Thunder Bay·Audio

'Turban Up' at Canada Day festivities in Thunder Bay, Ontario

Volunteers with the Thunder Bay Sikh Society (TBSS) are hosting the northwestern Ontario city's first Turban Up event as part of Canada Day festivities at the waterfront. It's a way to raise awareness about the history and signficance of the turban.

Sikh society members want to help people learn about the history and significance of turbans

Prabhjot Singh Ahuja is a fourth year mechanical engineering student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. He's organizing the northwestern Ontario city's first 'Turban Up' event for Canada Day. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

Volunteers with the Thunder Bay Sikh Society (TBSS) are hosting the northwestern Ontario city's first Turban Up event as part of Canada Day festivities at the waterfront.

In recent years, the city has seen an increase in the number of international students studying at Lakehead University and Confederation College. Many are from India and wear turbans, said Prabhjot Singh Ahuja, a fourth year mechanincal engineering student at the university and a member of the TBSS.

He organized Monday's event because he thought "Canada Day is a really good platform" to help people in Thunder Bay learn more about turbans and why Sikhs choose to wear them.

'I feel a lot more confident when I'm wearing a turban' 

"I've been wearing since 11 or 12 [years of age] and I feel a lot more confident when I'm wearing a turban. It just comes when I wear it. It's a lot more than an accessory. It's a significant in that it shows that I'm a Sikh now, I wear a turban and it holds a lot more value for me and my friends."

Ahuja said the history of the turban dates back at least 300 years to an uprising in India's history.

Sikhs, who "were basically warriors then", were tasked with protecting commoners from the powerful overlords of the day. Since those protectors needed to be obvious to the rest of the community, a bright head covering made sense.

"The reason was to stand out, so if someone needs help, they could ask us for help," he said.

Lakehead University student and Thunder Bay Sikh Society member, Prabhjot Singh Ahuja demonstrates 1:59

The turban also has a spiritual value said Ahuja, noting that it functions to "conserve the energy [from the head] when we meditate"

His turban has become an integral part of Ahuja's identity, but there is  still plenty of room for expression when he ties it one each morning.

People can try on turbans, learn how to tie them

"I have like 40 colours at home so I pick and choose based on what I'm wearing"

Members of the Thunder Bay Sikh society will be on hand on Canada Day to help people learn how to tie a turban, and even give them the chance to see how it feels to wear one.

Turban Up events have been held as part of Sikh festivals in cities across the country.

The Thunder Bay Sikh Society is hosting the city's first-ever 'Turban Up' event as part of Canada Day festivities. It's a chance for members of the city's Sikh community to explain the significance of the head covering. As well, anyone who wants to learn, can get a lesson in tying a turban and seeing what they feel like to wear. Prabhjot Singh Ahuja is a fourth year mechanical engineering student at Lakehead University, and a member of the Thunder Bay Sikh Society. CBC's Cathy Alex met up with him on campus and asked him about the history of the turban. 5:37