Kids Corner


The Art of The Perfect Turban




"A good turban is all about practice, neatness and experience," said Ravi Singh Sharma, engrossed in his art as about 2,000 people looked on.

Around 75 competitors were taking part in the eighth annual turban competition, the largest in North America. Vaisakhi Day - April 14 - is now observed every year as The World Turban Day around the globe.

The colors were bright, loud and the designs intricate as the competitors, all Sikhs, either from or descended from Punjab, whipped up a variety of turban styles.

Ravi, a 35-year-old welder, says he can tie about six turban styles, including those for Sikhs in the military and another for performers.

"The cloth measures about five to six meters and it should never hit the ground (out of respect for what it represents). The judges are looking at speed, neatness of the turban and if the hair is covered. It takes me about six or seven minutes."

Ravi was competing in the 31 to 45 years category. Despite hoping to improve on his bronze medal last year, he again finished third this year, behind winner Gurpreet Singh Tung, a 32-year-old truck driver originally from the Punjab village of Tugal near Ludhiana, and runner-up Omandeep Singh.

While children ran around the vast hall, a troupe of salwar-kameez-clad women and girls performed a traditional dance.

Harjit Singh Gill, one of the organisers sporting a saffron turban, a favored color for celebrations, said the event has grown rapidly since its first year when 400 people attended.

In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, when turban-wearers faced some suspicion, the contest was created to promote a positive awareness of the headgear worn by millions of Sikhs worldwide.

Harjit called the turban a symbol of the Sikh faith, representing honor and pride. He added Sikhs used to wear it battle. It is now worn by Sikhs everywhere, including in India as well as in the western Canadian province where Surrey is located - home to about 300,000 Sikh-Canadians.

In Surrey, the largest municipality in the Greater Vancouver district, the 2006 census listed 107,810 Sikh-Canadians.

Over the years Sikhs have legally won the right to be exempt from wearing a motorcycle helmet in favor of a turban, and are also contesting that they have to wear them in some industrial jobs.

Baltej Singh Dhillon became the first turbaned Sikh to join the national police force in 1990, earning the moniker "Turbo Cop".

Sukh Singh Dhaliwal, a Liberal member of Parliament, says the employment patterns within the Sikh-Canadian community, which traditionally included farming and working in lumber mills, has changed as young Sikhs, first-generation Canadians, enter every profession.

While Sikhs have been in Canada for over 100 years, he said it was the championing of a multicultural society by former two prime ministers, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, that opened the door for the mass Sikh migration that started in the early 1970s.

Today, Canada is the second most favored destination for Sikh migrants after Britain. "This is a very welcoming nation where every individual has equal opportunity," said Sukh, who emigrated from the Punjab in 1984.

"They come here with hope, faith. From that faith, hope we know that everything becomes possible for them so that is a success story."

Sukh, who owns a land surveying engineering company, says Sikh immigrants have done particularly well in Surrey, where he says 52 per cent of the property is owned by Sikh-Canadians.

"If you look at Sikh history, and the history of Punjab and India as well, Sikhs have always gone to underdeveloped parts of the country. They have worked very hard, and in helping each other, like a bank, that has helped open opportunities."

Raghbir Singh Bhinder is among those who have prospered in Canada. After living in Slough, England, for nearly 30 years, he moved to Surrey in 1996 and now has four insurance offices and 50 staff.


[The original version of this article first appeared in The Telegraph, U.K.]

April 15, 2010


Conversation about this article

1: Binder Singh Mandur (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), April 16, 2010, 1:57 PM.

It's a unique sign you have shown in the last image, proclaiming that Turbans are OK!

2: Andy singh (New York, U.S.A.), April 18, 2010, 3:40 PM.

Where is that sign from? I would like to visit this place.

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