The Five K's
The five sacred Sikh symbols prescribed
by Guru Gobind Singh are commonly known
as Panj Kakars or the 'Five Ks' because
they start with letter K representing
Kakka in the Punjabi language. They
1. Kesh or unshorn hair, regarded as
a symbol of saintliness. Guru Nanak
started the practice of keeping the
hair unshorn. The keeping of hair in
its natural state is regarded as living
in harmony with the will of God, and
is a symbol of the Khalsa brotherhood
and the Sikh faith. Hair is an integral
part of the human body created by God
and Sikhism call for its preservation.
The shaving or cutting of hair is one
of the four taboos or Kurehats.
Long unshorn hair. A symbol of spirituality.
The Kesh reminds a Khalsa to behave
like the Guru's. It is a mark of dedication
and group consciousness, showing a Khalsa's
acceptance of God's will. Long hair
have long been a common element of many
spiritual prophets of various religions
such as Jesus, Moses and Buddha
"represents the inviolability
of the human body". The keeping
of unshorn hair represents the Sikh
belief in the accepting of God's will.
The unshorn hair is to be covered at
all times by the dastar (turban) as
a sign of respect for God, and also
as a sign of acceptance of the belief
in the equality of men and women. Sikhism
preaches that the only reason one should
cover one's head is out of respect for
God. Since men and women are equal,
both men and women must cover their
heads, and since God is everywhere,
they must do so at all times. The turban
also serves as an outward form of recognition
of Sikh men and women.
From your head down to your toes all
hair is to be kept intact.
complete form is with turban
donned." (SGGSJ Ang 1084)
For the respect of your hair, two turbans
are to be tied, tying each layer one
at a time. There should be a small turban
tied underneath and a larger one tied
above this. Women must not plait their
hair and should keep their hair tied
in a bun. If possible, in order to respect
your Kesh then a small turban should
"Listen to this command oh beloved,
this is the essential pre-requisite
to attain my darshan. Without arms and
kesh I will not give you darshan."
God also revealed himself as Kesdhari
(when God gave Darshan/revealed himself
to Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji he did
so in the form of a human with his hair
intact), as does the following line
"Your nose is so graceful, and
Your hair is so long." (SGGSJ Ang
"He does not need to eat; His Hair
is Wondrous and Beautiful; He is free
of hate." (SGGSJ Ang 98)
2. Kangha or the comb is necessary to
keep the hair clean and tidy. A Sikh
must comb his hair twice a day and tie
his turban neatly. The Gurus wore turbans
and commanded the Sikhs to wear turbans
for the protection of the hair, and
promotion of social identity and cohesion.
It has thus become an essential part
of the Sikh dress. A symbol of hygiene
and discipline as opposed to the matted
unkept hair of ascetics. A Khalsa is
expected to regularly wash and comb
their hair as a matter of self discipline.
This is to be worn in the hair at all
times, and is used for combing of one's
hair: "it represents hygiene [.]
ridding oneself of impurities and what
is morally undesirable". Thus,
the kanga reinforces the belief that
one would maintain cleanliness of spirit,
mind and body.
In order to keep the kesh clean a wooden
kangha( Sikh Comb ) is to be kept in
the hair. According to scientific research
keeping a wooden kangha in your hair
reduces the level of static energy building
up. A metal or ivory comb is not to
be used as a substitute.
"Comb the hair twice a day, covering
it with turban that is to be tied from
fresh (ie. no folds already put in it).
Teeth cleansed with a daatan daily (brushed
if this is not possible) - thus ill
health will be avoided Lal ji."
(Tankhanama Bhai Nand Lal ji, p.57)
To keep the hair clean it must be combed
twice daily. In the morning and evening
after combing your hair a turban is
to be tied. It is to be tied a layer
at a time, and it is to be removed in
the same manner, taking it off a layer
at a time.
"Being a Sikh he/she who wears
a hat they will enter into seven diseased
lifeforms."(Rehatnama Bhai Prehlad
Singh ji, p.65)
If your kangha becomes damaged in anyway
it should be replaced immediately. The
kangha is placed on the head the highest
point of the body and thus becomes supreme.
In the same way the Khalsa is to become
supreme by removing ego and being humble.
Just as the kangha removes broken hairs
and cleans the hair physically, it is
also spiritually questioning the individual
as to how many good and bad deeds have
been committed during the day. Just
as clean hair is attached to your head
so are your good deeds. Similarly, as
broken hairs are removed by your kangha,
your vices should be removed in the
same way. The hairs removed by the kangha
are not to be thrown in a dirty place
or on the floor. They are to be kept
in a clean and dry place/container and
when enough hair has gathered they are
to be burnt. Women and children are
to tie a string to their kangha so that
it can easily be tied to their hair,
and to stop it from falling. At home
two to four spare kanghas are to be
Kara or the steel bracelet symbolises
restrain from evil deeds. It is worn
on the right wrist and reminds the Sikh
of the vows taken by him, that is, he
is a servant of the Guru and should
not do anything which may bring shame
or disgrace. When he looks at the Kara,
he is made to think twice before doing
anything evil with his hands.
The circular design of the kara signifies
the oneness and eternity of God and
"the symbol of perfection [.] a
reminder of the wearer to be mindful
ofhis role of spiritual aspirant and
useful citizen [.] the kara is also
on the right side, which is the hand
[with which] most people perform their
deeds [ and] is a constant reminder
to perform good deeds". By wearing
it on the wrist, it binds the wearer
to the will of God, and reminds the
wearer to never extend one's hand for
the performance of evil.
The Kara must be of Sarab Loh (pure
iron). The Khalsa is not to wear a kara
that is made of gold, silver, brass,
copper or one that has grooves in it.
Only the Sarab Loh Kara is acceptable
to Guru Ji. The Kara is a handcuff placed
by the Guru upon the individual to remind
us of our duty to God, stopping us from
committing sins. The Kara acts as protection
if someone goes to strike you with a
sword on your wrist. According to scientific
research, the Kara adds to the iron
levels in the body by rubbing on the
skin. The Kara teaches us that these
arms belong to Sahib Sri Guru Gobind
Singh ji - with which we are not to
steal, con, commit forgery, oppress,
bully, persecute, sin or murder. Gambling
and playing cards and gambling are not
permitted. With these hands we should
earn an honest living and share its
benefits. In addition, your hands should
serve your community and the Khalsa
nation. The Kara is a precious gift
bestowed upon us for life by Guru Sahib,
which cannot be separated from the body.
The Kara is circular, having no beginning
and no end. Similarly, Vaheguru has
no beginning or end and the Kara reminds
us of this.
4. Kachh or the soldiers shorts must
be worn at all times. It reminds the
Sikh of the need for self-restrain over
passions and desires. Apart from its
moral significance, it ensures briskness
during action and freedom of movement
at all times. It is a smart dress as
compared to the loose dhoti which most
Indian wore at that time A symbol signifying
self control and chastity
Resembling boxer shorts they are designed
for comfort and freedom of movement:
".a symbol of restraint of passion,
of chastity , and a constant reminder
of the prohibition of adultery , both
in lusting and in deed".
"The sign of true chastity is the
Kashera, you must wear this and hold
weapons in hand." (Bhai Gurdas
ji, Var. 41, pauri 15)
The Kashera is the sign of sexual restraint.
The Kashera and Kirpan are never to
be separated from the body.
"The Kashera and Kirpan are never
to leave the body."(Rehatnama Bhai
Desa Singh ji p.147)
You are only to wear Rev Kashera (a
traditional style Kashera). The Kashera
gives us the teaching,
"Men should look at the opposite
sex as mothers, sisters and daughters,
(women should look at the opposite sex
as fathers, brothers and sons)."
(Var. 29, Pauri 11, Bhai Gurdas ji)
Kirpan or the sword is the emblem of
courage and self-defence. It symbolises
dignity and self-reliance, the capacity
and readiness to always defend the weak
and the oppressed. It helps sustain
one's martial spirit and the determination
to sacrifice oneself in order to defend
truth, oppression and Sikh moral values.
A symbol of dignity and the Sikh struggle
against injustice. It is worn purely
as a religious symbol and not as a weapon.
When all other means of self protection
fail, the Kirpan can be used to protect
yourself or others against the enemy.
This article of faith most closely
resembles a sword in a metal sheath
and wrapped in a fabric holster . The
word Kirpan itself means "mercy,
grace, or magnanimity". The Kirpan
is most often worn close to the skin
of the body, underneath clothing, and
is kept in place by a strap around the
shoulder and torso, attached in place
by the fabric holster . "While
the Kirpan arose of a particular culture
and had, at one time, the function of
a sword, it long ago lost this aspect,
and has become completely spiritualized.
It now speaks of law and morality, justice
and order, and has become an instrument
of the Divine itself'. It represents
spiritual power and is never to be used
as a weapon. By wearing it on one's
person, it is to remind the wearer to
always stand up against injustice. Keeping
it close to one's body also reminds
the wearer that he/she is mortal and
should make the most of his/her life
by helping others and defending justice.
"The mark of a Khalsa is one who
holds a Kirpan in hand, by doing this
tens of million of sins are abolished."
(Sri Dasam Granth Ang 42)
The Kirpan is there to protect the poor
and for self-defence. With patience
and mercy, the Kirpan is to be used
as a sword in order to destroy oppression.
The Kirpan is to always be in a gatra
and never to be removed from the body.
The Kirpan protects us from hidden and
seen enemies. The Kirpan is a weapon
to protect the whole body, as a minimum
it should be nine inches in length.
Keeping the Kirpan in a Kangha, in the
Kesh and putting it on a string around
the neck like a Janeoo, are against
the Rehat and forbidden.
"Those who never depart his/her
arms, they are the Khalsa with excellent
rehats." (Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh
You are never to walk over your Kirpan
or other weapons. When washing your
Kesh, the Kangha is to be tied to your
Kirpan and the Kirpan tied around your
waist. When bathing, your Kirpan is
to be tied around your head and not
tucked into the Kashara as this dishonours
your Kirpan and is therefore forbidden.
When women bathe they are to tie their
dupata on their head and then their
Kirpan. When going to sleep your Kirpan
is not to be removed from your body.
The Kirpan is only to be used for two
things. Firstly, to give Guru Ji's blessing
to freshly prepared Karah Prasad or
for langar. Secondly, in order to destroy
tyrants and oppressors. It must never
be used for anythingelse.
Sword in Sikhism
Very many people question the need
of Kirpan or the sword in the atomic
age. Others require an explanation for
the wearing of the sword. How can sword
he reconciled with spirituality ? Even
before Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, his
grand father Guru Hardgobind had donned
the sword as a twin-symbol of temporal
and spiritual power(Miri & Piri).
He had maintained an army and taken
part in military operations against
the Mughal forces.
Guru Gobind Singh Sahib justified the
use of the sword as a duty and as a
means of protecting the weak and the
oppressed. With human brutes, non-violence
is meaningless. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib
When the affairs are past other remedies,
It is justifiable to unsheath the sword.
Tyrants are like mad dogs and wolves.
They should be opposed in the interests
of the good of humanity as a whole.
The sword is neither to be used for
conquest nor for wreaking vengeance.
The sword is meant only for self-defence
or for the good of the people. In cases
of injustice and intolerance, the refusal
to use the sword may do more harm than
good. The Sikh's sword is not an instrument
of offence but a symbol of independence,
self-respect and power. Guru Gobind
Singh Sahib called it Durga or Bhagwati
and praises it thus :
Sword that smites in a flash,
That scatters the armies of the wicked
In the great battle-field,
0 symbol of the brave.
Your arm is irresistible, your brightness
The splendour of the black dazzles like
Sword, you are the scourge of saints,
You are the scourge of the wicked ;
Scatterer of sinners, I take refuge
Hail to the Creator. Saviour and sustainer,
Hail to you : Sword supreme !
The Five K's, along with the turban,
constitute the Khalsa uniform, which
distinguishes a Sikh from any other
person in the world, and is essential
for preserving the life of the community
and fostering the Khalsa brotherhood.
The Five K's are not supposed to foster
exclusiveness or superiority. They are
meant to keep the Sikhs united in the
pursuit of the aims and ideals of the
Gurus. They enable them to keep their
vows made at the time of baptism. The
Sikhs have been known to face torture
and death rather than cut their hair
or remove any of the sacred symbols.
The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. His
religion is known to all. He stands
out among people, and any unseemly behaviour
or action on his part would be noted
as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus.
People would easily blame him if he
deviated from the disciplinary code
of Guru Gobind Singh.