The Khalsa and the 5Ks – by Harjinder Singh


Vaisakhi 1699

In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai the tenth Sikh Guru, called his Sikhs together in Anandpur Sahib in the north of Panjab. He stood before the meeting, holding a sword, and asked for people to come forward who were willing to give their head.

The first five who did so are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs, those who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life, to doing God’s work. They then in their turn initiated Guru Gobind Rai into the Khalsa, and many others followed. From then on all Khalsa men were known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Prince). Thus Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh.

This took place under the rule of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of the north of India. Being a Khalsa (Knight) involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru did stipulate that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier), who would not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who would defend the defenceless and fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa were to wear five outward signs, the so called Five Ks, and this practice is followed to this day.

Do realise that initiated Sikhs or Khalsas are only a relatively small group within the wider Sikh community or Panth. Many people of Sikh background wear a Kara, and more committed ones also keep uncut hair and wear a turban. It is unlikely that Sikhs who are not initiated wear a Kachhera, while only initiated Sikhs will wear the Kirpan.

The 5 Ks

The 5 Ks are :
Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
Kara (a steel bracelet)
Kangha (a wooden comb)
Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
Kirpan (small steel sword)
The kirpan stands for this fight against injustice referred to above.

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Khalsa uniform (the Five Ks) should know that they can go to her/him for help. Regardless whether they wear western or Panjabi style clothes, they are visible Sikhs. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.



Filed under The Khalsa Knighthood

2 responses to “The Khalsa and the 5Ks – by Harjinder Singh

  1. Gurmit Singh

    Thanks for sharing the gist of “Khalsa”.
    We need not to display any such picture/painting of any Guru Sahib, especially being not real one. Moreso, when Guru Sahib had undergone “Amrit Initiation Ceremony” said lady could not have stood behind and I am also doubtful whether Parkaash of Guru Granth Sahib was done then !!

    Singh = Khalsa = Knight = Saint-Soldier is fine, being brave, courageous, steadfast but I differ with ‘lion’ because lion is a beast, sucks the blood of others, does not protect anyone and performs no brave deed or does any useful activity.

    Kaur = Princess (not Prince) though other qualities of the Khalsa remain.

    Similarly, these are not socalled “Five K’s” – these are Articles of Faith as blessed by our Gurus Sahibaan and embrace the concept of Piri & Miri with a view to also overcome five evils – Kaam Karodh Lobh Moh Ahankaar and lead the Truthful life as an ideal and noble person. Every Sikh is required to endeavour for these qualities.
    With best Wishes,
    Gurmit Singh (Australia)

  2. kamallarosekaur

    Thanks Gurmit Singh,

    I was wondering if I should use any “pictures” of the historic lineage of Sikh Gurus. Certainly I understand that the Sikh Gurus did not wish to have their faces represented, and worshipped. As you say, we do not know what they looked liked, and our Guruji is our scripture.

    I decided to post pictures depicting historic scenes, fairly non-devotional graphics, but as you so wisely point out we don’t actually know if the scene I posted is accurate either. And the “halo” around heads seems a bit silly anyway.

    So I have deleted that picture and replaced it with a simple Kanda (symbol of the Khalsa Knighthood) Thanks for all the imput. Harjinder Singh may well comment. I have seen Kaur translated as “Prince” and also as “Princess” or “of noble birth”. “Princess” would be fine were it not such a prissy silly pampered, spoiled and uppity role in history.

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