Question & Answer-36
What is the significance and meaning of the Sikh Symbols ?
are a mode of discipline signifying the wearer's belongingness to the Khalsa (The Brotherhood of the pure). They are a test of the Disciple's
firmness and strength of faith and indicate the type of life he is aspiring
to live. They remind the wearer of the great Guru Gobind Singh and thus
inspire him to follow his noble ideals. They foster brotherhood and a sense
of unity. They have a psychological significance as well:
1. Kachha (Knicker): It ensure briskness and agility and is a mark of
perpetual readiness. It also stands for chastity.
2. Kara (Steel Bangle): It indicates restraint and the wearer's
indebtedness to the Guru. It reminds the Sikh of his ideal behaviour in the
event of his weakness leading to the misdeeds.
3. Kirpan (Sword): It is an emblem of power and the freedom of the
spirit. The Sikhs use it primarily as an instrument of defence.
4. Kesh (Hair): The Keshas remind a Sikh to behave like the saints and
Rishis of the past and are a mark of dedication and group-consciousness.
They show the Sikh's acceptance of God's will. (For more detailed
information please read our booklet "The Sikh Symbols").
5. Kangha (Comb): It is necessary to keep the hair clean and is thus a
sign of cleanliness.
the five symbols enjoin upon the Sikhs not only to look like Guru Gobind Singh but also to behave as he did. Guru Gobind Singh said, "The
Khalsa is my special form. I manifest myself in the Khalsa. The Khalsa is a
part and parcel of my body. The Khalsa is my soul."
Is it necessary for a Sikh to keep unshorn long hair and a
turban on his head ?
Yes. It is disgraceful for a Singh to shear off his hair because by doing
so he is disobeying the Guru's command. Not to obey the commander and yet to
claim to be under his command is a contradiction in terms. Similarly to show
lip-devotion to the Guru's instructions and continue to behave according to
the dictates of one's own mind is manmat (egoism). It must be understood
clearly that the most important symbol of the Sikh faith is the hair, Miss
Jeane Cutler explains this as follows :
"Eliminate symbols my Sikhlings and watch the Khalsa crumble. Take off
the turban, cut the hair or throw aside the "Kara," I can tell you
truthfully the result would be embarrassing as well as disastrous. These
five symbols have held the Sikhs in united brotherhood.
serve to make a Sikh feel and act as a Sikh. They endow him with courage to
accomplish feats which otherwise would be impossible for an average man. To
make a long story short, the five symbols have psychological bearing on the
man who wears them.
are a manifestation of the Guru eternal." Thus hair is necessary for a Sikh
and a turban is an essential and complementary adjunct to unshorn hair. Let
it not be forgotten that Guru Gobind Singh had aimed to change his
followers into saint-soldiers modelled on himself and his predecessors. The
ideal was expressed in the Holy scripture as follows:- "Saabat Surat Dastar
Sira" "Keep your form complete and wear a turban."
remove hair and turban indicate the weakness of faith and disobedience of
the Guru's commands. It is far easier to slip then to hold the balance. The
visible propensity towards shaving the hair especially in the Western World
is due to many factors.
1. Some cut off their hair in order to look fashionable and submit to
the worldly ways.
2. Some find it difficult to get a job after having emigrated and in
frustration adopt western ways to achieve easier interaction.
3. A majority of the so-called shaven Sikhs unfortunately never have had
he opportunity to be able to know the history, philosophy and the tenets of
Sikhism fully before deciding to cut their hair. The hair signifies the
inner dignity and the freedom of spirit of those who wear it, side by side
with the integrity and firmness of faith.
Why did Guru Gobind Singh change the form of Sikhism and
make the Five "K's"
Guru Gobind Singh made no fundamental changes in Sikhism. The Sikhs stood
against oppression and tyranny right from the days of Guru Nanak, who
himself spoke against tyranny and injustice courting arrest and
imprisonment. The people had to be made ready to rise up against injustice
and high-handedness. All the Gurus did whatever they could do to make the
people manfully face and destroy the unjust, tyrannical and bigoted rulers
lock, stock and barrel. In this process Guru Arjan accepted death on a red
hot iron plate.
Guru Tegh Bahadur accepted to be publicly beheaded and many
faithful Sikhs accepted to be sawn alive, boiled in water or broken on the
wheel. This was necessary to arouse the dormant and long discredited
national-spirit of the people and to create the requisite grit and
determination to be able to uproot evil. Guru Gobind Singh's action seen
against this background is only the fulfilment of the programme outlined by
Guru Nanak. Not to stand against oppression and injustice was a slur on the
fair name of Guru Nanak who had said:
"To fight and accept death for a righteous cause is the privilege of the
brave and the truly religious." No one will contend that the cause of Guru Gobind Singh was righteous and just and that his action was in line with the
prevalent tradition and precept of Sikhism. War is part of the history of
man. To be on the defensive is everybodys' fundamental right. The history of
the Sikhs bears ample witness to the fact that they have never been
formally baptising his Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh only laid more
stress on external signs and insignia demanded by a disciplined organization
which he wanted to create. He made his Sikhs universal and fully
representative of the ideal man. As for the five symbols all the Gurus had
them except the sword and the steel bangle.
the sword was used by the sixth Guru and he fought many battles. Nations who
could not defend themselves have vanished from the face of the earth and
surely Guru Gobind
Singh wanted his followers to live as his agents and torch bearers.