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I forewarn you, some Jathebandi fanboys will find this insulting: The Five Kakkars. Tradition expounds that when the valorous Bhai Jaita brought Guru Teghbahadur Ji’s head to the young Guru Gobind Rai, the latter Guru exhorted emotional restraint. After debriefing Jaita as to the situation in Delhi, where the senior Guru was martyred, the Guru inquired as to the numeric presence of the Sikhs in the city. Jaita replied that though many were present, no conspicuous markers distinguished them from other non-Sikh citizens as long hair was retained by a majority of citizens irrespective of religious denomination. (1) Stolid, the Guru pledged to bequeath such a form to the Sikhs that they would be recognized even in millions! This form was ultimately made manifest in 1699 A.D. upon the creation of the Khalsa with the addition of four distinctive symbols to the physicality of all initiates. (2) Owing to the inherent factionalism of the present-day Sikh orthodoxy, and the corruption of the faith’s academia, features as conspicuous as the Five Kakkars are rarely elaborated upon. The latter are composed of the following: The Kesh- Unshorn Hair. The Kach- Stitched Drawers. The Kirpan- A Dagger. The Kangha- A comb worn exclusively in the hair and/or tied as an accessory to the Kirpan. The Kara- An Iron bracelet worn on the right forearm and/or on both forearms. The prime purpose of the Ks was to demarcate the Sikhs, on ideological lines, from non-Sikhs. Nanakianism, since inception, had placed an uncompromising emphasis upon societal living. Prior, or contemporary, faiths had separated the individual from his/her society on religio-political grounds. Prior Indic faiths-under the rubric of Hindu and composed of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism– perceived the world as an illusion and hence worthy of renunciation. The acolyte was enjoined to deprive himself of worldly pleasures and seek salvation in limitless solitude. Divorce from society, and it’s corollaries, was perceived as the only authentic means of Moksha or salvation. (3) Any attempts at societal betterment, in the case of Hinduism, was to be only attempted when the institute of Varnashrama Dharma (Caste) was physically threatened. (4) Krishna’s command, to Arjuna, on this point is quite illumining as the Demi-God states Caste to be a Divine creation which should be preserved through force if necessary. (5) Islam, a non-Indic faith and of Arabic origin, did not possess any concept of the separation of Church and State. (6) It’s prime aim was to engineer a global state which was fully Islamic in nature and where non-conformism to the state ethos, by default, was treason. ‘the toleration of any sect outside the fold of Orthodox Islam is no better than compounding with sin… The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of the Muslim state.’ (7) Brohi’s words, on the matter, are more profound: ‘Islam views the world as though it were bipolarized in two opposing camps- Darul-Salam (Islam) facing Darul-Harb- the first one is submissive to the Lord in co-operating with God’s purpose… The second one, on the other hand, is engaged in perpetuating defiance of the same Lord (by the rejection of Islam; interjection ours)…’ (8) This binarism is justified on the following ideological grounds: ‘…The extension of Muslim rule is objectively justified as the duty to spread the Superior truth which, as a way of life, can be fully realized only under a Muslim administration.’ (9) The realization and preservation of the Caliphate is the Summum Bonum of the Islamic faith and Muslims are forbidden to, in the words of the apologist Adeeba, ‘physically revolt or rebel against the ruler, be he righteous or tyrannical…’ (10) Husayn al- Quwatli expounds the following: ‘…the Muslim cannot take a disinterested position vis-a-vis the state… Either the ruler is Muslim and the rule Islamic, then he will be content with the state and support it, or the ruler non-Muslim and the rule non-Islamic, then he rejects it, opposes it and works to abolish it, gently or forcibly, openly or secretly…’ (11) Summarily, both the Hindu tradition and Islam enjoined an adherent to achieve a certain mode of statehood at the expense of the non-conformist. For the Hindu (in a religio-political sense), any attempts at eradicating or influencing the Varna structure was anathema whereas for the Muslim any attempts at change where taboo where a Muslim polity was involved. The individual was, effectively, divorced from the socio-political field under one pretext or another and socio-politically rendered impotent. (12) The Sikh Position: It was seen fit by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and his nine successors, to emphasize upon the socio-political/religio-political field and the latters’ corollaries. To this end the Sikh was enjoined to better his/herself and subsequently their environment. (13) The evolution of the faith was initially foreseen by the first Guru and successively realized by the subsequent nine. Given it’s ethos, it was necessary to physically distinguish the appearance of a Sikh from his non-Sikh fellows. The Sikh Gurus did not discriminate on any individual basis, but were opposed to the inefficacious tenets of other faiths. The Sikh was intended to stand out as a salient ensign of his/her precepts in opposition to the latter. (14) To this end, in 1699 A.D., the tenth Guru revamped the Sikh initiation ceremony of the Charan Pahul Amrit and bequeathed four additional symbols to all acolytes. (15) Let us now scrutinize the two common contentions advanced against the retaining of these Kakkars. 1.) The Kakkars were never five in number. Historic texts mention only three ,the “tre-mudra,” the latter two symbols were introduced by the Singh-Sabha. 2.) The Kakkars are related to Hindu religiosity and hence hold no distinctive symbolism, Per se, for the Sikhs and should be treated only as temporary markers. Their continuation is only a corollary of the Singh-Sabha movement. It must be noted that the above contentions are, if put candidly, the result of an ossified and otherwise obsolete academia which can be classified as either Assimilative or Mcleodian. Given the political leanings of many Sikh academics, Assimilative academicians promulgate the view that the Sikhs are not distinctive from the greater Hindu society and only an ideological offshoot. The general recourse, in their works, is to accuse the Occident of introducing the concept of self-defining identity in the sub-continental psyche. If their respective criterion is applied to Hinduism, the so-called parent faith, it emerges then that even the latter is an Occident creation vis-a-vis self-definition. (16) Mcleodian (the nomenclature being credited to the subjective intellectual Mcleod) academics opine that the Sikhs are an evolutionary corollary of prior spiritual movements and hence nothing new. Both classes ignore sources pointing to the contrary and advance their own subjective assertions in lieu of any substantive evidence. Contention One: The initial mention of the Tre Mudra is found in the Sri Sarbloh Granth, a secondary scripture generally credited to Guru Gobind Singh Ji although some compositions are said to be post-Guru era additions. (17) ‘The Righteous path of the Khalsa proliferates. It’s form is truth, liberation and auspicious deed. Retaining Kach, Kesh and Kirpan they pay obeisance to the (true) Guru. Worshipers of Kaal, they tread the way of the warrior (kshatriya) and fight in the vanguard. Among them forty-five were accepted, and five were acknowledged as being supreme among the Khalsa. The beloved Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh. The fifth was the true Guru who manifested the Panth.’ (18) Non-scriptural sources, generally historic texts, also mention the Tre-Mudra. A number of scholars believe that the Tre are placed in a context different to what the Ks are contextualized in. Orthodox traditionalists believe the Khalsa, the ultimate form of a Sikh, to be timeless. This, again, is verified by the Sri Sarbloh Granth: ‘By the command of the Timeless One, the Khalsa was manifested in the form of sacred Sages. With unshorn hair, from the top to the toe-nail, the Khalsa is both Saint and Warrior…’ (19) S. Kapur Singh’s research, based on the accounts of Megasthenes, indicates that a strong republican current (as found within the Sikh socio-political framework) existed upon the sub-continent in around circa 330 B.C. (20) Several such polities existed and/or bordered the modern day Punjab with the most prominent being the Kathians and the Sophytes or Sanbhutis. (21) Whilst retreating from the sub-continent, by way of modern Balochistan, Alexander encountered the Oxydrakais – Kshudras– and the Malloi, or the Mallavas. These peoples were essentially governed by republican institutes and fielded a coalition 100,000 strong to ward off the invader. (22) His next encounters were with the Xathroi and subsequently the Musicani. (23) Panini, an academic at 6th century Taxila, describes these polities-ganas– in passing as being ayudhyajivinis or arms-bearing. (24) S. Kapur Singh is of the opinion that these ganas were the socio-political ancestors of the Sikh framework. Historicity evidences that their citizens were defined by the the bearing of arms as a means of socio-political autonomy. (25) The Musicani, as per Megasthenes, also ate from a common kitchen and entertained no distinction within themselves. (26) The question now arises, are the Kangha and Kara Singh-Sabha innovations? Let us approach the matter via the aid of historic sources themselves. Mann & Singh substantiate that extant manuscripts of the Dasam Granth contain the, now excised, composition of Nishan-i-Sikhi. (27) Pandit Narain Singh’s exegesis of the scripture, published in 1932, evidences the composition to be a part of the Asfotak Kabit(t) Sv(w)aiye. Some scholars contend the composition to be the work of the sophist Bhai Nand Lal, but the syntax of the subject matches that of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s other works. (28) ‘These five letters beginning with K are the emblems of Sikhism. A Sikh can never be excused from the great five Ks. The Bangle, Sword, Shorts, and a Comb. Without unshorn hair the other lot of symbols are of no significance…’ (29) It is also prudent to note that historic Rehitnamahs, which mention the Tre Mudra, are also agreed that a Sikh should retain the Kangha to keep the Kesh well kempt and a Kara as a Vini Shastra- wrist weapon. (30) Jagir Singh, an amateur collector of Sikh antiquities, believes that the Tre Mudra encompass the other two Kakkars by default. ‘Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the Khalsa a Divine form but he was also insistent that it not lapse into asceticism. To this end the Kangha was bequeathed as a sign of worldly life. Ascetics allowed their hair(s) to become matted as worldly life did not concern them much. For the Khalsa the world is real; matted hair was to be rejected as a sign of detachment hence the comb. Worldly nuances, to an extent, were to be paid heed to. The Tre Mudra were understood to be timeless (ancient), but the Kangha and Kara were innovations of the tenth Master.’ (31) Historic texts, by default, mention both the Kangha and Kara in differing lights. Koer Singh and Bhangu both mention the Tre Mudra. In subsequent passages, however, they also mention the necessity of keeping one’s hair well kempt with the aid of a Kangha and protecting one’s wrist (the Kara) during combat. (32) A comprehensive account of the 5 Kakkars is given in Bhai Jaita’s Sri Gur Katha, a short exposition of the author’s life in the court of the tenth Guru. Verified by several eminent scholars as authentic (the syntax and structure match that of the Guru’s poets), the text has the following to say vis-a-vis the Kakkars: ‘Five portals to his threshold! Five revered in the Lord’s court! Kirpan, Karra, Kesh, Kachh, Kangha- established as the five K’s…‘ (33) The exposition of several other specific episodes, in the life of the tenth Master, also verifies the authenticity of the document. Regarding the assertion that the Singh-Sabha made the retaining of the later two Kakkars mandatory, Raj Kumar Hans states: ‘Most importantly it (Sri Gur Katha; interjection ours) becomes the first testimony, an eyewitness account, to talk unambiguously about the 5Ks… in a way textually validating the late nineteenth century Singh-Sabha assertion based on the Khalsa Sikh memories and practices.’ (34) In light of the above it can be safely summarized that whatever the contextualization of the Kakkars, and their historicity, in the past they have also been five in number and will continue to be so well into the future. Contention Two: Given the political currents of modern day Indian politics, it is no wonder that such an argument has been manifested to impugn the distinctive Sikh identity. The Kakkars, via Sikh tradition, not only act as identifiers of a Khalsa Sikh but also represent the salient features of the latter’s beliefs. What are these ideological features? Let us analyze them below: The Kesh- As we have seen previously, unshorn hair was a prerogative retained by the Kshatriya (warrior-Caste) of Hindu-dom. Bostom notes that whenever a non-Islamic community or nation was subdued and brought under the aegis of the Sharia, draconian measures were imposed upon the non-Muslims among which the wearing of long hair and the retaining of weaponry was forbidden. (35) By allowing Sikhs, of all hues and Castes, to retain unshorn hair the Sikh Gurus not only afflicted a decisive blow upon Hindu segregation but also challenged the Muslim notion of a caliphate. Dr. Trilochan Singh, an eminent twentieth century scholar, substantiates that Kesh was a symbol of the Sikh faith since the latter’s earliest days. (36) We are not duly concerned with why different Indic traditions emphasized upon the retaining of long hair, but rather why the Sikh Gurus attached a sacrosanct respect to it. It is well-known that Guru Nanak Dev Ji opposed traditional Indic thought that a worldly life was not conducive to the spiritual path. Hair, for any spiritualist, was deemed as being a sign of worldliness and hence shorn when the latter undertook to acquire salvation via asceticism. ‘A person who desires to enter upon a spiritual life, must renounce this world of social vortex, and as a gesture of this renunciation, must shave off his hair to simulate the sterility of an aged, bald, decayed man, who is no longer a link in the chain of the generative activity, which is the world. The generative impulse of the life-process is the very essence of Maya, and the foliage of hair on the head and other prominent body hair, therefore, must be coldly sacrificed, to stress the firm determination of the individual to refuse to cooperate with this generative life impulse of the creation-process.’ (37) The Kangha- It is a contradiction, of Indic spirituality, that the novice was enjoined to shear his hair whereas the master was often depicted as having long, matted hair. (38) Shaivite tradition promulgates Shiva to be the Supreme- the pontificate- Yogi and long matted hair are the leitmotiv of the God inter alia. Asceticism enjoined an acolyte to divorce oneself from worldly nuances. Matters of appearance were naturally not the first subject in an Ascetic’s mind hence the long, unkempt hair. As a sign of worldly life, it’s importance, the Khalsa was bequeathed the Kangha to keep the hair kempt. (39) Historic Rehitnamahs and other texts are insistent that the Kangha be perpetually retained on a baptized Sikh’s body and be used twice a day. (40) The Kirpan- Unless Caste is directly threatened, Hindu-dom does not sanction the utilization of force vis-a-vis the socio-political field. (41) Out of sheer necessity a Brahmin and Vaish are enjoined to arm themselves but otherwise force is the domain of the Kshatriya. (40) The Sikhs, prior to the manifestation of the Khalsa, had been utilizing the Kirpan in dual ways. It was initially a spiritual metaphor which was ultimately transferred to the physical realm under the incumbency of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. In an era where stringent codes regulated contact between the four Castes, the Sikh Gurus desired to meld the four divisions into a single entity. ‘The Pure Khalsa Panth is (now) manifested. An auspicious Panth, it encompasses all the four Varnas and institutions of life.’ (42) Hence members of all Castes, when initiated into the Khalsa, acquired the right to bear arms and be sovereigns Per se. A Sikh’s Kirpan was not only intended to act as a defensive aid; it was also intended to reflect the autonomy of it’s retainer in both the temporal and spiritual realms- Miri and Piri. Whereas Dr. Trilochan Singh believes the application of the Kirpan, as a symbol, to be more figurative than literal S. Kapur Singh expounds: ‘All governments and rulers, whether ancient or modern, have insisted and do insist on their right to control and curtail the right of a citizen to wear arms… a government or the State is sustained and supported by the organized might and exclusive right of possession of arms…’ (43) The Sikh state- Khalsa-Raaj- being exclusively democratic, it was well understood that the right to bear arms was the prerogative of each and every Khalsa. Only those Sikhs were allowed to retain arms who were wholly dedicated to the Khalsa ethos and who pledged to never abuse this privilege for personal aggrandizement; Khalsas par excellence. (44) S. Kapur Singh draws two inferences vis-a-vis the socio-political symbolism of the Kirpan: ‘…it is, by ancient tradition and association, a typical weapon of offence and defence (sic) and hence a fundamental right to wear, of the free man, a sovereign individual…’ (45) And, ‘… (it) is associated with open combat, governed by ethical principles, while the dagger is associated with secret attack, or sudden defence (sic) opposed to it… The second meaning of this symbol, therefore, is that the Sikh way of life is wholly governed by ethical principles… and not a slavish, conformist and self-centered social existence.’ (46) The Kara- The historic application of this Kakkar was arch-typically that of a wrist guard or secondary weapon. Underestimated by many a foe, the Kara could be utilized as a gauntlet in hand-to-hand combat whilst simultaneously protecting the wrist against the heavy talwar. Circular, in shape, the Kara is believed to represent perfectness and also the continuum of faith. (47) In Sikh Sampradas it is generally defined as the Guru’s handcuff; restraining the possessor from committing a misdeed with his hands. (48) The Kach- Upon consuming the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve became aware of their own nudity and covered themselves in leaves. (49) Biblical interpretations aside, Sikh sophists usually interpret this event to mean that the forbidden substance illumined the mind’s of it’s consumers hence ensuring their ascension to a higher intellectual plane. After all, it is man’s high intellectualism which demarcates him from other neighboring mammals and garments represent the initial steps taken towards acknowledging this intellectual capability. (50) It is maybe for this reason that the ancient forebears of the Hindus elected to acknowledge Rama’s transformation of Hanuman. Applauding the Simian’s role in his crusade, Rama awarded him with a garment to cover his nudity hence transposing him from a base level to a civilized level. (51) The Kach was also one of the symbols of the sub-continental republicans (mentioned above) who utilized it as a symbol of their defiance against Brahmin sanctioned monarchy. In Sikh tradition the Kach represents the following: A repudiation of digamb(a)ra, a practice which enjoins one to reject all human social organization via adopting full nudity. The Khalsa, on the opposing end of the spectrum, enjoins the societal life to be divine and hence does not accommodate religious nudity. (52) A repudiation of Vedic norms as described in the Kalpa Vedanga(s). Via the latter, only that individual is worthy of performing divine sacrifice who is a twice-born and adorned in a single, untailored, unstitched garment. (53) Discarding the Dhoti, and Sari, is essentially a blasphemy against the latter tenet for any orthodox Hindu and the Sikh Gurus enjoined their acolytes to commit the latter in order to enter the Khalsa fraternity which laid no store by such superstitions. (54) On a less complex level, the sanctity attached to the Kach should act as a deterrent against rape and sexual misconduct. Sources: (1) Singh J; Percussions of History, pg. 243. (2) Singh T (Dr.); (Third Edition 2005) The Turban and the Sword of the Sikhs- Essence of Sikhism, B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh (Amritsar, Punjab), pg. 231-245. (3) Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang. 611. Additionally see Singh J; pg. 82. (4) Singh K; (2006) Parasharprasna, Lahore Book Shop (Ludhiana, Punjab), pg. 166. (5) Bhagvad Gita, vol. iv, 13, vol. ii; pg. 441. (6) Tamney B. J. (1974); Church-State Relations in Christianity and Islam, vol. xvi, Religious Research Association Inc., pp. 10-18. (7) Sarkar J. (1912); History of Aurangzeb Based on Original Sources, M.C. Sarkar (Calcutta, India), vol. iii, pg. 248-250. (8) Brohi quoted in Malik K.S. (Retd-Brig. Pakistan Defense Force) The Quranic Way of War, Lahore/New Delhi (1979/1986), see Introduction. (9) Gustave von Granebaum, Islam: Essays in the Nature and Growth of a Cultural Tradition, Menasha, Wisconsin, (1955), pg. 130. (10) Accessed from http://www.islam-sikhism.info/hist/rebel01.htm (11) Husayn al- Quwatli, 1975, cited in David D. Grafton (2003); The Christians of Lebanon: Political Rights in Islamic Law, London/New York, pg. 4. (12) See Singh K; pg. 162. (13) See Singh J; pg. 84. (14) See Singh K; pg. 80. (15) See Singh T (Dr.); pg. 72. The author evidences the existence of Kesh, as a symbol, prior to the previous four Ks. (16) Singh P. (2003); The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh Self-Definition and the Bhagat Bani, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (India), pg. 6. (17) The Nihung savant, and Jathedar of Hazoor Sahib, Akali Hazoora Singh believed the Sri Sarbloh Granth to be the work of Guru Gobind Singh Ji wholly. S. Kapur Singh believes it to be a post-Guru era composition cataloged by Akalis Binod Singh and Mani Singh. Scholars, on the basis of the work’s syntax, do believe some verses to be later additions. (18) Sri Sarbloh Granth Transliteration, vol. ii, pg. 495. (19) Ibid. (20) See Singh K; pg. 173. (21) Ibid, pg. 176. (22) Ibid, pg. 177. (23) Ibid, pg. 178. (24) Ibid, pg. 181. (25) Ibid, pg. 178. (26) Mann G.S. & Singh K. (2015); The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (India), pg. 61. (27) Ibid, pg. 62. (28) Ibid, pg. 61. It is imperative to note here that the Five Kakkars are mentioned in many post-Guru era Sikh manuscripts and communications. Of particular note is the letter written to Raja Narain Parshad, by Narain Singh (Hazoor Sahib), which mentions the practice in full: ‘It is the edict of Sri (Guru) Gobind Singh that he, who on becoming my disciple receives the nectar of the Khanda but then does not retain the 5 kakkars, or desecrates a Sikh shrine, he will be solely answerable to Vahguru Akal Purakh. If he, being my Sikh without the Kesh but conducts himself as a Singh-Khalsa, or does not stay within my commands, he will be barred from Sachkhand and all Gurudwaras of the ten kings…’ (29) See Mann & Singh; pg. 62. (30) Oral Interview; 2017. (31) Ibid; pg. 63. Additionally see Sri Gur Panth Prakash, vol. i for Bhangu’s account of events. (32) Singh N. (2015); Bhai Jaita’s Sri Gur Katha, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, pg. 127. (33) Ibid; pg. 14. (34) Bostom G.A. (2012); Sharia Versus Freedom, The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (NY), pg. 217. (35) See Singh K; pg. 63. (36) Accessed from https://www.ananda.org/ask/the-yogic-significance-of-long-hair/ (37) See Singh K; pg. 82. (38) Rehitnamahs. (39) See Singh K; pg. 199. (40) See Singh J; pg. 306-310. (41) Sri Sarbloh Granth Transliteration, vol. ii, pg. 495. (42) See Singh K; pg. 81. (43) Rehitnamahs. (44) See Singh K; pg. 81. (45) Ibid. (46) See Singh K; pg. 82-83. (47) Rehitnamahs. (48) The Bible (New International Version), Genesis, 3:7. (49) See Singh K; pg. 84. (50) The fundamental meaning of this parable has been glossed over by various Sikh orders, especially the Nirmalas, in a bid to re-write the very essentials of Sikhi. (51) See Singh K; pg. 85-86. (52) Ibid, pg. 86-87. (53) Ibid. (54) Ibid.