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The Sikh Bangle (Kara)
The Sikh Bangle

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: The Sikh Bangle:



On the occasion of the most famous North Indian festival of Baisakhi in the year 1699, Guru Gobind Singh gave an unusual general call to his devotees to assemble in the spacious ground of Anandpur. Thousands of people thronged to Anandpur and on the appointed day assembled before a specially pitched tent, which was carefully decorated for the occasion. Thousands of devoted eyes were longing for a glimpse of the divine master when, lo and behold! he appeared characteristically in a splendid martial uniform, brandishing a sword in his hand. His blissful eyes looked like balls of fire. His face was red and his appearance was terrifying.

Guru Gobind Rai asking for a head

The people were stunned and silent. The Master broke the silence in a roaring voice, "I want the head of a devoted Sikh! Is there any Sikh who can quench the thirst of my sword?, What a request! The demand was met by a Sikh called Daya Ram. He was taken into the tent A thud! And the sound of a falling body! The master came out of the tent with his sword dripping blood and looking ever so fierce. In a thundering voice, he shouted again, "I want the head of another devoted Sikh. Is there anyone who loves me more than anything else?" After some time the demand was again met and it was repeated three more times. By this time most of the Sikhs had slipped away. The master did not come out of the tent for some time now. Some were wondering, What has gone wrong with the Master?" To the amazement of all, the Guru came out with those beloved five, shining in golden robes like the master himself. Look at the unique way the master selected the leaders for a spiritual democracy.

The master took an iron bowl with some clean water in it, and his wife, Jito Ji, added sugar cakes to the water. The Guru stirred the sugar cakes and water with a Khanda (double-edged sword) while all sang the five Sikh prayers in a chorus. The sugar cakes dissolved in the water and the holy hymns transformed the syrup into an elixir. The Guru asked all the five beloved ones to take five draughts of the elixir (Amain). The Guru also sprinkled it five times into their eyes while they uttered `Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji ki fateh". (The Khalsa belongs to the Wonderful Lord, all glory to Him). Then the Guru put drops of the elixir on to their keshas (hair) while they again uttered. "The Khalsa belongs to the Wonderful Lord and all glory to Him"

After this the Guru changed their names, so that instead of having varous suffixes like Das, Ram and Chard, etc., their names ended with Singh (Lion). Thus he gave them one universal Brotherhood (Khalsa) and asked them to wear five symbols.
Kesh (long fair), Kangha (a comb), Kirpan (sword), Kara (a steel bangle) and Kaccha (shorts). All the symbols start with `K' and are thus termed "the Ks"

The Five K's

After having baptized the Sikhs, the master kneeled before them and begged them to baptise him. Thus the master introduced democracy into the spiritual world by becoming the disciple of his own disciples.

The whole process of baptism involves symbolism. Water being a universal solvent, is symbolic of purity and cleanliness. Having the property of flowing downwards, it is also symbolic of humility and the Khalsa's concern for the weak and the downtrodden. The Khanda (double-edged sword used as a stirrer) represents power and divinity rolled into one. The readily soluble sugar cakes, losing their individual identity in a universal solvent like water, symbolize the sociability of the Khalsa and their freedom from caste and social divisions. The steel bowl represents the human mind and the Holy mother signifies the symbol of creation.

A Sikh's opinion is shaped by the principles laid down by the Guru just as water takes the shape of the bowl into which it is poured. The Khalsa, thus represented an all-embracing, universal Brotherhood of self-appointed guardians of a society, free from caste ridden and pluralistic propensities.

The Indian community was appallingly divided and subdivided into castes and subcastes and these social grooves were becoming increasingly deeper day by day. Segregation had generated suspicion, hatred and prejudice, to the extent that the working classes were considered inherently inferior people and the people of low castes who had been doing the menial jobs, were considered to be untouchables. There was no sign of equality of human rights and consequently the Indian nation was divided and demoralised. The Khalsa gave a death blow to the caste system and transformed the nation into a single Brotherhood. The holy hymns supplied the new Brotherhood with the divine blessing.

The Guru asked the Khalsa to drink the elixir so that their bodies were purified. He sprinkled the elixir into their keshas so that their intellect was purified. Thus they were physically, as well as intellectually, purified. What remained? They were still to be purified spiritually, and to that end he sprinkled elixir into their eyes so that their vision was purified and they received clear picture of God and His creation. The Sikh baptism thus introduced spiritual democracy, confirming the belief in social equality and the desirability of ideal behaviour.

In order to comprehend the true symbolic significance of the five Sikh symbols and especially of the bangle, it seems imperative that a brief mention should be made of symbolism in general and its importance in religious and social fields.

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The KHANDA is the insignia of the SIKHS, it constitutes three symbols in one. However, the name is derived from the central symbol, Khanda, which is a special type of double-edged sword resembling figure.
  1. This Symbolizes the ONLY ONE, the SUPREME TRUTH, the CREATOR, and thus confirms the SIKHS' belief in ONE GOD.
  2. Next, the CHAKKAR, or the circle, represents the infiniteness of the TIMELESS ABSOLUTE. The circle is also symbolic and a reminder to a Sikh to stay within the rule of God.
  3. Of the two KIRPAANS, or swords, on the sides, one is symbolic of PEERS (spiritual authority) and the other of MEERI (political or temporal power).
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