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What Are the Five K's of Sikhism?

Kakars, the Five Required Articles of Sikh Faith

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Kakar refers to any or all of the five articles of the Sikh faith. Because the name of each one of the five articles begins with the letter (or sound of) K, they are commonly referred to as the five K's of Sikhism:

  • Kachhera
  • Kanga
  • Kara
  • Kes
  • Kirpan

An Amritdhari, or initiated Sikh is required to wear all of the 5 K's during the Sikh baptism, or initiation ceremony of Amrit, and thereafter. The five articles of faith or 5 K's are to be kept on or with the person at all times. The kakar each have a practical function.

1. Kachhera, Undergarment

A Singh wearing kachhera, the Sikh undergarment.
Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
Kachhera is a loose undergarment worn by Sikhs and is one of 5 K's, or articles of faith known in Sikhism as kakar. The kachhera is designed for ease of movement while maintaining modesty, whether sitting cross-legged for worship, participating in seva, or engaging in martial arts. Historically, the kachhera worn by Sikh warriors allowed for agility in battle or horseback.

2. Kanga, Wooden Comb

Kanga, the Sikh comb.
Photo © [S Khalsa]
The Kanga is a wooden comb and is one of 5 K's, or articles of faith known in Sikhism as kakar. It comes in a variety of sizes. Some have short fine teeth and others long wide teeth. Sikhs do not cut their hair. In the days before shampoo, Sikhs cleansed their hair using water and oil. The traditional practice of using oil to continues in modern times and helps prevent snarling of the tresses and nourishes the scalp. A large kanga removes tangles easily. A small fine toothed kanga is useful for cleaning and maintaining healthy hair free of dandruff and parasites. Sikhs comb their hair in the morning before tying a turban, and generally at the end of the day, before sleeping.

3. Kara, Bangle

A Sikh woman with a kara on each wrist.
Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
A kara is an iron or steel ring worn on the wrist of the right arm and is one of 5 K's, or articles of faith known in Sikhism as kakar. Traditionally a kara served as a protective wrist guard during battle when fighting with swords. The kara also serves as a visible reminder of the bond between the Sikh and Guru.

4. Kes, Uncut Hair

A Sikh man with Kes, uncut hair and beard.
Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
Kes means hair and refers to the hair growing from the scalp and is one of 5 K's, or articles of faith known in Sikhism as kakar. For the initiated Sikh, kes includes all facial and body hair. Kes is to be kept completely intact. This means that a Sikh never cuts, removes, or alters any hair or the head face or body. Hair grows to a particular length depending on the genetic code of an individual. Sikhs honor this physical process as the intent of the creator. Many Sikhs testify that kes has a spiritual significance during meditation and worship and wear a short turban known as a keski to protect the kes as part of their kakar.

5. Kirpan, Ceremonial Short Sword

Kirpan, the Sikh ceremonial short sword.
Photo © [S Khalsa]
A kirpan is a ceremonial short sword worn by an initiated Sikh and is one of 5 K's, or articles of faith known in Sikhism as kakar. The kirpan represents the ideal of the Sikh warrior to defend the weak from tyranny, injustice, and forced conversion. Historically the kirpan would have been a weapon used in battle. The significance of the kirpan extends to a personal battle fought with ego and is a reminder to be vigilant against the rise of anger, attachment, greed, lust, and pride. A kirpan is touched to prashad, and to langar, before either are consumed, to bless and symbolically impart the strength steel of steel to worshipers.

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