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The Sikh Bangle (Kara)
The Sikh Bangle

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: The Sikh Bangle:

Symbolism of the Kara

Symbolism of the Kara

A symbol is an object which signifies another object, an idea or a sign, usually representing something abstract. Symbolism in human life is analogous to the presence of air in the atmosphere. The atmosphere will not only be useless but meaningless to us in the absence of air. Life cannot be sustained without air, yet ordinary people seldom realise or appreciate the importance of air and attach little value to it. Similarly, symbolism, though an integral part of human life, is seldom appreciated by many of us.

All cultures and human behaviour are thoroughly charged and fully replete with symbolism. Society is peculiarly subject to the influence of symbolism in the fields which are emotionally charged, such as politics(flag colours, etc.) and religion (crosses, domes, etc.)

The etiquette of a society, bowing to superiors or saluting, etc., are nothing but symbolism. A child, prior to learning some phonetic symbols, communicates by signs. It puts forward its arms so as to invite somebody to pick it up. The psychologist confirm that phonetic symbols, (the languages), are symbols of human behaviour. The different shades of meaning attached to a word further exhibit symbolism, e.g. light is a symbol for knowledge, wisdom or truth while darkness is a symbol for death and mourning, and white is a symbol for purity and virginity, etc.

The commercial world exploits symbolism very deliberately.

In England a barber has a red and white pole, a pawnbroker has three golden balls outside his shop. Look at your watch, it is a certain and accordingly the company has put some symbols on it. Likewise various firms put different symbols on their products. How these symbols make us buy their goods can be explained only be expert psychologists. Certain symbols, for example, phonetic symbols (languages), are meaningful to almost everybody and thus useful to them. However some symbols such as religious symbols, are not intelligible to most of us, but are meaningful and useful only to the experts. A single word often carries wider and deeper meanings (by symbolism) than the simple word itself. For example, the words Negro, European, Indian, etc., are intelligible to everybody, but Homo Sapient is intelligible to some only. To those few, it is more meaningful than each of the simple words, as it represents not only all of them, but more than that. Similarly, religious symbols are not only difficult to understand, but they have an extremely wide and deep connotation and hence they are enormously useful in the religious life. As the use of symbols contributes to the success of commercial products, similarly religious symbols contribute to the progress of religion. To and ordinary Christian, a cross is a reminder of Jesus and his crucifixion but historian would say that the symbol of the cross has appeared in various cultures from time immemorial and it has undergone many changes and adaptations. It never disappeared completely, as it was meaningful and useful to the spiritual aspect of human life.

A double-edged axe symbol was used by the prehistoric Egyptians as a sign of power and divinity. Later on, this symbol underwent a lot of changes, and finally appeared again in the Sikh religion in the form of the Khanda ( a double-edged sword) and, curiously enough, it represented the same thing Power and Divinity.

Historians further confirm that wisdom is revealed to wise people through symbols, Art, literature, poetry, religion, etc., which deal with the unconscious, are full of symbolism. One of the latest approaches to the study of the unconscious mind is through symbols.

Religious faith is deeply tooted in the unconscious, and the unconscious is accessible only through very complex symbols. Hence symbolism is inseparably linked with religion.

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