The Five Ks
The 5 Ks are 5 physical symbols worn by Sikhs who have been initiated into the Khalsa.
The five Ks are
● Kesh (uncut hair)
● Kara (a steel bracelet)
● Kanga (a wooden comb)
● Kaccha (cotton underwear)
● Kirpan (sword)
The 5 Ks date from the creation of the Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
The Guru introduced them for several reasons:
● Adopting these common symbols would identify members of the Khalsa
● Because all members of the Khalsa wear the 5 Ks the members of the community are more strongly bound together.
● Each K has a particular significance
The Meaning of the 5 Ks
The 5 Ks taken together symbolise that the Sikh who wears them has dedicated themselves to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For a Sikh the fact that the Guru has instructed the Sikhs to wear the 5 Ks is an entirely sufficient reason, and no more need be said. The symbols have become greatly more powerful with each passing year of Sikh history.
Every Sikh remembers that every Sikh warrior, saint, or martyr since 1699, and every living member of the Khalsa, is united with them in having adopted the same 5 Ks.
Various reasons and symbolisms have been put forward for the Sikh practice of keeping hair uncut.
● Throughout history hair(kesh) has been regarded as a symbol both of holiness and strength.
● Ones hair is part of Gods creation. Keeping hair uncut indicates that one is willing to accept Gods gift as God intended it.
● Uncut hair symbolizes adoption of a simple life, and denial of pride in ones appearance.
● Not cutting ones hair is a symbol of ones wish to move beyond concerns of the body and attain spiritual maturity.
● A Sikh should only bow his head to the Guru, and not to a barber.
● It is a highly visible symbol of membership of the group.
● It follows the appearance of Guru Gobind Singh, founder of the Khalsa.
Before you ask: A Sikh is not allowed to cut hair from any part of the body.
Sikh women are just as forbidden to cut any body hair or even trim their eyebrows, as Sikh men are forbidden to trim their beards.
Kara—A Steel Bracelet:
● A symbol of restraint and gentility.
● A symbol that a Sikh is linked to the Guru.
It acts as a reminder that a Sikh should not do anything of which the Guru would not approve.
● A symbol of God having no beginning or end.
● A symbol of permanent bonding to the community—being a link in the chain of Khalsa Sikhs (the word for link is "kari").
The Kara is made of steel, rather than gold or silver, because it is not an ornament.
Kanga—A Wooden Comb:
● This symbolises a clean mind and body; since it keeps the uncut hair neat and tidy.
● It symbolises the importance of looking after the body which God has created. This does not conflict with the Sikhs aim to move beyond bodily concerns; since the body is ones vehicle for enlightenment one should care for it appropriately.
This is a pair of breeches that must not come below the knee. It was a particularly useful garment for Sikh warriors of the 18th and 19th centuries, being very suitable for warfare when riding a horse.
Kirpan—A Ceremonial Sword:
This plays an important part in the initiation ceremony into the Khalsa when it is used to stir a mixture of sugar and water that the initiate must drink. The ceremony is called "Khandey di Pahul (Sikh initiation rite of the double edged sword).
There is no fixed style of Kirpan, and it can be anything from a few inches to three feet long. It is kept in a sheath and can be worn over or under the outside clothing.
The Kirpan can symbolise:
● The soldier part of the "Soldier-Saints".
● Defence of good.
● Defence of the weak.
● The struggle against injustice.
● A metaphor for God.