An Indian monk was slowly moving through the roads and people were looking at him with surprised interest. The dress, the attire, the posture were all alien to people of the western world but what attracted their attention most was the matted ropes of hair on the head of the monk. That is exactly what we call the dreadlock, hair on the head allowed to grow without cutting, combing or brushing to take the shape of matted ropes.
One of the universal phenomenons that have survived the onslaught of time, dreadlock has its origin rooted in the ancient Vedic Hindu culture. In the Hindu mythologies it is described that Lord Shiva took the force off the holy river Ganges coming to the earth on his dreadlock and thus saved the earth from destruction. Historically too the earliest evidence of dreadlock is found around 2500 years BC and have been mostly the favorite hair style of sages and monks.
The immediate impact
Hinduism had its influence on Buddhism, Jainism and even the Greek and Roman cultures of the past. In the Roman Celtic culture dreadlock was referred to as hair knotted like snakes. The royal families in ancient Egypt not only adopted the dreadlock but also used dreadlocked wigs as archeological discoveries have revealed.
Dreadlock was used not only in Egypt, Rome, and Greece but Germany, Mexico, Far East, Africa and several other countries. In Germany the Vikings, in Far East the Naga tribe, the Bishops of Jerusalem, Aztecs of Mexico were all well attached with Dreadlocks. Dreadlock was one of the most popular hair styles in these countries during the 14-16th century AD and they were also found with the Sufi Order in Senegal.
The modern era
During 1950s in Jamaica the people followers of Young Black Faith took heavily the style of dreadlocks following the cue of poor people there who had been using dreadlocks since the 1930s. It is also said that when Hindu and Naga saints started visiting Jamaica in pursuit of jobs in the 19th century, the dreadlock culture came up with them to Jamaica. A few others trace the origin to the Mau Mau rebels who were fighting against the British colonialism of the time.
Dreadlocks have been used by people coming from different cultural backgrounds with different reasons. Sometimes it is due to their religious and spiritual convictions like it is sacred among Hindu saints and monks and at other time social and political environments like used by the Mau Mau rebels. To avert the derogatory use of the term a new term has come up to replace the term dreadlock and it is often referred to as African Locks, the aim being to remove the feature of dreading from the terminology.
The importance of dreadlocks in Eastern countries
Dreadlocks are considered sacred by the Indian religious preachers since it has its origin with the holy Lord Shiva. In China too noblemen and ascetics used dreadlocks combined with long fingernails denouncing all earthly attachments. In some other Asian and African countries the dreadlock refers to the fear of the almighty.
Dreadlocks and the western world today
When the reggae music made a big stride during the 1980s, the dreadlocks used by the world famous singer and lyrist Bob Marley caught the imagination of the audience world over and there was a rush to wear dreadlocks. This became most popular among the African-Americanized people but white people did not remain far behind. Especially the people who raise their voice for anti-globalization, and the activists who support the cause of environment-protection find dreadlocks to their choice, a symbol of registering their protest against the possible evils of globalization and environmental pollution.