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Turban Day

University of Guelph students host Sikh Awareness event

The Ontarion
March 17, 2016

On Thurs. March 10, 2016, the Sikh Students Association hosted Sikh Awareness Day in the University Centre. The event was set up in a semi-circle around the UC courtyard and consisted of informational boards, specific religious items and instruments, free samosas, traditional music, and turban tying. The turban-tying station at the centre of the festivities was the most prominent booth, and it seemed like they were never quite done, with hundreds of students sitting down to try on a turban.

According to Sukhman Singh, one of the event organizers, the purpose of the event was to allow people to ask questions that they would otherwise feel uncomfortable asking.

“The point of today,” began Singh, in an interview with The Ontarion, “is not just to allow them to ask [those] question[s], but to experience it for themselves.”

Singh spoke to The Ontarion about some of the beliefs of Sikhism and some of the struggles the community has had within the Guelph area.

Singh explained: “We believe, as Sikhs, that deep down at our core, we are all the exact same. We are made of the exact same energy, coming from the exact same place, and our mission is just to connect to that energy and connect to everyone around us.” …sarangi is most often used when singing scriptures…The event was accompanied by a back-drop of sound. There was music playing from a pair of speakers that bookended the event. Singh spoke about the music saying that “the music is … to help us experience the emotions that we should be feeling.”

Singh went on to explain, “We have a huge emphasis on music in our scripture because they are actually written in ballads, or similar to an opera […] The reason it’s done like that is because, although I may say something to you, if I sing it to you, it has 10 times the effect! You might not even know what I am saying, but you’ll know the emotion.”

Music was a big part of the event. One table had a set of instruments typically played alongside the traditional raga that accompanies scripture. Two of these instruments were described by Brahmbind Singh Kamboj, a student helping run the event.

The two main instruments present were the sarangi and the dilruba. According to Kamboj, the sarangi is most often used when singing scriptures, along with another instrument called a taus. Brahmbind talked to The Ontarion about how the dilruba was created for soldiers marching so that they could play music and scripture without having to lug around the taus.

When asked about what being a Sikh in Guelph was like, Singh said, “Especially here in Guelph, where there are not many of us, the Sikh community has some trouble.”

Singh spoke about the current temple in downtown Guelph that has seen constant graffiti, and the Sikh community’s fight to build a Gurdwara on the corner of Clair and Victoria. Singh said that he believes it’s all about education.

“If I were to say that there was a community centre being built, everyone can come and enjoy a free meal and sit down and speak to someone about becoming a better human being, everyone would be on board,” said Singh. “But the problem is they don’t know that about us. They don’t know that our temples are also homeless shelters, community centres, and schools. So the idea of [Sikh Awareness Day] is to help people understand that, not to be afraid of us, and make it easier for people to come up to us and ask questions.”

Singh concluded, “We believe that we’re here to help everyone. At any point, if you need help, whether it be physical or emotional, we’re here for you. So even in a crowd of a hundred people, if you see one person with a turban you know that person is a Sikh and that person is here to help you.”

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