Vaisakhi Spotlight: Sarwan Singh
Head Priest who has set a Guinness World Record
“It was never my goal to show off my beard. I always took it as a gift from God and strived to only maintain it. Kes (hair) is an important part of Sikhism, and if I have the long beard, it just makes sense to accept it and maintain its healthiness,” says Sarwan Singh.
Singh immigrated to Canada in 2000, and is currently the head priest at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Delta/Surrey. While teaching Kirtan at the Akal Academy, Singh’s colleagues and employers noticed his “unique gift, and decided to give me as an individual, and more importantly as a Sikh, recognition on the world stage,” says Singh, adding that Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji and Kiran Kaur Saluja contacted the Guinness World Record to notify them of Singh’s long beard. He applied for the record, and received the title of Guinness World Record for Longest Beard – Living Male.
In 2008, Singh set his first record with the beard measuring at 7 ft 8 in. In 2010, he was asked to be on a show in Italy for the Guinness World Record, where it was measured at 7 ft 9.5 in. Last year, Singh joined Dr. Bhurji on the popular ‘Live with Regis and Kelly’ show, where his beard was measured and it had grown to 8 ft 2.5 in.
“This is the current record I hold, without me even trying. It’s a gift and I take care of it as a precious one from God; if it continues to grow, I will be more than happy to take care of it” says Singh. “However, setting records is not a priority. With Guru’s Kirpa, my beard will keep growing steadily, but I’m not going to chase new records every time – satisfaction is key.”
Singh was born in the village Bhoora Karimpura, District of Amritsar in India. He lived in Damdami Taksal Chowk Mehta, where he studied Gurbani and Kirtan for eight years. After completing his studies, Singh worked as Head Ragi at Darbar Sahib (Tarn-Taran) and Darbar Sahib Amritsar for 16 years before immigrating to Canada.
As Vaisakhi is a time for Sikhs to reflect, Singh said the following about what Vaisakhi meant to him, “It’s the season in which the ripe crops reach their destination successfully. Likewise, taking inspiration from this analogy, our thoughts should become ripe so that we get selected into our destinations, the Almighty God’s acceptance. A Sikh is to take inspiration from such examples all around, guidance from Gurbani and live this way of life on a daily basis, not just on Vaisakhi or other such special events.”
He continued, by adding “the festival of Vaisakhi and participation in the Nagar Kirtan are meant to provide an uplifting and optimistic environment where one can begin learning successfully. As the Sangat passes through the roads singing the praises of the God, the word of the Lord is basically being spread unconditionally.”
Q&A with Sarwan Singh
Q: What do you think of the current state of Sikhism?
A: All religions have had ups and downs; especially when they were new to the world. Turmoil and conflict is part of growth. But for growth, emerging from the conflict and turmoil is vital. Sikhism is still very new compared to the other major religions being practiced. In the past 5 centuries, the Sikh way of life has spread far and wide very successfully. But as recent events have shown, the integrity of Sikhism was not maintained very well. The current state of Sikhism is somewhat worrisome. People who call themselves Sikhs believe in the existence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as our spiritual guidance, but aren’t ready to believe in what the Guru has to say. Sikhs were supposed to be students who trust their teacher, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but our egos have risen to dangerous levels where a practicing Sikh is comparing his limited knowledge and awareness to the unprecedented amount that the Guru has provided. The student has begun to think that he is wiser than the teacher. But with Guru’s blessing, these dark times will also pass. We just need to maintain our faith in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Sahib alone, none other.
Q: As the head priest of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, what is your message to the community, especially for the younger generation?
A: As an individual practicing and displaying the Sikh way of life, each of us is an example in the outside world. We are no longer just another person who can go about doing anything we want, right or wrong. Every move we make is being watched, analyzed and criticized by non-Sikhs. Not for bad reasons although, whatever we do as individuals is frequently being associated with the whole Sikh nation. So, to project the correct image of a Sikh, we must learn the Sikh way of life as the Guru dictates it. To do this, we’ll have to be familiar with what the Guru has to say. And to be familiar, we’ll have to incorporate reading and understanding Gurbani into our daily lives.
To the younger generation, I will say that there are various sources of information from where they can increase their awareness and knowledge. But at the same time, they should also be aware of the numerous misleading sources. Gurbani is our frame of reference for whatever research or discovery we do, and using Gurbani, we shall be able to judge what information is correct and wrong.