(THE SIKH SWORD)
sword has a special place in the history
of various religious, cultures and nations.
For a Sikh, "Kirpan" is an article of
faith. For an initiated Sikh, wearing
of a Kirpan is obligatory. An initiated
Sikh, not wearing a Kirpan, would be in
breach of his faith.
Although its form has undergone several
changes, sword has been part of the history
of the world since pre-historic periods.
References pertaining to sword can be
found in the history of the Jews, the
Christians, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the
Japanese, and other national and religious
Jesus Christ has been quoted by Matthew
as saying, " I have come not be bring
peace but sword." Hazrat Mohammed considered
the sword to be sacred to Islam. The Hindu
goddess Durga is shown carrying several
weapons but a raised sword in her right
hand, is the most striking feature of
The Sikh kirpan, however, is different
from the sword of Christianity, Islam
or Hinduism. Christ's sword is an alternative
for peace; Prophet Mohammed advocated
the use of sword for achieving political
and religious objectives and Durga's (the
Hindu) sword is a weapon to kill the enemy.
In all these cases, the sword is used
as a weapon, for offensive action. On
the other hand, The Sikh Kirpan is essentially
"defensive." The Sikh Kirpan is not to
be carried raised in the right hand. It
is required to be worn in a Gatra (a belt)
on the left side of the body, with the
humility of a saint.
Kirpan was granted the status of "article
of faith" on March 29, 1699 by Guru Gobind
Singh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib. However,
it does not mean that Kirpan was not sacred
to the Sikhs before 1699. Right from Guru
Nanak Sahib, Kirpan was a part and parcel
of a Sikh's being. Commenting on Mogul
invasion on the Sikh Homeland, Guru Nanak
Sahib had given the message to the Sikhs
to be prepared with a defending kirpan.
The Sixth Nanak, Guru Hargobind Sahib,
wore two Kirpans, one representing the
temporal and the other transcendental
domain of the Sikh cosmos. While he asked
his followers to wear defending kirpan,
he issued strict directions forbidding
the use of Kirpan for an offensive purpose.
Maubad Zulafqar Ardastani (formerly believed
as Muhsan Fani), in the seventeenth century
acknowledged the Sikh position with regard
to Kirpan and confirmed in his book Dabistan-e-Mazahib,
that the Sikh Gurus never used their Kirpan
A Hindu teacher, Samrath Ram Das (guide
of the Maratha ruler Shivaji) once met
Guru Hargobind Sahib and wanted to know
the reason why Guru Sahib had chosen to
wear Kirpan etc. Guru Sahib told him that
the Sikh Kirpan was required for the protection
of the weak, the poor, the downtrodden
and the oppressed from the tyrant and
the cruel aggressor.
On March 29, 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib
revealed Khalsa, the sovereign people.
Khalsa, being the direct subject of the
Almighty, owes its spiritual and temporal
sovereignty to Waheguru (the Almighty).
The Khalsa (of the Almighty) was granted
five "articles of faith": - Kes (unshorn
hair), Kangha (the Sikh Comb), Kara (the
Sikh bracelet), Kachhehra (the Sikh shorts)
and Kirpan (the Sikh sword). Although
these five articles were already a part
and parcel of a Sikh's life, but since
March 29, 1699, these five became an integral
and inseparable part of an initiated Sikh's
being. From the moment of initiation until
death Khalsa has an obligation not to
part with any one of these five articles
of faith, at any time.
It is remarkable to note that Guru Gobind
Singh Sahib declared a Kirpan and not
dagger, sabre, rapier, scimitar, gun or
pistol as an article of faith. Kirpan
is a combination of two words: Kirpa (mercy/blessing)
and "aan" (honour). Thus the term Kirpan
means "an article to be used with mercy,
for protection of honor/life." The other
meaning which one can derive is : "an
article which blesses honor." In both
cases, the motif is that the Sikh Kirpan
can be used only for defense and not for
offence. It can not be used in the cases
of ordinary fighting for non-sacred purposes.
Guru Gobind Singh Sahib did not grant
status of "article of faith" to gun. (The
Guru, however, did not prohibit the use
of these weapons in case of necessity).
In the Sikh religion Khanda (double-edged
sword) enjoys a great significance. It
is used for preparation of Amrit (nectar
for the Sikh initiation). Although Khanda
is scared in Sikhism, it is not an article
of faith to be carried always on person.
Sword has also been a part of social and
cultural traditions of many different
communities. The practice of giving a
sword as a mark of respect or in recognition
of one's exceptional contribution towards
the society is as old as the sword itself.
This practice is shared by people living
in the United States, England, the Sikh
Homeland among others. In the United States,
the custom of presentation of sword was
very popular until the later part of the
nineteenth century. Interestingly, some
swords were awarded "by vote" in "lotteries,"
during the US Civil war. These presentation
swords are usually richly crafted and
vary in sizes.
In the Sikh history and traditions, Kirpan
has enjoyed a very special place contribution
for the Sikh nation, is honored with the
award of a kirpan. Unfortunately, this
noble tradition has been corrupted by
few opportunist politicians, who, for
the sake of political expediency, arranged
with their sycophant followers, to be
the recipients of such undeserved honors.
They might succeed in their nefarious
designs to confuse the unknown people
in the western countries but the Sikh
community is too well aware of their manipulations
to be taken in.
Attacks on the Sikh ideology, their cherished
traditions, and even the articles of their
faith, have often required them to fight
protracted battles, to enjoy the basic
rights, taken for granted by most other
people. Sikh Kirpan is one such item.
At one time, the ruling British Government
in India was called upon to establish
the legal status of the Sikh kirpan. The
British Governor General of India issued
a notification, making a clear ruling
on the issue. It said : "No restriction
of shape, length and size of a Kirpan
is prescribed for the Sikhs."
An order of F.C. Taylor, Deputy Inspector
General of Police (Letter No. 3879 dated
November 1, 1936), finally resolved the
question of kirpan. It said: "Government
has recently issued orders that prohibition
and directions of Section 13 of the Indian
Arms Act, shall not operate in the case
of the Sikhs carrying kirpan; from this
it follows that Kirpans are not arms within
the meaning of that section. Sikhs can,
therefore, carry any number of any size
For a Sikh, kirpan, is an essential article
of faith. It is not a symbol. It is strictly
obligatory and not optional. A replica
of Kirpan can not be used. Kirpan reminds
a Sikh of one's duty to be the right action;
to defend the poor, the weak, the oppressed
and the persecuted; to always remain prepared
to the call of the nation, the society
and the humanity. The Sikh Kirpan stands
for self-esteem; justice, honor, righteousness
and readiness for duty and sacrifice.
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