At 7 feet, 8-plus inches, Sarwan Singh’s beard is quite a sight to behold.
But any emotions the Sikh man holds about the hairs flowing from his face are of gratitude and respect rather than pride. Singh credits God for blessing him with such lengthy wisps, and in accordance with his religion, has not disfigured his body by cutting them.
“God has given a beard to everybody, but he has given him a special gift,” said Yuba city resident Sukhcharan Singh.
Sarwan Singh, 43, lives in Surrey, Canada, but has spent the last three weeks at the Gurdwara Sahib on South George Washington Boulevard in Yuba City. Sukhcharan Singh is videotaping the religion and music teacher while he reads the holy scriptures of the Guru Granth Sahib aloud in Punjabi.
The tapes will create a recording for other Sikhs who may not have access or time to practice themselves. To read the Guru Granth Sahib in its entirety would take 80 hours, so the men have broken it down into 2 1/2 hour chunks.
Twice daily, Sarwan Singh prepares for the recording session with a cup of tea to warm his vocal cords, taking care to keep his beard clean while doing so.
It was not until about 10 years ago, when he moved from India to Canada, that Singh realized a knee-length beard was a bit of an oddity. His friends finally urged him to contact Guinness World Records.
The record-keepers measured Singh’s strands at 7 feet, 8 inches in November. The previous record was held by Shamsher Singh of Punjab, India, whose beard measured 6 feet long in 1997. The men do not know one another.
Sarwan Singh’s recorded length is from chin to tip, but his longest hair sprouts from just above the throat. The beard has since grown a few more inches.
“He might beat his own record!” Sukhcharan Singh said with a laugh.
Previous record-holders, before Guinness changed its standards, boasted beard lengths in the double digits, but bottom hairs were not actually attached and instead clung to matted knots.
A bright white smile peeks out amid Singh’s bushy black, silver and gray strands that start around his jaw. The number of hairs gradually dwindle as they near his feet, tapering off at less than 10 wisps for the bottom few inches.
He estimates he spends about half an hour a day shampooing, conditioning and supplementing the hair with natural oils to keep it silky smooth. Speaking through Sukhcharan Singh as translator, he said he occasionally brushes the beard to keep it free from tangling.
Despite all the care and maintenance they demand, Sarwan Singh treats his hairs with patience.
As he talks, reads or simply stands, he gently fingers the tips of silver, gray and black wisps or drapes them over his hands. When a clean surface is available, Singh allows the strands to coil onto the floor; otherwise he wraps the beard into a loose knot below his chin.
The hair on his head, hidden by the traditional Sikh wrap, grows at a normal rate and length, he said.
Singh urges Sikh children to take pride in their religion and be proud to grow their hair. If he can take care of an almost-8-foot-long beard, they can respect God and their bodies, he said.
The beard is somewhat of a fascination among children.
During Singh’s first days in Yuba City, Sikh youngsters were clambering around him, eager for photo opportunities. He stood atop an upturned milk crate so his beard could flow nearly all the way to the ground, although never touching the actual floor or dirt.
Every aspect of living with his world-record beard is in honor of and respectful of his religion and his creator, Singh said.
“We have to live this way, with whatever he has given us,” he said.