Turban Tying Event on Surrey Campus Invites Students to Celebrate Diversity

Organizers hoped to answer questions and clarify misconceptions about the religious headwear

A turban tying event was held in the KPU Surrey campus courtyard on Feb. 28. (Cristian Hobson-Dimas)

Practitioners of the Sikh faith gathered on KPU’s Surrey campus for the university’s second annual Turban Tying event on the afternoon of Feb. 28. Organizer Gurpreet Singh Sabharwal says the purpose of the event is to celebrate diversity and spread awareness about the significance of the turban in Sikhism.

“We want to provide answers to anybody who may have questions about what wearing a turban means to us,” says Sabharwal. “As long as they approach the volunteers respectfully, they can ask us about the significance of the turban without thinking they are being offensive.”

The event, which took place over three hours, consisted of volunteers tying turbans both for practicing Sikhs and anybody else who was interested in participating. Tying a turban is a meticulous process that typically takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and at any time during the event, about a dozen people dressed in colourful clothing could be seen sitting around the turban tying station. Beside them, volunteers handed out samosas to passersby.

The more enthusiastic volunteers struck up conversations with strangers, appealing to their curiosity about the event and inviting them to visit their local Surrey Gurdwara, a religious temple of the Sikh faith, where practitioners “sit as equals to give praise, meditate, and eat food prepared by volunteers,” explains Sabharwal.

Poster boards with information on Sikhism that were displayed around the turban tying station explain that Guru Gobind Singh is a religious figure closely tied to the origin and significance of the dastaar or turban.

“Among the Sikhs, the dastaar is an article of faith that represents honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety,” the posters read. “The Sikhs regard the dastaar as an important part of their unique identity.”

“Your turban is there for you when you go to sleep, your turban is there for you when you wake up,” volunteer Navjot Singh said, addressing a crowd of attendees at the event. “If there is one thing that everyone has the right to, that is your kes, that is your hair; the hair that God has given you, your turban is there to protect it, to keep it clean.”

Singh went on to recount the history of the turban, explaining that the personal sacrifices made by Guru Gobind Singh imparted the dastaar unto practitioners of Sikhism.

“Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s whole family was sacrificed for us,” he explained. “A turban is not just a cloth, not just your friend, but a turban is your crown. Guru Gobind Singh Ji has given us a crown.”

After leading a brief religious group chant, Singh continued, “A turban is a crown that our father has given us, a crown that will always remain with us no matter what, a crown that shows others that if they need help, we will be there for them. A turban gives us our identity. A turban is us. We are our turban.”

Even as tents were being taken down and empty food containers were being disposed of, volunteers continued to mingle and wrap turbans for one another. Anyone dressed with a turban during the event was welcomed to keep the headwear “as a gesture of kindness and a celebration of diversity.”

Sabharwal is also working with other volunteers to organize more events at the Surrey campus, including a Langar, where a free meal is served to all visitors without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status, or ethnicity.”

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