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KIRPAN (THE SIKH SWORD)

Author : Unknown

The 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 groups.

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 her pictures.

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 in anger.

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 of Kripans."

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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