The base of the Sikh faith is the belief that there is One God and the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus is the true word. Followers must believe in the sovereignty of Guru Granth Sahib and respect all other scriptures, prophets and religions.
Apart from this, an important belief, is being a part of a baptism ceremony initiated by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. 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 are: kesh – uncut hair, kanga – a small comb, kara – a stainless steel bracelet, kirpan – a sword and kachera – an underwear. In addition to this, the Khalsa (baptized Sikh) follows a strict code of conduct. They are also known as Amritdhari Sikhs.
All Sikhs do not get baptized but wear the 5 K’s and are devout followers. They are known as Keshdharis. There is one more division called the Sahajdhari Sikhs, who believe in all of the above but do not have long hair or turbans.
Long hair has been a common element of many spiritual prophets of various religions such as Jesus, Moses and Buddha and is regarded as a symbol of saintliness. The keeping of hair in its natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the will of God and Guru Nanak started the practice of keeping the hair unshorn. The shaving or cutting of hair is one of the four taboos or Kurehats and from the head down to toes all hair is to be kept intact.
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. The turban also serves as an outward form of recognition of Sikh men and women.
…ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ॥
“…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.
A Khalsa is expected to regularly wash and comb their hair as a matter of self-discipline. The Kangha is to be worn in the hair at all times, and is used for combing of one’s 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.
ਹੋਇ ਸਿੱਖ ਸਿਰ ਟੋਪੀ ਧਰੈ ॥
ਸਾਤ ਜਨਮ ਕੁਸ਼ਟੀ ਹੋਇ ਮਰੈ ॥
“Being a Sikh he/she who wears a hat they will enter into seven diseased lifeforms.”(Rehatnama Bhai Prehlad Singh ji, p.65)
If the kangha becomes damaged in any way, it should be replaced immediately. The kangha is placed on the head the highest point of the body and thus becomes supreme. 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.
This 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. The Kara must be of Sarab Loh (pure iron).
This 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.
ਸੀਲ ਜਤ ਕੀ ਕਛ ਪਹਿਰਿ ਪਕੜਿਓ ਹਥਿਆਰਾ ॥
“The sign of true chastity is the Kachera, you must wear this and hold weapons in hand.” (Bhai Gurdas ji, Var. 41, pauri 15)
An emblem of courage and self-defence. It symbolises dignity and self-reliance, the capacity and readiness to always defend the weak and the oppressed. 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.”
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.
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 anything else.