The 5K’s

Guru Gobind Singh instructed Sikhs to wear the 5 K’s (sacred symbols) in 1699 at the first Baisakhi. A Khalsa is required to wear the 5 K’s: 

  • Kara – steel bracelet

The kara is a steel bangle.  The kara is a sign that we bow only to God and serve only the Infinity; that we are never a slave to any man. It is made of steel to remind us that our steel will be tested, and that we should be strong as steel, steady as stone, so that our commitment shall never falter.  It is round to symbolize infinity and our connection to the One Creator – the Akal Purkh – the boundless, undying, Almighty God.

  • Kesh – long, uncut hair

(pronounced “Kaysh”) is uncut hair, is kept intact, as given by the Creator. To keep it is a sign of the Sikh’s acceptance of the Will of God, and a symbol of recognition of God’s Wisdom in creating the human in the form in which s/he was created. Hair has a function given by the Creator, which scientifically can be understood as an antenna for transmitting energy from the cosmos to the individual. As an antenna for bringing solar energy to the brain, hair is important in preserving mental stability. Kesh relates to the element of ether.

  • Kangha – wooden comb

The hair is made of the purest protein in the body. It channels the etheric energy into the body through the solar center at the top of the head. The kanga is a tool for keeping the hair beautiful and bringing energy into the body.  The kanga is for whenever you feel low on energy. Just comb your hair with it right there on the spot. It works much faster than you can imagine to revitalize your energy. Kangha relates to the earth element.

  • Kacheras – specially designed cotton underwear

(or “kacha”) are cotton undershorts which is a symbol of chastity and purity. Calcium is controlled by the thigh bone through its sensitivity to temperature. The kachera keeps a warm mantle of air surrounding the thigh and protects it against sudden temperature changes. The kachera maintains the polarity of the second chakra in relation to ida and pingala, the left and right polarities of the human energy system. Kachera relates to the element of water.

  • Kripan – sacred sword

It is an emblem of dignity, power and self-respect. It is not just a “sword,” but a combination of “kirpa” (kindness) and “aan” (dignity). Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Sikh Guru) explained that while the sword is used in anger or to take revenge, the kirpan is used in grace and dignity to protect the honor of oneself or of those who cannot protect themselves. As a symbol, it inspires respect for weapons and the highest sense of responsibility to God, Guru and humanity. A Sikh’s sword is used only as a last resort, when all other efforts towards achieving peace and right actions have been exhausted. One is a saint first, but when one’s sainthood is attacked, one must be a soldier. Currently, in situations in which it is illegal to carry a sword, Sikhs carry a small symbolic kirpan. The Kirpan relates to the element of fire.

Resource: “Wearing the 5K’s (Kara, Kesh, Kirpan, Kacheras, Kanga),” Sikh Dharma International (