Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in 1469 into a Hindu family but eventually left behind those practices to seek the “truth.” The truth he found signaled the beginning of Sikhism, a religion that is practiced today by more than 20 million people, most of them living in India.
Sikhs are monotheistic and emphasize meditation as a way to find truth, love and God. They believe in reincarnation and invite people of all social classes to accept Sikhism.
Within this faith community is a group of followers, called the Khalsa, who were formed as defenders of the faith. All Sikhs are expected to work toward the status of Khalsa by following the Sikh Official Code of Conduct. When a Sikh proves he or she is dedicated to following the strict life of the Guru Nanak Dev Ji, that person is baptized in a sacred ceremony. A Guru Granth Shaib, a man or woman who has extensive knowledge of the sacred texts, and five Khalsas must be present while the Sikh drinks sugar water stirred with a dagger to complete the baptism. A new surname is given to members of the Khalsa: Singh, or lion, for men; and Kaur, or princess, for women.
The 5 Emblems
Khalsa Sikhs wear five symbols to represent their faith and to create unity among the group.
Khalsas practice the tradition of Kesh, which forbids them from cutting any body hair. They believe hair is a sign of strength and removes vanity from the person’s mind.
Kara is a steel bracelet worn by Khalsas to symbolize God’s eternal presence. They also see community as connected links through the bracelets and as a way to remind themselves to avoid sin.
A wooden comb, Kanga, is always worn in the uncut hair of a Khalsa. This symbolizes cleanliness and therefore purity. Men are required to wear turbans, but women are allowed to choose whether to wear one.
Kachha, a pair of long shorts worn as underwear, are worn to remind the wearer to remain chaste.
The last symbol, Kirpan, is a sword or dagger of courage and justice. It is an emblem of man’s continuous struggle with sin and is not to be used as a weapon.