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Explaining What the Kirpan is to a Non-Sikh

This article provides an insight on the Sikh Kirpan, which can help to be used to educate non-Sikhs, in particular schools, security firms and the wider community.

 

EXPLAINING WHAT THE KIRPAN IS TO A NON-SIKH
by Manvir Singh Khalsa sher_panjabi@hotmail.com



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.

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Comments:

"Swiss army knife maker launches Sikh kirpans"
By newsmaker on Thursday, May 03, 2007 (CST)

(Reuters, September 1, 2004)

Swiss army knife maker Victorinox launched a series of Sikh religious knives or 'kirpans' in India on Wednesday to mark the 400th anniversary of the installation of the religion's sacred book at its holiest shrine.

A company official said the ceremonial knife, which all devout Sikhs are required to carry, was a symbolic product aimed at middle class Sikhs.

"There are 25 million Sikhs in the world and this is a very symbolic product. This is not a thing that we will sell as a commodity," said Anish Goel, the Indian representative of Victorinox, the larger of the two official makers of the Swiss army knife.

The single-edged kirpan, sold with a case and a belt worn over the shoulder, is available in two sizes -- 3.6 inches and 7.2 inches. The knives will retail at 1,360 rupees and 3,400 rupees in India and will be sold through 450-odd retail outlets in the country.

Kirpans are generally sold outside Sikh temples, or gurdwaras. Local versions retail at between 100 and 600 rupees.

Goel said over 10 million rupees were spent on the dyes and designs for the Victorinox kirpans. He gave no estimates for sales.

Sikhism, the world's fifth largest religion, was started in the 16th century by Guru Nanak, a religious teacher who assimilated ideas from Hinduism and Islam, the dominant religions in South Asia at the time.

Sikh religious leaders, surrounded by thousands of chanting devotees, carried their religious book, the Granth Sahib, to Amritsar's Golden Temple on Wednesday to mark 400 years since the book was first brought to the north Indian shrine.

Sikhs have regarded the Guru Granth Sahib as the spiritual head of their faith ever since the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, named the holy book as his eternal successor before he died in 1708.

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