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Who is a 'Sikh'?

Who Is A Sikh?

Within Sikhism, there are two distinct categories or types of individuals: a Sikh and a Khalsa.

  1. Sikh: A Sikh refers to any individual who follows the teachings and principles of Sikhism. They believe in the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus and the sacred scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Sikhs strive to live their lives according to the core Sikh values, such as meditating on the name of God, earning an honest living, sharing with others, and practicing selfless service.

  2. Khalsa: The Khalsa represents a specific group within the Sikh community. It is an order of initiated Sikhs who have undergone a special ceremony known as Amrit Sanchar or Khalsa initiation. The Khalsa follows a distinctive code of conduct called the Sikh Rehat Maryada, which includes wearing the five articles of faith known as the Five Ks (Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kirpan, and Kachera). Khalsa Sikhs are dedicated to upholding and defending the principles of Sikhism, serving the community, and standing against injustice.

While all Khalsa Sikhs are Sikhs, not all Sikhs are necessarily Khalsa. Khalsa is a higher level of commitment and dedication within the Sikh faith, marked by the initiation ceremony and the observance of the Sikh Rehat Maryada.

What is a ‘Sikh‘?

The term 'Sikh' encompasses all individuals within the Sikh faith who have not yet become Khalsa.

The word 'Sikh' translates to 'a learner' or 'one who seeks knowledge'. Hence, Sikhi represents the path of continuous learning. Even those who have chosen to cut their hair or have not undergone the formal initiation into the Khalsa can still identify themselves as Sikhs. This is because we are all learners, recognizing our imperfections as human beings. By studying and embracing the sacred teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the current Guru of the Sikhs) and incorporating these teachings into our lives, we can strive to improve ourselves. The term 'Sikh' encompasses a diverse range of individuals.

This includes:

  • Sikhs who have chosen to cut their hair.

  • Sikhs who maintain their hair but trim their beards while wearing turbans.

  • Sikhs who have uncut hair but have not yet received the Khalsa baptism (Amrit Sanchar).

Who is a ‘Khalsa‘?

The term 'Khalsa' signifies 'Pure'. The 'Khalsa' is not an ordinary Sikh but rather an initiated Sikh. Initiated Sikhs are expected to adhere to a prescribed code of conduct and maintain a specific appearance, as bestowed upon all members of the Khalsa Sikh order by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs and the founder of the Khalsa order.

A Khalsa Sikh is required to observe the following guidelines for their appearance:

  • Kesh: They must keep unshorn hair as a symbol of their commitment to the Guru's teachings.

  • Kangha: They should carry a wooden comb to maintain and care for their hair.

  • Kara: They are to wear an iron bracelet, representing unity and the eternal nature of God.

  • Kachera: They must wear specially designed undergarments as a reminder of modesty and self-discipline.

  • Kirpan: They are to carry a ceremonial sword, symbolizing their duty to protect the oppressed and uphold righteousness.

These articles of faith represent the identity and commitment of a Khalsa Sikh.

5 Bastar (5 Items of Clothing)
  • Bana - The official uniform of the Khalsa army, characterized by its navy blue color.

  • Kashera-The Warrior Briefs worn by the Khalsa army, which allows ease of movement, and in a humid environment of India, allowed the Khalsa Sikhs to be more comfortable.

  • Kamar-Kassa - The warrior's belt, crafted from a long cloth, used to secure the swords and other weapons of a Sikh.

  • Durmalla - The turban worn by a Sikh, holding significant importance. The reasons behind a Sikh wearing a turban and its deep significance are elaborated further below.

  • Siropa - A distinguished robe presented to someone for accomplishing an extraordinary feat, draped around their neck as a mark of honor.


5 Shastar (5 Weapons)

Sikhs wear weapons for the purpose of safeguarding humanity. The establishment of the Khalsa order by the 10th Guru was a response to the oppressive reign of the Mughal Empire, which persisted from 1526 to 1857. The Mughal Empire subjected numerous communities in India to oppression, prohibiting religious music and imposing the Jizya (Islamic Tax) on non-Muslims.

Observing not only these unjust actions but also various other atrocities committed by the Mughal Empire, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji initiated the Khalsa Army, known as the Pure Army, to champion the cause of those who were powerless and to serve as guardians of humanity. Through the use of weapons, the Khalsa liberated countless Hindu women who had been enslaved by the Mughal Empire. They successfully regained control over the Punjab region, abolishing the Jizya Tax and allowing the performance of religious music by all faiths across India.

What does a Khalsa Sikh look like and what do they do?

  • Uncut hair is a defining characteristic of a Khalsa Sikh.

  • A Kirpan, a small dagger, is worn by a Khalsa Sikh for the protection of others.

  • Wearing a turban is a practice followed by Khalsa Sikhs.

  • Khalsa Sikhs abstain from smoking, consuming alcoholic beverages, and eating Halal meat.

  • A Khalsa Sikh maintains an uncut beard as part of their appearance.

Why do Sikhs wear a Turban?

The turban holds significant meaning for Sikhs, and its importance can be traced back through the ages. Across various religions, the turban has always held a special place. For Sikhs, wearing the turban serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it serves to protect and preserve their uncut hair, which is considered sacred. By wearing a turban, Sikhs show their commitment to maintaining the natural state of their hair as ordained by their faith. Additionally, the turban is a visible sign of their royal identity. In the past, the turban was a privilege reserved only for high-ranking officials of the Mughal Empire. However, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, instructed all Sikhs to wear turbans. This act was a powerful statement that his army was not subordinate to any oppressive government but stood as equals, regardless of their social status.

Moreover, the significance of the turban extends beyond Sikhism. In the biblical scripture Leviticus 8:9, there is a reference to wearing a turban. It states that God commanded Moses to place a turban on Aaron's head, along with a golden plate, as a holy crown. This connection between the turban and divine instruction further reinforces its spiritual and symbolic value.

Overall, the turban carries deep significance for Sikhs, representing their commitment to their faith, their sense of equality, and their connection to divine teachings. It serves as a visible reminder of their heritage, identity, and their dedication to upholding the principles of Sikhism.

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