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"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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