In April this year, hundreds of Sikhs volunteered to tie turbans in Times Square in celebration of Vaisakhi, the Sikh holiday. The aim of the event that has been held for five successive years is to educate New Yorkers and tourists about the Sikh faith.
The event was held by the Sikhs of New York. The nonprofit organization aims to teach America about the faith of Sikhism, which has over 25 million followers.
According to the founder of Turban Day, Chanpreet Singh, the idea for this event came about due to unpleasant personal experiences caused by Americans having little or no knowledge of the Sikh religion.
Singh feels any negative reactions and experiences are partially due to the general public’s lack of awareness about the Sikh faith. He told Huffington Post, “I take the fault on ourselves. We haven’t done enough to educate.”
As Such, Singh believes it is up to Sikhs to help educate the public on Sikhism.
Sikhism, which is globally the ninth largest religion with about 28 million adherents, has its origins in the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, a guru from Punjab who lived over 600 years ago. Although during those times, the wealthy upper class mostly wore turbans, Guru Nanak advocated that his followers do so too as a show of devotion and to promote equality. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism are articulated in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikhs primary source of Scripture.
Although Sikhism practitioners have been in the U.S. for over a century now, a vast majority of Americans are not acquainted with the Sikhism. According to a survey conducted in 2015 by the National Sikh Campaign, 60 percent of the American public had no knowledge of Sikh Americans. The American public usually assumes men wearing turbans are of Middle Eastern descent (28 percent) or are Muslims (20%). Only 11 percent of the general American public presumes a turbaned man is a Sikh.
During the Turban Day event, Sikh volunteers took time wrapping the turbans correctly around the heads of participants. The participants were given information about the Sikh religion and Turban Day. According to the volunteers at the event, 8000 turbans were tied.
According to Singh, when participants go through the experience of wearing a turban, they will always recall that a Sikh tied the turban, even long after the turban has been taken off.
During the event, a video was unveiled, showing Sikh businesspeople and doctors explaining that although Sikhs may have different backgrounds, they are not terrorists. The Turban Day event also included prayers, yoga, and cultural performances.
Born at Baruch College, by founder Chanpreet Singh, the Sikhs of New York started holding its Turban Day event in 2013. The 2017 edition in April was the fifth annual event. Turban Day is held in April yearly to commemorate Vaisakhi, a religious festival of the Sikhs. The event was held in Times Square for the first time last year. Turban Day allows people of all walks of life to wear a turban, and learn its meaning.
[Photo Credit: Andy Katz/Pacific Press/Alamy Live News]