The five essential symbols of Sikhism
, known as the Panj Kakaars
(literally, "five K's"), are worn at all times by devout Sikhs
, serving as a means of identification and objects of religious pride and personal honor. The five symbols are considered sacred gifts of the Guru
and must be defended, even unto death. The Five K's are:
Kesh (unshorn hair): The Guru teaches Sikhs that man is created in the image of God. The human body is therefore an image of perfection and to alter it would be to trangress against the will of God. Thus, a Sikh must never cut, pluck, trim, shave, or wax any of the hair on his body. Hair must be kept clean and combed at all times and properly covered with a turban. A true Sikh would rather die than cut a single hair. A Sikh who trims his hair is considered a fallen one and is called a "Patit," and should be shunned by true Sikhs.
Kanga (wooden comb): The Kanga symbolizes purity and order and is used for combing one's hair. The Kanga is to be worn in the Sikh's hair at all times. A practicing Sikh combs his hair with the Kanga twice a day.
Kaach (special underwear): The Kaach is a kind of undershorts with a special pattern and stitching that Sikhs wear at all times. It sympolizes the Sikh's high moral character and reminds him of his vows against adultery. The Kaach originally developed out of practical considerations, as it allowed greater freedom of movement in combat.
Kara (iron bangle): The Kara is an iron bracelet the Sikh wears on his wrist. Much like a WWJD bracelet, the Kara reminds the Sikh not to commit sin. Because most sins must be committed with the hands, the Sikh will always have to look upon the Kara before he can commit sin.
Kirpan (sword): The Kirpan is a miniature sword that the Sikh wears around his waist with a strip of cloth called the "Gatra." First and foremost, the Sikhs are a warrior people, and thus the Kirpan serves as a reminder of their proud martial tradition and as a sign of the Sikh's readiness to fight and even die for his beliefs.