EXPLAINING WHAT THE KIRPAN IS TO A NON-SIKH
by Manvir Singh Khalsa firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT IS A KIRPAN (pronounced Kir-paan)?
§ It is a small sword held by a material strap, which goes across the body.
§ It is not an offensive weapon but a protective tool
§ Kirpan means ‘hand of kindness/mercy’, which highlights how the Kirpan is not to be used to attack anyone but merely to defend oneself or another as a last resort.
WHO CARRIES A KIRPAN?
§ Initiated Sikh men and women, irrespective of age.
WHY CARRY A KIRPAN?
It is part of the Sikh uniform, which consists of 5 articles:
1. Kes: uncut hair (tied up and the head and crowned with a turban)
- The Kes is an identity of a Sikh.
- The Kes is a stamp or seal that a Sikh’s head is God’s.
2. Kanga: small wooden comb (placed in the hair knot under the turban)
- The Kanga is used to keep the hair clean.
- Just a Sikh combs their hair daily; he or she should also comb their mind with the Guru’s wisdom.
3. Kara: Iron bangle (worn on the wrist)
- The Kara is a gift of a Guru which acts as a reminder to do the right action (with our hands).
- The Kara is made of iron which symbolises how a Sikh should have strength and courage.
4. Kirpan: small sword (made of steal/iron)
- The Kirpan is to be used to upkeep righteousness, and is represents kingship.
- The Kirpan exemplifies the warrior character of a Sikh.
5. Kachhera: Long shorts (which is above the knees, and worn as an undergarment)
- The Kachhera is worn to be respectable and dignified at all times.
- The Kachhera reminds a Sikh to practice self-control and to have a high moral character.
The 5 articles have the same value as the uniform of a policeman or a soldier and something subtler than that. This means equality, uniformity, unity and identity of the wearers. Every member of a team is required to put on a certain prescribed uniform for this very purpose. In the same way a Sikh has to wear the 5 Articles (known commonly as the 5 Ks) as part of being a ‘Saint-Soldier’, a ‘Khalsa’.
IS IT OPTIONAL TO WEAR A KIRPAN?
No! It is mandatory for initiated Sikhs to carry a Kirpan (this is recognised by the British Law).
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE KIRPAN?
§ Defence (as a last resort, to upkeep righteousness and justice)
§ Used to bless Sikh Holy Communion, called ‘parshaad’, at the end of religious functions.
WHAT ARE OFFENSIVE OR MISLEADING SUGGESTIONS ABOUT THE KIRPAN?
§ To suggest that is a ‘dagger’, ‘knife’ or ‘offensive weapon’.
§ To suggest it is a merely cultural symbol.
§ To suggest that the Kirpan can be? replaced by wearing a miniature Kirpan.
IS IT LEGAL TO CARRY A KIRPAN IN BRITAIN?
Yes it is! Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (section 139) and Criminal Justice 1996 (section 3 and 4) allows anyone to carry a blade exceeding the length of 3 inches for religious, cultural or work related reasons. The Criminal Justice Act and the 2003 Religious Discrimination Act safeguards the Sikhs to carry the Kirpan.