The unshorn hair on the head and body is said to be a symbol of spirituality. Long hair have been a constant throughout history which can be witnessed in many of spiritual prophets across faiths – Jesus, Moses and Buddha.
Various reasons are attached to this symbolism:
- One’s hair is part of the God’s creation. Keeping it uncut shows the acceptance of God’s will.
- Symbolizes denial of pride in one’s appearance
- Building on the above, it also one’s wish to move from physical appearance towards spiritual maturity
- A Sikh shouldn’t bow to anyone else, like a barber, but should bow only to the Guru
- It also helps in identifying the members of the same group
- Follows the appearance of the last and 10th Guru – Guru Gobind Singh
The long hair is tied in a knot on top of the head and secured by a band and Kangha – a small wooden comb. The turban, which is usually a 1m cloth, is wound around the head and hair.
Women are not restricted from wearing this turban and adorn the turban in a different way when compared to the turban of the men. The Sikh women are forbidden to cut any body hair or even trim their eyebrows like how Sikh men are forbidden to trim/ cut their beard.
What does the Holy Guru Granth Sahib say on Kesh:
“…complete form is with turban donned.” (SGGSJ Ang 1084)
ਬਿਨਾ ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਕੇਸੰ ਦਿਵੋਂ ਨ ਦਿਦਾਰੇ ॥
“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.”
“Your nose is so graceful, and Your hair is so long.” (SGGSJ Ang 567)
ਨਿਰਹਾਰੀ ਕੇਸਵ ਨਿਰਵੈਰਾ ॥
“He does not need to eat; His Hair is Wondrous and Beautiful; He is free of hate.” (SGGSJ Ang 98)
A tiny wooden comb is to be worn in the hair at all times. This is necessary to maintain the hygiene of the hair and to keep it clean and tidy. A Khalsa should comb his hair, with this Kangha, twice a day and wash it regularly as a matter of self-discipline. This article of faith symbolises a clean mind and body and ridding oneself of impurities.
The Holy Book talk about Kangha :
ਦਾਤਨ ਨੀਤ ਕਰੇਇ ਨਾ ਦੁਖ ਪਾਵੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ ॥
“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)
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
Kacch or Kachera
Cotton shorts used as an undergarment. This garment was particularly useful for Sikh warriors of the 18th and 19th century which were suitable in battle and comfortable to be worn when riding on horses. It is believed to be a symbol of chastity, self-control and moral strength. Both males and females wear the same type of Kachera.
They were given as gifts of love by Guru Gobind Singh at the Amrit Sanchar in 1699 in which the Sikhs were baptized on initiated into a new order called the Khalsa. This gift from the Guru was to remind the Sikhs of Guru’s message regarding the control of the Five Evils.
On Kacchera from the Holy Book :
“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,
ਦੇਖਿ ਪਰਾਈਆਂ ਚੰਗੀਆਂ, ਮਾਵਾਂ ਭੈਣਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਜਾਣੈ ॥
“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)
The Kara is a round bangle made of steel, rather than gold or silver or any other material only because Kara is not an ornament.
Kara is a symbol to remind the wearer of restraint in their actions. It also symbolises the link between the Sikh and the Guru, a symbol of permanent bonding to the community and also to emphasise on the absence of either a beginning or an end when it comes to God.
Kirpan or the Sword
This article is to be carried along with the Khalsa at all times. It can be of any size and usually not more than three feet long. It is kept in a sheath and is usually worn under the clothing and is kept in a place with the help of a fabric strap around the shoulder or torso and attached in place by a fabric holster. The word Kirpan means “mercy, grace or magnamity”
The Kirpan symbolises :
- resistance against evil and defense of truth.
- The soldier face/part of the soldier-saints
- The struggle against injustice
- Courage and self-defence
- Dignity and self-reliance
- The readiness to always defend the weak and oppressed
It should be noted that the Kirpan is worn merely as a religious symbol and not as a weapon. When all means of self-defence fail, the Kirpan can be used.
The Guru Granth Sahib on Kirpan:
“The mark of a Khalsa is one who holds a Kirpan in hand, by doing this tens of millions of sins are abolished.” (Sri Dasam Granth Ang 42)
“Those who never depart his/her arms, they are the Khalsa with excellent rehats.” (Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh ji, p.148)