The Khanda is the symbol of the Sikhs, as the Cross is to Christians or the Star of David is to Jews. It reflects some of the fundamental concepts of Sikhism. The symbol derives its name from the double-edged sword (also called a Khanda) which appears at the centre of the logo. This double-edged sword is a metaphor of Divine Knowledge, its sharp edges cleaving Truth from Falsehood. The right edge of the double-edged sword symbolises freedom and authority governed by moral and spiritual values. The left edge of the double-edged sword symbolises divine justice which chastises and punishes the wicked oppressors. The circle around the Khanda is the Chakar. The Chakar being a circle without a beginning or an end symbolises the perfection of God who is eternal. The Chakar is surrounded by two curved swords called Kirpans. These two swords symbolise the twin concepts of Meeri and Peeri - Temporal and Spiritual authority introduced by Guru Hargobind. They emphasise the equal emphasis that a Sikh must place on spiritual aspirations as well as obligations to society. On the left side is the sword of spiritual sovereignty, Peeri; on the right side is the sword of political sovereignty, Meeri.
"There is Only One God". The first two words in the Guru Granth Sahib & one of the cornerstones of Sikhism. They appear at the beginning of the Mul Mantra written by Guru Nanak describing the qualities of God in the Japji.
Nishan Sahib is the name given to the flag which is seen flying outside every Sikh Gurdwara (Temple). It is a triangular piece of ochre or saffron coloured cloth with the Khanda emblem in the middle. The flag post also has a khanda or spear on top and is usually covered with the same cloth as the flag. The use of the Nishan Sahib was first introduced by Guru Hargobind. Sikhs show great respect to their flag as it is, indeed, the symbol of the freedom of the Khalsa. It is this Nishan Sahib that is referred to in the daily prayer of the Sikhs for its immortality. When we study the verses of the bards that form an integral part of the Guru Granth Sahib, we learn that there was a practice of hoisting of the flag during the divine ministry of Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das and Gur Argan Dev ji. The colour underwent a change, from white to saffron, in the hands of Guru Hargobind and it was first time hoisted at the Akal Takht Sahib in the year 1609.
THE FIVE K'S TO BE WORN BY ALL BAPTISED SIKHS
Comb. A symbol of hygiene and discipline as opposed to the matted un-kept hair of ascetics. A Khalsa is expected to regularly wash and comb their hair as a matter of self discipline.
Ceremonial Sword. A symbol of dignity and the Sikh struggle against injustice. It is worn purely as a religious symbol and not as a weapon. When all other means of self protection fail, the Kirpan can be used to protect yourself or others against the enemy.
Iron bracelet. A symbol to remind the wearer of restraint in their actions and remembrance of God at all times. Every Khalsa is enjoined to wear the Kara on the right wrist. The Kara being circular in shape, symbolises wheel which itself, when viewed in the background of Indian heritage, simultaneously stands for Dharma and Chakarvarti Raja (universal monarch). Therefore Kara manifests two meanings, eternal and temporal and the Khalsa is enjoined to imbibe both.
Drawers. A symbol signifying self control and chastity. Every member of the Khalsa must must wear a Kachhera, in order to cover not only the genitals, but it should also cover the thighs up to the knees. The covering of the genitals enjoins him/her to live under the strict discipline of self control. Also the Kachhera stands to repudiate the idea of nudity so dear to Indian asceticism. The Sikh religion advocates, instead, all round development of one's personality possible only when adhering to social norms as a balanced social being. It also allows freedom of movement, which is especially required during time of battle.
Long unshorn hair. A symbol of spirituality. The Kesh reminds a Khalsa to behave like the Guru's. It is a mark of dedication and group consciousness, showing a Khalsa's acceptance of God's will. Long hair have long been a common element of many spiritual prophets of various religions such as Jesus, Moses and Buddha.
K's, along with the turban, constitute the Khalsa uniform, which distinguishes a
Sikh from any other person in the world, and is essential for preserving the
life of the community and fostering the Khalsa brotherhood.
The Five K's are not supposed to foster exclusiveness or superiority. They are meant to keep the Sikhs united in the pursuit of the aims and ideals of the Gurus. They enable them to keep their vows made at the time of baptism. The Sikhs have been known to face torture and death rather than cut their hair or remove any of the sacred symbols.
The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. His religion is known to all. He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour or action on his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus. People would easily blame him if he deviated from the disciplinary code of Guru Gobind Singh.
Turban is closely associated with Sikhism. Sikhism is the only religion in the world in which wearing a turban is mandatory for all adult males. Vast majority of people who wear turbans in the Western countries are Sikhs. The Sikh pagdi (ਪਗੜੀ) is also called dastaar (ਦਸਤਾਰ), which is a more respectful word in Punjabi for the turban.
Sikh's are famous for their distinctive turbans. The turban represents respectability, and is a sign of nobility. Guru Gobind Singh gave all of his Sikhs turbans to recognize the the high moral status that the Khalsa has to adhere to. A turbaned sikh stands out from the crowd and is easily recognizable. The dastaar, as the Sikh turban is commonly known as is an article of faith. This was made mandatory by the founders of Khalsa and all baptised Sikhs are required to wear a Dastaar. It is not to be regarded as mere cultural paraphernalia.
When a Sikh man or woman dons a turban, the turban ceases to be just a piece of cloth and becomes one and the same with the Sikh's head. The turban as well as the other articles of faith worn by Sikhs have an immense spiritual as well as temporal significance. The symbolisms of wearing a turban are many from it being regarded as a symbol of sovereignty, dedication, self-respect, courage and piety but the reason all practicing Sikhs wear the turban is just one - out of love and obedience of the wishes of the founders of their faith.
Turban is an inseparable part of a Sikh's life. Since Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, all Sikhs have been sporting a turban. The Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) specifically says that all Sikhs must wear a turban. According to the Rehatnama, compiled after a few years of Guru Gobind Singh's demise, the five Kakars of Sikhism were : Kachhera (a knee-length underwear), Kara (a iron bangle), Kirpan (a sword), Kangha (comb) and Kesh (hair).
Guru Gobind Singh is quoted as saying :
"Kangha dono vakt kar, paag chune kar bandhai." Translation:
"Comb your hair twice a day and tie your turban carefully, turn by turn.
Holiness and Spirituality : Turban is a symbol of spirituality in Sikhism. Guru Angad honoured Guru Amardas with a turban (Siropa) when he was seated as the Guru. The most revered Sikh symbol is hair. The turban is required by every male Sikh in order to cover his head. This is the primary reason the comb (kangha) is one of the five basic requirements of the Sikh way of life. The turban (Dastaar) has remained the key aspect of a Sikh's honour. Those who have selflessly served the community are honoured with turbans. Initiation ceremony is the most important ceremony in a Sikh's life. That ceremony cannot be complete without the injunction of always wearing a turban.
All the Sikh Gurus sported turban. Throughout our short history, all Sikhs also sported turbans. The turban has become synonymous with Sikhism. Yet, other religions such as Hinduism, Islam and even Christianity have similar tenets as evidenced by the following:
Once they enter the gates of the inner Court, they are to wear linen vestments. They shall wear linen turbans, and linen drawers on their loins.
(Old Testament: Ezekiel 44:18-19)
Turban as an Honour
The highest honour that a Sikh religious organization can bestow upon an individual is a Siropa. It is a blessing of the Guru which is bestowed upon a person who has devoted a major portion of his / her life for the welfare of the Sikh community or humanity in general. Sometimes a Siropa is also bestowed upon the families of Sikhs martyrs.
Turban and Sikh Military Life
Turban is a symbol of honour and self-respect. The Sikh Army fought their last major battle against the British in 1845. All the Sikh soldiers and generals fought for the respect of "turban and beard" which symbolize Sikh way. Shah Muhammad, a great Punjabi Muslim poet and historian, who witnessed that war, writes:
Pishe baitth Sardara(n) Gurmatta kita, koi akal da karo ilaj yaro. Sherh burshia(n) di sade pesh ayee, pag dahrhia(n) di rakho laaj yaro.
Freely translated, it says : The Sikh chiefs took a unanimous and firm religious decision (Gurmatta), that they should have sense enough to judge the tenor of Maharani Jind Kaur and the crafty Britishers. They said that they were facing a very shrewd enemy and it was high time for them to save the honour of their turbans and beards (both symbols of self-respect).
The Sikh soldiers refused to wear helmets during World War I and World War II. They fought with turbans on their heads. A Sikh would have had to remove his turban to wear a helmet which could not even be imagined. Many Sikhs received Victoria Cross, one of the most prestigious gallantry awards in the British army, for their bravery.
Many Sikhs refused to remove their turban even during their imprisonment. Bhai Randhir Singh, a widely respected Sikh preacher, scholar, and a freedom fighter had to undergo a fast to win his right to wear turban in prison.
Turban a Symbol of Missionary Zeal and Courage
There are many references in the Sikh history that describe how Guru Gobind Singh personally tied beautiful dumalas (turbans) on the heads of both his elder sons Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujhar Singh and how he personally gave them arms and sent them to the battlefield at Chamkaur Sahib where they both embraced martyrdom. When the Sikhs organise an agitation (morcha), they usually wear a saffron colour turban which is a symbol of sacrifice and martyrdom.
It provides Sikhs a unique identity. You will see only Sikhs wearing turban in western or majority of eastern countries. If a Sikh wishes to become one with the Guru, he must look like the Guru (wear a turban). Guru Gobind Singh says :
"Khalsa mero roop hai khaas. Khalse me hau karo niwas."
Khalsa (Sikh) is a true picture of mine. I live in the Khalsa.
According to the historical accounts, Guru Gobind Singh tied an 18 inch high dumala (turban) just before the light merged in the Supreme Light.