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Sunday 26 January 2020

The curious case of Bangladeshi beard turning saffron

While the beard underscores a Bangladeshi's Muslim identity where fashion is otherwise taboo, they are encouraged by the fact that Prophet Mohammed had set a precedent

Sporting a beard may be a fashion statement among the youth all over the world these days, but in Bangladesh, the trend of the stubble has caught on with the elderly. Flowing saffron-hued beard has become a fashion statement these days in the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Especially the elderly are sporting a long beard and applying mehndi on it, turning the colour of beard orange.

50-year-old Mehboob-ul Bashar said about his new look, “I have been colouring my beard for about two months. I like it.”

60-year-old Abul Mian, who works in a vegetable market, said, “I like it. My family says that, with this colour on the beard, I look young and handsome.” Mehndi has been used in the stretch between north-western India and Pakistan for a long time on the beard or hair on the head, but its popularity has increased rapidly in Bangladesh only in the last few years. In this era, it is difficult to pass through a street in Dhaka and not see someone with a saffron beard.

People will be seen anywhere with hair on the head, goatee and moustache coloured in saffron. Fashion journalist Didar alias Dipu of the Canvas magazine said that in the last few years, it has become a fashion statement among the aged. He said that getting mehndi is very easy in neighbourhood shops. It costs a fraction of hair dye.

Not only ordinary people in Bangladesh but also Imams are sporting coloured Vandyke in large numbers. Experts say that one of the reasons is also an attempt to present themselves as followers of Islam. But aren’t most fashion statements taboo in Islam? Well, one of the reasons for the trend is that the ahadith (pl of hadith, an account of the life and times of the prophet) and other Islamic books mention the dyeing of the hair and beard by Prophet Mohammed. Most people in Bangladesh, with a population of around 17 crore, are Muslims.

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