The 5 Ks

The Five Ks of Sikhism 

The Five Ks of Sikhism refer to the five outward signs of faith worn by Sikhs around the world. While there are slight variations to these symbols in some regions, they are typically understood to be:

kesh: Kesh refers to uncut hair. Sikhs are forbidden from trimming or removing body hair. Men (and some women) with uncut hair tie it up neatly and wrap it in a turban.

kangha: The kangha is a comb worn in the hair. The kangha is used twice daily to keep hair neat, and is an important symbol of diligence and cleanliness. 

kara: The kara is the steel bracelet worn on the right arm. 

kachh: The kachh is a special cotton undergarment, resembling boxers. It is worn as a symbol of monogamy and restraint.

kirpan: Perhaps the best-known symbol worn by Sikhs, the kirpan is a small sword symbolizing courage and self-defense.

 The importance of the five Ks is widely acknowledged by Sikhs, though many people choose to adhere to only some of them. Many contemporary Sikhs choose to cut their hair out of personal choice. Traditionally, only those who have undergone Amrit Sanskar (baptism) wear the kirpan.   

At the Bloomington Gurdwara, the majority of adherents wear the kara on their right arm, and prevalence of the other Ks varies. Worshippers at the Gurdwara give a range of explanations for wearing the kara. For many, it serves as a constant reminder of their Sikh identity and of the neverending presence of God. 

These symbols carry deep meaning, but this meaning varies for different individuals. To learn more about the importance of these symbols to individuals at this Gurdwara, see the personal accounts of Ruppa, Rajin, and Angela.