ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਹਿ॥
This year, we came together for our first ever virtual retreat and explored the lifestyle of a Sikh in many ways. The daily living and discipline of a Sikh is unlike any other act of devotion – it is a loving labor of the mind and body to manifest Divine Love and inspiration found in Gurbani into every single molecule of our being.
ਰੋਮੇ ਰੋਮਿ ਰੋਮਿ ਰੋਮੇ ਮੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਏ ਰਾਮ ॥
Without this genuine and sustainedpractice of Nam, Rehit is reduced to an outward performance and display of empty religiosity. Guru Nanak’s vision of the Khalsa is a nation of people committed to cultivating the internal spiritual transformation and channeling it outwards to the world. In doing so, a Sikh adopts and becomes the image and spirit of Guru Sahib.
Gurmat Rehit is multifaceted. One aspect that is integral yet misrepresented in our mainstream Sikh culture is Kes, unshorn hair. During our retreat, narratives around Kes and their importance were put forth for participants to consider. We realize some of the responses offered at retreat regarding Kes were incomplete and may have been misleading. In an effort to correct these misconceptions, we offer the following to you:
Beadbi or dishonoring the kes in any form is Manmat, not aligned to Guru Sahib’s principles. In situations where a person has a medical condition or illness, it is okay to seek medical attention to address the illness, regardless of a change in hair growth/pattern. However, wanting to eliminate hair because of an unwanted change in hair growth or pattern should not underpin our decisions to seek medical interventions that address the hair and not the illness. Hair is not abnormal. The active removal of hair from any parts of our body is not endorsed by our Panth’s Rehit Maryada.
When understanding the value of Kes, turning to Gurbani, Rehit, and Sikh history is crucial.
Guru Gobind Singh jee gave the first place to Kes in all the Hukumnamas that were issued to various sangats of the country. “ਕੇਸ ਸਾਡੀ ਮੋਹਰ ਹੈ”, meaning Kes are our (Panth) official seal, was the talk of the town during Guru Sahib’s time period. This significance of Kes became part of our Panthic Ardaas, where we ask for the gift of Kes and also remember all the Singhs and Singhnis, who remained steadfast in their Sikhi until their last breath, their last hair. So, it is the duty of a Sikh to obey Guru Sahib’s orders by maintaining the Sikhi attire, of which Kes are an integral part. No one has any right to alter or dishonor Guru Sahib’s seal.
The following rehat is written in poetic Persian language as per Professor Jodh Singh’s famous book, “Gurmat Nirnayi”:
ਨਿਸ਼ਾਨਿ ਸਿੱਖੀ ਈਂ ਪੰਜ ਹਰਫ਼ ਕਾਫ਼, ਹਰਗਿਜ਼ ਨ ਬਾਸ਼ਦ ਈਂ ਪੰਜੇ ਮੁਆਫ਼ ॥
ਕੜਾ ਕਾਰਦੋ, ਕੱਛ ਕੰਘਾ ਬੇਦਾਂ, ਬਿਲਾ ਕੇਸ ਹੇਚ ਅਸਤ ਜੁਮਲਾ ਨਿਸ਼ਾਂ ॥
which means: There are five K’s that signify Sikhi and none of them are exempted under any circumstances. They are Karha, Kirpan, Kuchh, and Kangha, but without keeping the foremost K – Kes, none of the other K’s are of any significance. Sikhs learn to be satisfied with Hukam and practice radical acceptance of themselves and the present moment. This acceptance is unique – just like the path of Gursikhi – it helps us reframe our bodies as tools of devotion and love to the Divine instead of belonging to us or existing for the purpose of our vanity.
By naming the fort, Kesgarh Sahib, the Fortress of Hair, where the first Khandey Di Pahul was prepared in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji reaffirmed this commitment to living out Gurmat through every single hair on our body. After the first Amrit Sanchaar, Guru Gobind Singh Ji instructed the Sikhs to maintain their Kes and care for them with a Kanga.
The Amrit Sanchar imbued the emerging Khalsa with a spirit of fearlessness and conviction in Guru Sahib’s principles so much so that maintaining the reflection of Guru Sahib’s form on our own bodies was life-giving. Hair, identity, and principles became tied together inexplicably for the Khalsa.
Professor Puran Singh Ji explains beautifully:
We were called to don the robe of the Guru’s discipleship. We wear turbans as He did; we keep long hair as He kept. We prefer the colours he liked. We are still alive with the spark he lit in our souls. The torch when lighting another creates its own images. We carry the Guru’s face. His features, His whole image, in our faces and form. As I ponder who I am, I knew I am of the Guru. (Spirit of the Sikh, Vol 1)
Honoring the spark that Guru Sahib lit in our spirits during the Amrit Sanchaar is our calling, which includes honoring our Kes. Echoes of this unyielding commitment are everywhere in our history.
It is heard when Bhai Taru Singh Ji so boldly proclaimed: Sir Jaave Ta Jaave, Mera Sikhi Sidak Na Jave. It rings deeply in the lives of the Sikh prisoners who keep their Rehit alive despite facing grueling conditions in state prisons today. In a world where many narratives exist about who we are and assign value to our inherent humanity, Guru Sahib equips us with the tools to truly be free from shackles of Maya in the love of the Guru.
ਪ੍ਰਥਮੇ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਦੁਤੀਆ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਲੋਗਾ ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਦੁਰਜਨ ਮੀਤ ਸਮਾਨੇ ॥ ਤੁਰੀਆ ਗੁਣੁ ਮਿਲਿ ਸਾਧ ਪਛਾਨੇ ॥੨॥
We urge our collective community (including ourselves) to examine our own deeply held beliefs about hair, identity, and who we are with courage and love so that we can grow to love our Kes, Rehit, and beloved Guru Sahib completely and unconditionally.
We are hoping to start a webinar series soon. Would you be interested in this being a topic for discussion? Take our poll and share your thoughts.
In the service of Guru-Panth
Kuldeep Singh Sikh Youth Alliance of North America (SYANA)
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਹਿ॥