Kes is the Sikh word for hair. Kes refers unshorn hair or unaltered intact hair and includes all hair on the head, face and entire body.
Sikhs honor the intention of the creator by keeping their hair unshorn and unaltered in its natural state. Kes is not to be dishonored in any way. All methods of hair removal, or alteration, are against the tenets of the Sikh faith and considered to be taboo for the kes. Hair is to be kept clean and combed, and kes ought never to be cut, colored, or curled. Shaving, plucking, tweezing, waxing, bleaching, using depilatories, or otherwise altering the hair by any means, dishonors the kes and the inherent intention of the creator.
Kes is essential to Sikhism as belief the guidelines of the gurus teachings and initiation according to tenth Guru Gobind Singh is part of what defines a Sikh. Kes is to be maintained and kept intact from birth throughout the entire life until death. A Sikh who maintains kes, keeping all hair unshorn and intact, is known as a Kesadari (Unaltered hair and beard) or Kesdhari possesor of unaltered hair). Any baptized Sikh who has accepted initiation to become a Khalsa Sikh, or Amritdhari, is required to keep the kes intact or face chastisement.
Sikhs use a wooden comb called a kanga to keep the Kes free from tangles. The Kes is kept up and covered with a length of turban to protect it. Many Sikhs wear a small turban called a keski for this purpose.
The gurus' gave examples of how keeping hair intact has the capability of subduing the effects of ego.
Siri Chand, the son of First Guru Nanak, asked Fourth Guru Raam Daas why he kept his long beard intact. The guru replied, "To dust your feet."
His son, Fifth Guru Arjun wrote:
- "Gur kae charan kaes sang jhaarae ||1||
The Guru's feet I dust with my hair." ||1|| SGGS||387
- "Kaes sang daas pag jhaaro ehai manorath mor||1||
With my hair, I clean the feet of Your slave this is my life objective." ||1||SGGS||500
- "Kaesaa kaa kar beejanaa sant chour ddhulaavo ||
Making of my hair a fan, over the Saint I wave it." SGGS||745