The Five Ks

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Kanga, Kara and Kirpan – three of the five Ks

In Sikhism, the Five Ks (Punjabi: ਪੰਜ ਕਕਾਰ Pañj Kakār) are five items that Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in 1699, commanded Khalsa Sikhs to wear at all times. They are: kesh (unshorn hair and beard since the Sikh decided to keep it), kangha (a comb for the kesh, usually wooden), kara (a bracelet, usually made of iron or steel), kachera (a white undergarment), and kirpan (a small curved sword of any size, shape or metal).

The Five Ks are not just symbols, but articles of faith that collectively form the external identity and the Khalsa devotee's commitment to the Sikh rehni, 'Sikh way of life'.[1] A Sikh who has taken Amrit and keeps all five Ks are known as Khalsa ('pure') or Amritdhari Sikh ('Amrit Sanskar participant'), while a Sikh who has not taken Amrit but follows the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is called a Sahajdhari Sikh.


The kesh, also known as kesa, or uncut, long hair, is considered by Sikhs as an indispensable part of the human body. It also emulates the appearance of Guru Gobind Singh and is one of the primary signs by which a Sikh can be clearly and quickly identified. A Sikh never cuts or trims any hair as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation. The uncut long hair and the beard, in the case of men, form the main kakār for Sikhs.[2]

The turban is a spiritual crown, which is a constant reminder to the Sikh that they are sitting on the throne of consciousness and are committed to living according to Sikh principles. Guru Gobind Singh told his Sikhs:

"Khalsa mero roop hai khaas. Khalsa mai ho karo nivaas... The Khalsa is my image. Within the Khalsa I reside."[3] Wearing a turban declares sovereignty, dedication, self-respect, courage and piety.

A noted figure in Sikh history is Bhai Taru Singh, who was martyred when he refused to get his kesh cut.


Kangha – one of the five articles of faith for the Sikhs

Comb the hair twice a day, covering it with turban that is to be tied from fresh.

— Tankhanama Bhai Nand Lal Singh[4]

A kangha is a small wooden comb that Sikhs use twice a day. It is supposed to be worn only in the hair and at all times. Combs help to clean and remove tangles from the hair, and is a symbol of cleanliness. Combing their hair reminds Sikhs that their lives should be tidy and organized.

The comb keeps the hair tidy, a symbol of not just accepting what God has given, but also an injunction to maintain it with grace. The Guru Granth Sahib said hair should be allowed to grow naturally; this precludes any shaving for both men and women. In the Guru's time, some holy men let their hair become tangled and dirty. The Guru said that this was not right; that hair should be allowed to grow but it should be kept clean and combed at least twice a day.


Kara – one of the five articles of faith for the Sikhs

The Sikhs were commanded by Guru Gobind Singh at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar in 1699 to wear an iron bracelet called a Kara at all times. The kara is a constant reminder that whatever a person does with their hands has to be in keeping with the advice given by the Guru. The kara is an iron/steel circle to symbolise God as never-ending. It is a symbol of permanent bonding to the community, of being a link in the chain of Khalsa Sikhs (the word for link is kari).



ਸੀਲ ਜਤ ਕੀ ਕਛ ਪਹਿਰਿ ਪਕਿੜਓ ਹਿਥਆਰਾ ॥ The sign of true chastity is the Kachera, you must wear this and hold weapons in hand.

— Bhai Gurdas Singh, Var. 41, pauri 15

The kachera is a shalwar-underwear with a tie-knot worn by baptised Sikhs. Originally, the kachera was made part of the five Ks as a symbol of a Sikh soldier's willingness to be ready at a moment's notice for battle or for defence. The confirmed Sikh (one who has taken the Amrit) wears a kachera every day. Some go to the extent of wearing a kacheraye while bathing, to be ready to at a moment's notice, changing into the new one a single leg at a time, so as to have no moment where they are unprepared. Further, this garment allowed the Sikh soldier to operate in combat freely and without any hindrance or restriction, because it was easy to fabricate, maintain, wash and carry compared to other traditional under-garments of that era, like the dhoti. The kachera symbolises self-respect, and always reminds the wearer of mental control over lust, one of the Five Evils in Sikh philosophy.

Kachera follow a generally practical and roomy design. It features an embedded string that circles the waist which can be tightened or loosened as desired, and then knotted securely. The kachera can be classed between underwear and an outer garment, as in appearance it does not reveal private anatomy, and looks and wears like shorts. As with all of the Five Ks, there is equality between men and women, and so women are also expected to wear it. Considering the hot climate in India, the kachera is often worn by men as an outer garment, keeping the wearer cool and being practical in manual work such as farming, but it is generally not considered respectful for women to wear the kachera as an outer garment (on its own) as it is considered too revealing.


Kirpan is meant to be at least three foot long.

ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਹੀਨ ਕਬਹੂ ਨਹਿ ਹੋਈ, ਰਿਹਤਵੰਤ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਈ ॥Those who never depart their arms, they are the Khalsa with excellent rehats.

— Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh[citation needed]

The kirpan is a dagger which symbolises a Sikh's duty to come to the defence of those in peril. All Sikhs should wear the kirpan on their body at all times as a defensive side-arm, just as a police officer is expected to wear a side-arm when on duty. Its use is only allowed in the act of self-defense and the protection of others. It stands for bravery and protecting the weak and innocent.

The kirpan is kept sharp and is actually used to defend others, such as those who are oppressed by harsh rulers, or a person who is being robbed, raped, or beaten. The true Sikh cannot turn a blind eye to such evils, thinking that they are "someone else's concern."[citation needed] It is the duty of the true Sikh to help those who suffer unjustly, by whatever means available, whether that means alerting the police, summoning help, or defending those who cannot defend themselves, even if that means putting oneself in harm's way.

Panj Kapde[edit]

The Five Ks are the bare minimum and are not the full extent of Khalsa uniform; the Panj Kapde is also part of Khalsa uniform. It is part of the tradition of panj kapare (five garments), comprising dastaar (turban), hazooria (long white scarf worn around the neck), long chola (dress), kamar-kasaa (material tied around the waist like a belt) and kacchera (under-garment). Reference to this has been made by Varan Bhai Gurdas as well. The dastaar and kachera are mandatory for Sikhs although more spiritual Sikhs also have the other kapde.


A dastār (Punjabi: ਦਸਤਾਰ, from Persian: دستار) which derives from dast-e-yār or 'the hand of God',[citation needed] is an item of headwear associated with Sikhism, and is an important part of Sikh culture. The word is loaned from Persian through Punjabi. In Persian, the word dastār can refer to any kind of turban and replaced the original word for turban, dolband (دلبند), from which the English word is derived.

Among the Sikhs, the dastār is an article of faith that represents equality, honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. The Khalsa Sikh men and women, who keep the Five Ks, wear the turban to cover their long, uncut hair (kesh). The Sikhs regard the dastār as an important part of the unique Sikh identity. After the ninth Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur, was sentenced to death by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru created the Khalsa and gave five articles of faith, one of which is unshorn hair, which the dastār covers.

Sikh chola[edit]

Sikh chola is traditional dress worn by Sikhs. It is a martial attire which gives freedom of movement to a Sikh warrior. Sikh chola is also unisex attire, and may also be decorated with heavy embroidery all over it. It is meant to be either yellow, white or electric blue with many pockets to hold matchlocks[spelling?] and other weapons.

Kamar kasa[edit]

Kamar kasa is a sash bound around the waist to hold weapons an essential part of Nihang (Sikh warrior) dress. It is also called cumberband, belt, waist sash, or waistband. The Kamar kasa is meant to be yellow if wearing a blue chola or blue if wearing a white chola.


Nihang Sikhs wearing chakrams

A hazooria (scarf) is a sign of humility which is grasped during the Ardās. It is a constant reminder of surrendering one's mind to the Guru, along with the five K's. A hazooria is practical: it helps one keep suchamta (cleanliness) during seva (service) or reading Gurbani (hymns). It can help keep the hands clean when touching the face or picking up objects. The hazooria was also worn by servants and symbolises the Sikh surrendering to Waheguruji as their master.


There are many types of Sikh shaster (weapons) including:

Compulsory weapons that Nihangs must have[edit]

  • Two long kirpans representing Miri-Piri: they can be Nagini[definition needed] or normal[clarification needed]
  • Double-edged sword (khanda) can be Nagini or normal[clarification needed]
  • Daggers on the turban
  • Teer or an arrow
  • Jamdhardh – a sword which at the tip curves 90 degrees
  • Vadda Chakar
  • Sher Panja – a thick kara with a grip and daggers coming out
  • Karud
  • A spear of any kind, usually a Nagni Barcha, Ashtabhuja Dhuja or a Karpa Barcha
  • Bhagauti – single-edged dagger
  • Katar – also known as a push dagger
  • Quoits[definition needed] in ascending order[clarification needed]chakar
  • Gajah – symbols on turban
  • Tora – wrapping cord
  • Bagh Nakha – leopard claws
  • Adh chand – crescent
  • A Dhal – shield
  • Pesh-Kabz – Iranian dagger
  • Bow and arrows of any kind
  • Toradar – an Indian matchlock dating from the 16th century


  • Pata – a narrow-bladed, straight rapier with a gauntlet hilt
  • Zulfiqar – sword with two tips
  • Urumi – whip sword
  • Gupti – a straight sword concealed in the sheath of a walking stick
  • Khukuri – curved broadsword
  • Sarohi – special sword made in Sarohi, Rajasthan
  • Saif – straight sword
  • Asi – curved sword
  • Nimcha – a single-handed sword from north Africa, particularly Morocco and Algeria; it was transported from North Africa to India by Chinese traders
  • Turwar – sword
  • Satratak – sword
  • Kavchantak – armour piercing sword
  • Kilij – a type of one-handed, single-edged and moderately curved scimitar
  • Patis – double-edged sword
  • Kharag – large sword
  • Bugda – a curved cutlass
  • Kavchantak Satrantak – large sword
  • Pulowar – a single-handed curved sword originating in Afghanistan
  • Shastersar – King of arms
  • Samrantak – sword, which ends battles
  • Shamshere – a type of Persian/Iranian sword with a radical curve
  • Sarangaar – sword, which cuts bows

Daggers and knives[edit]

  • Sailabah-i-Qalmaqi – the name for a knife used by men from Kashgar
  • Jamdaadh – dagger with two blades
  • Raamjunga – a large dagger with a curve
  • Small curved daggers at least 10 to 15 ones[clarification needed]
  • Jamdaadh – dagger with two blades
  • Jamdhar – a dagger like a tooth
  • Jamdhara – a double-faced blade
  • Jodhantak – sword and arrow that destroys warrior armour

Special arrows and bows[edit]

  • Bisakh – arrow without feathers
  • Charkh – a crossbow used by Afghan men
  • Tatarcho – unusual[how?] arrow
  • Susbaan – special arrow with a crescent end
  • Sakkar – special curved arrow
  • Birha – arrow with feathers
  • Spira – shield breaking arrow
  • Teer – short spear, spike or arrow
  • Bichhua – arrow

Maces and flails[edit]

  • Flails – spinning weapons such as chains, chakar bolo, chuks etc.
  • Gurj – spiked mace.
  • Tantayutam – mace
  • Lathi – wooden cudgel, cane, stick or staff
  • Mughali gurj – short-handled club with three large round balls at the end

Spears, lances and tridents[edit]

  • Barchha – long spear, or pike
  • Barchhi – short, slender spear
  • Bothatti – throwing lance
  • Nagni Barcha – spear with a screw cork head created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji
  • Nezah – cavalry lance with a small steel head and a long bamboo shaft carried by nezah-bazan (lance-wielders). In normal use, a man on horseback held his spear above his head at the full length of his arm. It is made of bamboo and steel.
  • Karpa Barcha – long, thick spear

Muskets and matchlocks[edit]

  • Cailletoque – a strange,[editorializing] very long and heavy matchlock. This musket was often carried under the arm.
  • Jazail or Jazair – a wall-piece or swivel gun falling somewhere between a firearm, as carried by combatants, and a piece of artillery, and having features of both.
  • Ghor-Dahan was a kind of jezail. The allusion in the name seems to be to the everted or widened mouth of the barrel.
  • Che-Nishanbazia – a six-shooter gun
  • Toofani gola – extra-long musket
  • Tufung – matchlock musket
  • Tupak – normal musket with spear on the tip

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Five K's". Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Five Ks". Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  3. ^ As Khalsa, Wearing the Five K’s; Posted March 30, 2016 by Sikh Dharma International
  4. ^ Singh, Harjinder (2015). Sikh Code of Conduct. English: Akaal Publishers; 4th Revised edition. p. 26. ISBN 978-0955458743.

External links[edit]