Kara and Kirpan

by Sarah Corbett

In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of Sikhism, created the Khalsa Panth at Anandpur Sahib. This occasion transformed Sikhs into a family of soldier saints.

During the transformative festival Guru Gobind Singh came out of a tent holding a sword, and challenged any Sikh who was prepared to give his life to come into his tent. The Guru took the first man into his tent and returned alone with a blood covered sword. He then appealed for another volunteer and repeated the scenario four more times until five men had dissappeared into his tent. The crowd were shocked and concerned, until the 5 men returned with the Guru, each wearing a turban. The five men became the Panj Piare or the ‘Beloved Five’.

To be initiated into the Khalsa Panth involves the wearing of the 5 k’s, which are taken together to symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru.

The 5 K’s are, Kech (Uncut hair), Kara (A steel bracelet), Kanja (A wooden comb), Kaccha (Cotton underwaer), and Kirpan (A ceremonial sword)

The Kara is a steel bangle which Sikhs usually wear on their right arm. It is worn to constantly remind the wearer that the deeds of their hands must at all times be in keeping with the advice and the teachings of the Guru. The Kara also represents Eternity.

The Kirpan is a symbolic dagger which is carried by all baptised Sikhs. The word derives from ‘Kirpa’ meaning mercy, grace, compassion and kindness and ‘aan’ meaning honour and dignity. It symbolises the duty of Sikhs to control internal voices and be constantly immersed in virtues, and to defent the rights of those who are wrongly oppressed or persecuted, irrespective of colour, caste or creed.

Kirpan are often worn in the form of a pendant on a necklace.

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