516.The Man in Blue – Sikhí V

Vaisakhi 1699, the Khalsa uniform : the Turban and the Five Ks. In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai, the tenth Sikh Guru, asked his Sikhs to come to Anandpur Sahib for the Vaisakhí festival. On the day he stood before the sangat, holding a sword, asking the Sikhs to offer their head.

The first five who came forward are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life. They initiated Guru Gobind Rai and many more followed. Since then Khalsa men are known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Princess). Guru Gobind Rai became Gobind Singh.

This took place during the reign of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of India. Being a Khalsa involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru stipulated 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-Soldiers), who do not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa are to wear the turban and the Five 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 the 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 for a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Five Ks and the Turban should know that they can go to her/him for help. If you wear the Khalsa uniform you are a visible Sikh. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

The Turban (Pag, Pagri, Dastár) was both in the Muslim and the Hindu community a sign of high worldly or spiritual status. Just like the names Singh and Kaur, that before were only used by those of high caste, the Sikh turban is a symbol of the elevation of the low-caste to the same status as those of high-caste.