In Sikhism the Five Ks are five items that Guru Gobind Singh ji commanded Khalsa Sikhs to wear at all times in 1699. They are: Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (a wooden brush for the hair), Kara (a metal bracelet), Kachera (a type of undergarment) and Kirpan (a dagger).
The Five Ks are not just symbols, but articles of faith that collectively form the external identity and the Khalsa devotee’s commitment to the Sikh rehni “Sikh way of life”. A Sikh who has taken Amrit and keeps all five Ks is known as Khalsa (“pure”) or Amritdhari Sikh, while a Sikh who has not taken Amrit but follows the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is called a Sahajdhari sikh.
The Kesh, or unshorn long hair, is considered by Sikhs as an indispensable part of the human body. Long known as a sign of spiritual devotion, it also emulates the appearance of Guru Gobind Singh ji and is one of the primary signs by which a Sikh can be clearly and quickly identified. A Sikh never cuts or trims any hair as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God’s creation.
A Kangha is a small wooden comb that Sikhs use twice a day. It is supposed to be worn only in the hair and at all times. Combs help to clean and remove tangles from the hair, and is a symbol of cleanliness.
The Sikhs were commanded by Guru Gobind Singh at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar in 1699 to wear an iron bangle called a Kara at all times. The Kara is a constant reminder to always remember that whatever a person does with their hands has to be in keeping with the advice given by the Guru.
Originally, the Kachera was made part of the five Ks as a symbol of a Sikh soldier’s willingness to be ready at a moment’s notice for battle or for defense. The confirmed Sikh (one who has taken the Amrit) wears a Kachera every day.
The Kirpan is a short dagger which symbolizes a Sikh’s duty to come to the defence of those in peril. All Sikhs should wear a short form of Kirpan (approx. 6″ to 9″ long) on their body at all times as a defensive side-arm, just as a police officer is expected to wear a public-defensive weapon when on duty.