau sevak jan mele naanak pragaT pahaare” ||2||29||93|| The Almighty Lord and Master heard my prayer; cutting away my bonds, He has adorned me. He dressed me in robes of honor, and blended His servant with Himself; Nanak is revealed in glory throughout the world. ||2||29||93|| "bhagat jana ka lugara odhi nagan na hoi sakat sirpau resmi pahirat pati khoi — devotees of God are not naked even in torn rag. One who is attached to maya loses his honour clad even in his silk robes” (GG, 811).


  1. Siropa ( sikhiwiki.org)
  2. What Is A Siropa? Sikhing Answers - XXIII ( sikhchic.com)
  4. Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( wikipedia.org)
  5. Dictionary of Sikh Philosophy by Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer
  6. The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism Vol 4 edited by Harbans singh
  7. SIROPA ( thesikhencyclopedia.com)
  8. A Popular dictionary of Sikhism by W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi
  9. Das Guru by Gurpreet singh
  10. Reginald Dyer ( wikipedia.org)
  11. Nawab Kapur Singh ( wikipedia.org)

Video References

  1. Dr.sukhpreet singh speech by saropa ( youtube.org)


Here are the definitions of key terms in this article.

AatmaaAatmaa (self) is the element (part, fraction) of Paramaatma (Supreme Soul) in human being. Hence Aatma and Parmaatma are the same substance. In other words, both are substantially same but qualitatively different. See AATMA ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

AmritsarAmritsar is a historic and the second largest city in the Indian state of Punjab. It is regarded as the principal holy city of the Sikhs. See AMRITSAR ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Baba Deep SinghBaba Deep Singh is revered among Sikhs as one of the most hallowed martyrs in Sikhism and as a highly religious person. He is remembered for his sacrifice and devotion to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. See Baba Deep Singh ( wikipedia.org)

BasantiBasant or Basanti is refer to Spring season in India. See Basant ( wikipedia.org)

BhagatsBhagat is a Punjabi word derived from the Sanskrit word Bhagavata, which means: a devotee of the God. See Bhagat ( wikipedia.org)

Bhai Budh SinghBhai Budh Singh was the great- great grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit singh. See About Maharaja Ranjit Singh ( https://www.sukerchakia.com/)

Bhai Karam SinghThe first of the Panj Piare or the Five Beloved celebrated in theSikh tradition, was the son of Bhai Suddha, a Sobti Khatri of Lahore, and Mai Diali. His original name was Daya Ram. See Bhai Daya Singh ( sikhiwiki.org)

BhaktiThe word bhakti is derived from Sanskrit Bhakti, meaning to serve, honour, revere, love and adore. See Bhagti ( sikhiwiki.org)

Bole So NihalIt is a Jaikara or war cry or Clarion call of Sikhs given by the Tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. See Bole So Nihal ( wikipedia.org)

Darbar Sahib AmritsarDarbar Sahib refers to the main hall within a Sikh gurdwara. This hall is where the holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (current and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs), is placed on a takhat or throne in a prominent central position. See Darbar Sahib ( sikhiwiki.org)

Darbar SahibDarbar Sahib refers to the main hall within a Sikh gurdwara. This hall is where the holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (current and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs), is placed on a takhat or throne in a prominent central position. See Darbar Sahib Hall ( wikipedia.org)

Darbara SinghDarbara Singh originally from the mercantile community of Sirhind, became a Sikh receiving the initiatory rites on 30 March 1699, the day the Khalsa was created, and took part in the battles of Anandpur. See Darbara Singh, Dlwan ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

DayaIt is a Hindi word which means compassion. See Daya (Sikhism) ( wikipedia.org)

Dharma DheerajIt is a Hindi word which means patience. See Dhiraj ( nepaliname.com)

DiwanDiwan is a punjabi word which means a "religious event" or gathering. See Diwan ( sikhiwiki.org)

GarlandA circular or spiral arrangement of intertwined material (such as flowers or leave). See Garland ( wikipedia.org)

General DyerColonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, was an officer of the Bengal Army and later the newly constituted Indian Army. See Reginald Dyer ( wikipedia.org)

GiaanIt is a Hindi word which means knowledge. See Meaning of Giaan ( indiachildnames.com)

GodThe fundamental belief of Sikhism, too, is that God exists, not merely as an idea or concept, but as a Real Being, indescribable yet not unknowable. See God ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

GurbaniGurbani is a Sikh term, very commonly used by Sikhs to refer to various compositions by the Sikh Gurus and other writers of Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Books). See Gurbani ( wikipedia.org). See also Bani ( sikhiwiki.org)

GurdwarasIt is a place of assembly and worship for Sikhs. See Gurdwara ( wikipedia.org)

GurmatGurmat is theology includes teachings of Sikh Bhagats and Sikh Gurus which is incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib. See Gurmat ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Guru Amar dasGuru Amar Das Sahib Ji was the third of ten Gurus or prophet teachers of the Sikh faith. See Guru Amar Das ( sikhiwiki.org)

Guru AngadGuru Angad was the second of the ten Gurus or prophet teachers of the Sikh faith. See Guru Angad ( wikipedia.org)

Guru Gobind SinghGuru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth and last of the human form Gurus of Sikhism (religion). Guru Gobind Sing was spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. See Guru Gobind Singh ( wikipedia.org). Also Guru Gobind Singh ( sikhiwiki.org)

Guru Nanak SahibGuru Nanak Dev Ji is the founder and first Guru of Sikhism (religion). See Guru Nanak ( sikhiwiki.org)

GuruOne who dispels the darkness of ignorance (‘gu’), and brings enlightenment and vision (‘ru’). A Guru is a spiritual guide, teacher and en-lightener; a person who leads us away from the darkness of spiritual ignorance and towards enlightenment of reality. See Guru ( sikhiwiki.org)

Harmandir SahibThe Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning "abode of God". See Golden Temple ( wikipedia.org)

Hindi It is a Hindi word (Indian local language) which means compassion. See Hindu ( sikhiwiki.org)

Hindu (Hinduism)Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life. It is the world’s third-largest religion, with over 1.25 billion followers. See Hinduism ( wikipedia.org)

HindusHindu, in general is a term used for a person that follows the religion of Hinduism. See Hindu ( sikhiwiki.org)

IslamIslam is the religion founded on the revelation claimed by Muhammad (c. AD 570- 632). It is the second-largest religion in the world, with an estimated 1.9 billion adherents, called Muslims. See Islam ( citizendium.org). Also List of religious populations ( wikipedia.org)

JagirIt is a type of feudal land grant in the Indian subcontinent at the foundation of its Jagirdar (Zamindar) system. See Jagir ( wikipedia.org)

JaikaarasJaikaaras or Jaikara is war cry or Clarion call of Sikhs which express Sikh belief that all victory (jai) belongs to God. See Bole So Nihal ( sikhiwiki.org)

JaikaraIt is a war cry or Clarion call of Sikhs which express Sikh belief that all victory (jai) belongs to God. See Bole So Nihal ( sikhiwiki.org)

Jallianwala BaghJallianwala Bagh Massacre, involving the killing of hundreds of unarmed, defenceless Indians by a senior British military officer, took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs. See Jallianwala Bagh massacre ( wikipedia.org)

Kapur SinghNawab Kapur Singh Virk is considered one of the most revered, pivotal and legendary figures in Sikh history post 1716. Under his leadership decisions and courage, the Numerous Sikh community went through some of the darkest periods of its history. See Nawab Kapur Singh ( sikhiwiki.org)

LordIn Sikhism, God is conceived as the Oneness that permeates the entirety of creation and beyond. See God in Sikhism ( wikipedia.org). Also Guru Nanak & Lord Jagannath ( sikhiwiki.org)

MahantsMahant is a religious superior, in particular the chief priest of a temple or the head of a monastery in Indian religions. See Mahant ( wikipedia.org)

Maharaja Ranjit SinghMaharaja Ranjit Singh popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or "Lion of Punjab", was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. See Ranjit Singh ( wikipedia.org)

MasandsA Masand was a representative and tithe collector in Sikhism. He was an officially appointed missionary minister representing the Sikh Guru. See Masand ( wikipedia.org)

MoolThe Mool Mantar (also spelt Mul Mantra) is the most important composition contained within the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs; it is the basis of Sikhism. The word "Mool" means "main", "root" or "chief" and "Mantar" means "magic chant" or "magic portion". See Mool Mantar ( sikhiwiki.org)

MughalThe Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur, a warrior chieftain from what today is Uzbekistan, who employed aid from the neighbouring Safavid and Ottoman empires, to defeat the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi, in the First Battle of Panipat. See Mughal ( sikhiwiki.org)

MuslimA Muslim is a believers in the religion of Islam. It can be translated, in Arabic, as "one who submits to the rule of Allah". See Muslims ( wikipedia.org)

Nawab (Nawabi)Nawab or Nawabi is an Urdu title, derived from the Arabic "naib". It is the honorific plural of naib meaning ‘deputy’. See Nawab ( sikhiwiki.org)

NihangsThe Nihang (or Akali) is an armed Sikh warrior. See Nihang ( wikipedia.org)

Nishan SahibThe Nishan Sahib is a Sikh triangular flag made of cotton or silk cloth, with a tassel at its end. See Nishan Sahi ( wikipedia.org)

Panj PyareIt is a name given to the five Sikhs, Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Muhkam Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh, who were so designated by Guru Gobind Singh. See Panj Piare ( sikhiwiki.org)

PatasaA devotional offering made to a god, typically consisting of Patasa which is circular and white in colour is later shared among devotees. See Batasha, the Sweet Candy That’s the Most Favourite Temple Food ( food.ndtv.com)

PersianThe Persians are members of an ethnic group forming the modern Iranian nationality. See Persians ( wikipedia.org)

PunjabiPunjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ in Gurmukhi, پنجابی in Shahmukhi) is a word that refers to the native language of the residents of the area of India and Pakistan (formerly India) called Punjab and also to the people who live in this region. See Punjabi ( sikhiwiki.org)

RsRs is the former symbol for the Indian rupee (INR) which is the official currency of India. The current symbol for the rupee is ₹. See Indian rupee ( wikipedia.org)

SGGSIt is the name of a holy book of Sikh religion. See Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Saffronthe deep orange aromatic pungent dried stigmas of a purple-flowered crocus (Crocus sativus) used to color and flavor foods. See Saffron ( wikipedia.org)

SangatSangat is a Sikh term with its origin in the Sanskrit word sangh, which means company, fellowship and association. See Sangat ( wikipedia.org)

SantokhIt is a Hindi word (Indian local language) which means contentment. See Santokh ( sikhiwiki.org)

Sar de Upar (सर दे ऊपर)Literally ‘Upon the Head’ in the Indian language (hindi).

Sardar Darbara SinghDarbara Singh originally from the mercantile community of Sirhind, became a Sikh receiving the initiatory rites on 30 March 1699, the day the Khalsa was created, and took part in the battles of Anandpur. See Darbara Singh Dlwan ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Saropai“Saropa” is a Persian word which means head to foot. But the last “i” is added due to Punjabi language tone.

Sat Sri AkalIt is now used, often, as a greeting by Punjabi Sikhs. It is the second half of the Sikh Clarion call, given by the Tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, "Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal" (Shout Aloud in Ecstasy… Truth is the Timeless One’’ ). See Bole So Nihal ( sikhiwiki.org)

SatguruSatguru means true guru; literally: true teacher. It is usually used to refer to God, but can be interchanged with Guru. See Satguru ( sikhiwiki.org)

SattIt is a Hindi word (Indian local language) which means truth. See सट्टा ( shabdkosh.com)

SevaSeva means "selfless service", work or service performed without any thought of reward or personal benefit. See Seva ( sikhiwiki.org)

SevadarSevadar or sewadar is a Punjabi word for a volunteer who offers his/her services to a Gurdwara or to the Community free of charge. See Sewadar ( sikhiwiki.org)

SikhThe term Sikh in India and elsewhere came to be used for the disciples of Guru Nanak and his nine spiritual successors. See Sikh ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

SikhismIt is a religion and philosophy founded in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent in the late 15th century under the influence of Guru Nanak. Its members are known as Sikh. See Sikhism (:)

SiropaoIn Punjabi language “Saropa” (Persian word) was change due to local Punjabi language into Siropa. And “O” had been added in the end to show respect. See Siropa ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Subhag SinghSubhag Singh, an eighteenth century martyr of the Sikh faith. See Subeg Singh ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

TasselA tassel is a finishing feature in fabric and clothing decoration. It is a universal ornament that is seen in varying versions in many cultures around the globe. See Tassel ( wikipedia.org)

TukTuk is a Gurmukhi term for a line of Gurbani. The Sikh holy Scripture is called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. See Tuk ( sikhiwiki.org)

TurbansIt is a head dress consisting of a long scarf wound round the head or a smaller, underlying hat. Turbans vary in shape, colour, and size; some are made with up to 50 yards (45 metres) of fabric. See Turban ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

UdasiUdasi, an ascetical sect of the Sikhs founded by Sri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak. See Udasi ( thesikhencyclopedia.org)

Vaisakhi DayThe day on which Vaisakhi is celebrated is called Vaisakhi Day which is usually held on 13th or 14th of April every year and is a historical and religious festival in Hinduism and Sikhism. See Vaisakhi ( wikipedia.org)

VaisakhiVaisakhi also pronounced Baisakhi, is observed by Hindus and Sikhs. It is also known as the beginning of Hindu solar New year. See Vaisakhi ( wikipedia.org)

VirtuesIn Sikhism, the Five Virtues are fundamental qualities which one should develop in order to reach Mukti, or to reunite or merge with God. The Sikh Gurus taught that these positive human qualities were Sat (truth), Daya (compassion), Santokh (contentment), Nimrata (humility), and Pyaar (love). See Five virtues ( sikhiwiki.org)

ਗੁਣ This is a word taken from Guru Granth Sahib which is written in the Gurmukhi script and the word means virtue. See ਗੁਣ Meaning in English ( shabdkosh.com)

ਵਡਿਆਈਆThis is a word taken from Guru Granth Sahib which is written in the Gurmukhi script and the word means praise. See ਵਡਿਆਈਆ - Meaning in English ( shabdkosh.com)

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