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Turban Up!







Having lived in the suburbs of Toronto my entire life, I never thought that I would see such an amazing event take place in the heart of this city.

Turban Up!’ is an annual event hosted by the Sikh Youth Federation at the Yonge-Dundas Square in the heart of downtown Toronto. And this past Sunday (May 15, 2016), the event was held for the third time.

It was incredible to see people of all backgrounds experiencing different aspects of Sikhism and incorporating them into their life, even if it was just for the one day.

Turban Up’ provides Torontonians with an amazing opportunity to embrace the multiculturalism of Toronto and Canada, and understand and appreciate different religious and cultural traditions.

My own experience with events such as ‘Turban Up’ began in 2012 in my first year of undergrad at the University of Waterloo, and hour‘s drive west of the city. I had the privilege of meeting a great group of Sikh students through the Sikh Students Association (SSA) at the university and was absolutely blown away to see what a little determination and a lot of love for Sikhi can inspire in the youth today.

At the end of the school year, in March, the SSA put together a ‘Turban Tying Day’ at the university in the Great Hall of the Student Life Centre. That day was really an eye opening experience for me. Coming from a community in Thornhill, Ontario, where my family was one of the few local Sikh families, it was simply amazing to see so many people from different backgrounds wearing turbans around campus.

I did not think it could get much bigger than this … until the first year of Turban Up.

When I first heard of the idea of holding a Turban Tying Day at Yonge-Dundas Square, to be completely honest, I did not know what to expect. However, as I mentioned before, the youth involved were so determined to make a difference and an impact. They worked for months organizing, fundraising and promoting to make this event come to life.

Not only did they arrange for turban tying, but each corner of the Yonge-Dundas Square -  Toronto’s equivalent of New York’s Times Square - was organized to bring forth a different aspect of Sikhi to life.

As you walk around the square, starting at the back, you see langar being served and all sorts of people sitting together and sharing a meal.

Then you walk towards the Art Tents and see the beautiful illustrations, paintings and creations on display.

Further down, there is a display composed of several musical instruments and information explaining the importance of music in Sikhism.

Additionally, throughout the day, Gatka performances take place and in the middle are the rows of colourful cloth surrounded by people getting their different turbans tied.

Through the last three years, I can only say that this event has grown to become even bigger and better. It was incredible to see thousands of people attend this year and to see the likes of people such as members of the Metro Toronto Police, Peel Region Police, Raptors 905 and Members of Parliament at the event, all providing their support was even more incredible. The “Basics of Sikhi” group, all the way from the United Kingdom, was also present.

I think what surprised me most this year in particular was that even through the rain, snow and hail - unusual and unseasonal visitors for this time of the year! - people continued to flow in and out of the Square and take in the event.

Turban Up! is an experience to look forward to every year. It is amazing to see the event grow as time progresses and I just cannot wait to see what next year has in store.

May 18, 2016

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