What is the significance of the five articles of faith?

Photograph showing a Keski (small turban), Kirpan (sword), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (iron bangle) and Kachhera (tailored shorts).

Photograph showing a Keski (small turban), Kirpan (sword), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (iron bangle) and Kachhera (tailored shorts).

When Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa Panth in 1699, he ordered them to maintain the five articles of faith – Panj Kakaar. These articles of faith were not only necessary for the strength and uniformity of the organization, but also for the value they each had in their own right.

ਤੁਮ੍ਹੇ ਪਾਹੁਲ ਦੇਨੇ ਸੇ ਪਹਿਲੇ- ਹਮੇਂ ਪਾਂਚ ਕਕਾਰ ਦੀਏ ਹੈਂ-
ਇਨ੍ਹੇ ਭੁਲ ਕੇ ਬਦਨ ਸੇ ਜੁਦਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਨਾ ।
ਪ੍ਰਿਥਮੇ ਤੁਸਾਂ ਕੋ ਨੀਲੀ ਰਾਂਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਸਕੀ, ਕੰਘਾ, ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਨ, ਸਰਬ ਲੋਹ ਕਾ ਕੜਾ ਤੇ ਸਫੈਦ ਰੰਗ ਕਾ ਕਛਿਹਰਾ ਦੀਆ ਹੈ ।
ਇਨ ਮੇਂ ਏਕ ਭੀ ਜੁਦਾ ਹੋਇ ਜਾਇ, ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰੇ ਜਾਇ ਸੰਗਤ ਮੇਂ ਬਖਸ਼ਾਨਾ, ਢਿਲ ਨਹੀਂ ਪਾਨਾ ।
“Before giving you Amrit, I (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) gave you five Kakkaars, which you never separate from your body. First to be given you is the blue-coloured Keski, Kangha, Kirpan, pure iron Karha, and white-colour Kachhera. If any one of these gets separated (from you), then seek forgiveness for that from the Sangat in the Gurdwara, and in doing this there should be no delay.”
(Guru Kian Sakhiaan, authored by Swaroop Singh Kanishk (1790ce), p. 123)

ਕੱਛ, ਕੜਾ, ਕਿ੍ਰਪਾਨ, ਕੰਘਾ, ਕੇਸਕੀ, ਇਹ ਪੰਜ ਕਕਾਰ ਰਹਿਤ ਧਰੇ ਸਿਖ ਸੋਇ ॥
“Kachhera, Karha, Kirpan, Kangha, Keski – Whoever keeps the discipline of wearing these 5Ks will be known as my Sikh.”
(Bhai Chaupa Singh Rehatnama)

Let us examine the significance of each symbol.

Kesh/Keski:

Hair (Kesh) is part of nature and God’s system. It is a Bajjar Kurehit (unpardonable transgression) for a Sikh to dishonour his or her hair. The Khalsa becomes an apostate (Patit) if he or she shaves, trims, plucks, colours, disfigure or dishonours their hair in any form. Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, the founder of the Sikh Path, followed the ancient practice of the sages, prophets, and holy mystics of keeping the hair unshorn because keeping it in a natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the Will of Vaheguru.

ਜਬ ਪਹਿਲੇ ਸਬ ਸਿ੍ਰਸਿਟ ਉਪਾਈ । ਤਬ ਹੀ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹਿ ਬਨਾਈ ।
ਤਨ ਇਸ ਕੇ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਜੁ ਦੀਨੋ । ਸੋ ਇਹ ਤਨ ਸ਼ਿੰਗਾਰਿਹ ਕੀਨੋ ।
ਦਾੜ੍ਹਾ ਮੁੱਛ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਬਨਾਈ । ਹੈ ਇਹ ਦਿ੍ੜ ਜਿਹ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਰਜ਼ਾਈ ।
ਮੇਟ ਰਜ਼ਾਇ ਜੁ ਸੀਸ ਮੁੰਡਾਵੈ । ਕਹੁ ਤੇ ਜਗ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਵੈ ।
“God created the whole universe and then he fashioned the human body. He gave man a beard, moustaches and hair on the head. He who submits to His Will steadfastly adheres to them. They who deny His Will how will they find God in this world?”
(Bhai Desa Singh Rehatnama)

ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਪ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਕੀ ਪਾਹੁਲ, ਦੇਇ ਉਤਾਰ ਸੋ ਬੇਮੁਖ ਜਾਨਹੁ।
ਬੇਟੇ ਕੋ ਬੰਧੁ ਕੋ ਛਾਪ ਮੁੰਡਾਵਤ, ਜਮ ਦੁਖ ਭੋਗ ਕੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਤ ਪਛਾਨਹੁ।
“The Guru’s stamp is Kesh and (Khandi di) Pahul, one who removes (their Kesh) is known as an apostate (bemukh). One who shaves the stamp (of the Guru) of their child (i.e. cut their children’s hair), realise that person will suffer a terrible death and known as a ghost.”
(Bhai Sahib Singh Rehatnama)

ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤ ਰੱਬ ਦੀ, ਭੰਨੇ ਬੇਈਮਾਨ । ਦਰਗਹਿ ਢੋਈ ਨਾ ਮਿਲੇ, ਕਾਫ਼ਰ, ਕੁੱਤਾ, ਸ਼ੈਤਾਨ ।
“God has made the human perfect, but the dishonourable destroy it.
They will find no place in the Court of God, like the unbeliever, dog and Satanist.”
(Guru Nanak Janam Sakhi)

Some of the functions of human hair:
  • Guard Hairs  (whiskers, spines) protection (cage or sensory)
  • Insulate – retain body heat and fluid
  • Camouflage e.g. Zebra
  • Signal – e.g white tailed deer -warning others of predators
  • Navigation in darkness
  • Defence and offence – locate prey and predator
  • Absorb harmful radiations from the sun.
  • Keep out coarse dust particles, as in eyelashes, hair in the nasal chambers and ear canals.
  • Eyebrows prevent water or perspiration from falling into eyes, due to their particular direction.
  • Axillary and pubic hair lessen friction between limbs and body, and between limbs during locomotion.
  • Beautify the body (otherwise why people do not shave off their hair from the head completely; bald men are desperate and would pay any price to get back on their heads).
  • Beard and moustaches are for differentiation of sex. Mostly males are decorated in nature, e.g. lion, peacock and other birds, deer, etc.
  • Defend the body in danger, by standing on their ends, thereby making the body look bigger.

Kesh go hand in hand with the ‘Keski’ or turban, which is also known as a ‘Chhottee Dastaar’. Guru Gobind Singh Ji blessed the Khalsa with the Keski (small turban) to respect and protect the sacred Kesh and the Dasam Duaar (the Tenth Spiritual Gate). The Keski and Dastaar also gives a Sikh a distinct & graceful identity. Historically, the Keski (turban) is one of the 5 Ks, not Kesh, as all the five articles of faith are items of uniform, whereas a human is born with Kesh.

ਜੋ ਪਗ ਨੂੰ ਬਾਸੀ ਰਖੇ ਸੋ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ। ਇਸ ਲਈ ਹਰ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੇ ਸਿੱਖ ਲਈ ਲਾਜ਼ਮੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਉਹ ਰੋਜ਼ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਜਾਵੇ।
“One who does not tie a fresh turban is liable for penalty. For this reason it is mandatory for every Sikh of the Guru to tie a turban everyday.”
(Rehitnama Bhai Chaupa Singh)

ਜੂੜਾ ਸੀਸ ਕੇ ਮੱਧ ਭਾਗ ਮੈਂ ਕਰੇ, ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀਓ ਕਾ ਜੂੜਾ ਲੰਬਾ ਨਾ ਕਰਾਵੈ ।
“Women should tie their hair in topknot and should not keep them loose.”
(Rehatnama Bhai Daya Singh Ji)

੩੫. ਦਸਤਾਰ ਬਿਨਾਂ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਿਹਣਾ, ਕੇਸ ਨੰਗੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਰੱਖਣੇ ॥
“Do not stay without a turban, do not keep your hair uncovered.”
(Guru Gobind Singh Ji – recorded by Baba Ram Koher Ji)

Kangha:

In addition Guru Gobind Singh Ji blessed the Khalsa with the Kangha (small wooden comb) to also maintain and respect the Kesh. The Kangha is kept in the hair knot on the head. It is necessary for keeping the hair neat and tidy. The Kangha is a reminder to maintain cleanliness and keep thoughts pure.

Kachhera:

Underwear (Kachhera or Kachh) is regarded as a symbol of chastity and honourable character. It is made of cotton and has cord string much like under shorts. Practically it covers the body and ensures a Sikh is always ready and dressed modestly, and allows unembarrassed movement in times of action. It is also easy and comfortable to wear when at rest. it serves as a mark of readiness and agility. Kachhera is cotton underwear with cord string worn much like under shorts.

ਸੀਲ ਜਤ ਕੀ ਕਛ ਪਹਿਰਿ ਪਕੜਿਓ ਹਥਿਆਰਾ ||
“The sign of true chastity is the Kashera you must wear this, And hold weapons in hand.”
(Bhai Gurdas Jee, Var. 41, pauri 15)

ਗਿੱਲੀ-ਸੁਕੀ ਕੱਛ ਪਾਇ ਲਏ। ਕੱਛ ਦੇ ਪਉਂਚੇ ਦਾ ਸਿਖ ਵਿਸਾਹ ਨਾ ਕਰੇ।
“Whether the washed Kachhera is wet or dry it should be put on. When removing the Kachhera only one leg should be removed and put into the new Kachhera.”
( Rehatnama Bhai Chaupa Singh Jee)

ਕੱਛ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਨ ਨ ਕਬਹੂ ਤਿਆਗੈ।…।15।
“Never remove your Kachhera and Kirpan.”
(Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh Jee, Page 147)

 

Kirpaan:

Sword (Kirpan) is an emblem of truth, justice, courage and adventure. In order to have self-respect, the Khalsa should maintain the means to vindicate his honour. The sword is worn in a strap (Gatra) to be used for the defence of others and not for offence. From the possession of a sword comes the Khalsa Panth to be a brotherhood of arms.

ਖੜਗ ਕੇਤ ਮੈ ਸਰਣਿ ਤਿਹਾਰੀ ॥  ਆਪ ਹਾਥ ਦੈ ਲੇਹੁ ਉਬਾਰੀ॥
“I seek shelter of God, Who has the sword on His Banner. O God, give me Your own Hand and protect me.”
(Sri Dasam Granth, 1388)

ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਣ ਪਾਣ ਧਾਰੀਅੰ॥ ਕਰੋਰ ਪਾਪ ਟਾਰੀਅੰ॥
“One who wields the sword in their hand – they remove of millions of sins.”
(Sri Dasam Granth, 42)

ਸੈਫ ਸਰੋਹੀ ਸੈਥੀ ਯਹੈ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਪੀਰ ॥੩॥
“…Saif (sword), Sarohi and Saihathi (javelin), all these are our adorable seniors.3.
(Sri Dasam Granth, 717)

ਬਿਨਾ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਕੇਸੰ ਨਰੰ ਭੇਡ ਜਾਨੋ || ਗਹੇ ਕਾਨ ਤਾਂਕੋ ਕਿਤੈ ਲੈ ਸਿਧਾਨੋ||੯੯||
(Gur Bilas Patshai 10, Bhai Sukha Singh Adhiya 23 Page 492)

Kara:

The iron bangle (Kara) is a symbol of restraint, gentility & strength, it also reminds the Sikh that he is bonded to the Guru. When a Sikh looks at it, he will think twice before doing an evil deed.

ਸਰਬ ਲੋਹ ਦੀ ਰੱਛਾ ਹਮਨੈ ||
(Sri Dasam Granth, 11)

These articles of faith are kept to preserve corporate unity and to foster the sentiment of brotherhood. They assist a Khalsa look exactly like Guru Gobind Singh (form wise) and thus hopefully prompt him to behave like a Guru.

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