What are the 'Five Ks'?
The community of men and women who have been initiated into the Sikh faith is known as the Khalsa (Community of the Pure)
In order to become a Sikh and join the Khalsa, people need to follow the Five Ks:
- Kesh: uncut hair as a mark of holiness and submission to God's will
- Kangha: a small wooden comb in the hair as a sign of cleanliness
- Kara: a steel bracelet, a reminder that they are connected to God
- Kachhera: short cotton underwear, more practical for daily life than the traditional dhoti worn in India
- Kirpaan: a sword, for protection.
What are the Sikh rites of passage?
At birth - When a baby is born a special prayer is read and a drop of Amrit (holy water) is placed on the baby's tongue. At a ceremony at the Gurdwara, the name of the baby is chosen by opening the Guru Granth Sahib at random: the name must begin with the first letter of first word of the Hukamnama on the left hand side of the page. Singh ('Lion'), a reminder to be courageous, is added to boys' names while Kaur ('Princess'), to stress dignity, is added to girls' names.
At puberty - When a person is aged between 14 and 16, an initiation ceremony called the Dastaar Bandi (wearing of the first turban) takes place. Young Sikhs are allowed to join the Khalsa. Khalsa Sikhs observe the Five Ks. A special solution of sugar and water, known as Amrit, is prepared in an iron bowl whilst the five Banis (special prayers) are recited by five Sikhs in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. During the ceremony the Amrit is blessed and sprinkled on the hair and eyes, a prayer is said and a meal is eaten together.