Author : Unknown

Hair (Kesh) Sikh Identity KESH - INDISPENSABLE SYMBOL OF SIKH IDENTITY Zoologically speaking, Man is an animal in animal kingdom, a mammal amongst animals according to taxonomy and the Homo sapiens amongst the mammals. The term Homo sapiens means "Man the Wise". Why? Because he is a rational being. And who is rational? The one who thinks. Who does do it? Man; the world in medieval English and Anglo-Saxon, is 'mann' akin to German 'mann', Goth 'manna' etc., probably in its Indo-European base 'man' to think, associated or cognate with Latin 'mens' i.e. mind. Hence, its basic sense is, "the one that thinks". In our own language, the word 'maanas' is derived from man (mind), the faculty of thinking and reasoning.

Anthropology studies man right from his evolutional origin to all aspects of life from his hoary past to his present. We are living in the bloom of science age and so I deeply felt to scientifically deal with the topic in hand. Mainly, the physical anthropology studies man in his living condition and dead condition. In the first case, the study is termed as somatology and in the second case, it is called osteology-the study of bones. In somatology, the characters are observed, measured and analyzed serologically. This article is concerned with the 'Human Hair', which comes under observational methods called somato-scopic, that which is seen even with the naked eye.

Hair is one of the outward characters, along with skin and eye, which have been the determining traits to classify or typify different branches or groups of Homo sapiens.

This article is especially aimed at enlightening the people, who cut or destroy hair or even change and distort their pigmentation, ignorantly thinking of them as useless, thus depriving themselves of this invaluable gift of nature and becoming apostates in the eyes and sanctity of Sikh religion.

There is no animal other than man who thinks about his origin, development, past, present and future, and uses both reason and imagination. So he has also been thinking abut his own body, is natural characters, respective functions of its parts, adaptation to his needs, environment, climate and consequent variations. So is his case with his hair, which decreased from his anthropoid or ape-stage to his humanoid position.

Functionally, the hairs are of three types-protective, tactile like sensory organs, and excretionary, which excrete a substance, which oils them to make them smooth and shiny. The hair are grown on the body of the foetus and cover it just in the form of a woolly layer, but this layer is shed a few weeks before birth and is replaced by new growth. This layer is called lanugo. All the human fetuses are born with a good growth of hair on head, on which man has the maximum amount of hair throughout his life, except when he reaches senility and hair are shed, and in most cases partly or complete baldness takes place.

The different human populations have different types of hair in forms and patterns. The hair are more on the body of some racial groups and less on some ethnic groups, in which genes or heredity and environs both play their role.

The hairs grow in armpits and pubes on attaining puberty, and so also grow at this stage on lips and cheeks in males, called moustaches and beard, respectively. The hairs on head are the longest on human body. The Mongoloid people do not have much quantity of hair on their faces and on rest of the body, whereas the Ainus of Japan are the most hairy people in the world. The hairs on the head have been protecting man from inclemencies of weather and climate; cold, heat and rain-besides protecting him from injuries. The Caucasoid group, to which we belong, have straight and wavy hair- having abundant growth on the regions of the body where they naturally grow. The apocrine and eccrine glands regulate body temperature through hair. That is why the hairs are called temperature regulators.

Nature has not produced anything blindly and purposelessly, and everything natural has some utility.

The hairs of the head are considered from different traits: color, form, Texture, quantity, whorl, cross-section, etc. In color, the hair may blond, intermediate, brown, black or red.

The shedding or hair goes on in life before senility and simultaneously the process of their replacement goes on. On an average three years is the life of a human hair. It is a universal phenomenon that women become bald in far few number than men. There is much literature proving that growth of hair increases in women during pregnancy. Generally, hair is shed due to diseases - fevers, myxoderma, sudden shock, fear, syphilis, tuberculosis and nervous illness. The eunuchs do not become bald. In exceptional cases the length of the hair of head is simply astonishing as professor C.F. Danforth mentions in his book, Hair With a Special Reference to Hypertrichosis, that an Indian Sadhu had 36 feet long hair on his head. The human hair is very strong and elastic, comparable only with Indian rubber. An average natural hair can bear the weight of seven ounces before it breaks. If a rope is woven with all the hairs of the head of man, it can support the weight of a thousand kilograms. The Caravan, published from New Delhi, carried a very interesting article on human hair in its issue of 15th January 1955. It stated, "Among the most wonderful sights in the world are the giant hair ropes which have lain outside Kyoto's Higashi Henganji shrine in Japan for well over eighty years. The largest of these ropes is 269 feet in length, 1.3 feet in circumference and 2,234 pounds in weight. The ropes were woven in 1880 when the construction of two chief buildings for the famous shrine was begun. Ropes were needed to hoist the heavy keyaki beams, and many pious women throughout the country willingly cut off their tresses, which were woven into these enormous ropes, as no other kid of rope was strong enough to hoist these massive beams and haul heavy stones.

Before touching the religious injunction and importance of human hair, lets briefly describe some other aspects of hair and man's concern with and interest in them. There are many more aspects of hair, but in this active are mentioned their concern in physiognomy, palmistry, religion, aesthetics, romance, spirituality, neutrality, forensic science and in various esoteric concepts in addition to their use in sorcery, as it terms them as the medium of "External Soul" of man, and the harm done to them is done also to the man concerned.

Regarding aesthetics, the beard and moustaches of a man show his masculinity and virility and in appearance these two characters have been robustly rife, along with his stature, throughout human history. So far as romance is concerned, the charming eyes and long dallying locks or tresses or zulfs have been a great and fascinating subject of poets and the writers of romantic prose. I believe that the Arabic, Persian and Urdu poets are at the summit of using 'lock' or "zulf", and if their verses pertaining to charm and beauty are collected and compiled, they can make a very huge volume of poetry. The praise and pull or attraction is described in both types of love Ishq Majjaazi and Ishq Haqeeqi, that is physical love and spiritual love, or say love for this world and body and love for God and Soul. In religion, the love is spiritual and the beloved's locks are praised in this decorum and diction and Sikhism also does not lag behind and is Sufistic in this respect.

We see a host of photographs of philosophers, hermits, rulers, scholars and scientists from ancient times to date, who wore long hair.

Now we come to the inseparable connection or relationship between the Sikh faith and wearing unshorn naturally growing hair - the hair of any part of the human body called kesh. Hence, here emerges the second title of this paper, "Kesh and Sikhism", Man's "Saabat Soorat" - the wholesome natural form is the root-concept the belief of the Sikh Gurus and Sikhism. From his very advent, man has been thinking of God anthropomorphically, as he believed that God created him as paragon of creation in his own likeness about which it is apt to quote the Bible (The Old Testament), "And God said, let us make man in our own image, after our likeness." And further, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; Male and Female, created He them". Therefore, Moses and Christ followed the original image of God and lived as the wearers of long hair.

Like the days of yore, all the Sikh Gurus wore long hair, but this condition was irrevocably enjoyed on the Sikhs by the tenth and last corporeal Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who founded the Khalsa.

The events immediately on the very heels following the path leading to the birth of Khalsa were like this. The unarmed Hindus or even the Sikhs, who believed in Sikhism, were intimidated and cowed down, insulted, looted and killed merely for a wish of the Muslim rulers, and sometimes they had to face dangers to reach Guru Gobind Singh to have his sight (Darshan), as they were often robbed or even killed on the way. So he had resolved to make his Sikhs and impart them an identity of permanent recognition, and of course, his heart, head, emotions and imagination had already been fired with an unforgettable incident of the martyrdom of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, just 25 years earlier in 1675 A.D., when the Hindus of Delhi did not muster courage even to receive the dead body of the martyr, who gave his life for this faith and cultural freedom. This incident prompted the emergence of Khalsa - the pure, purified from the dirt of the impurity of Brahaminical caste system, the root-cause of disunity and weakness of Indians.

One day a company of Sikhs came and told the Guru what had happened to them and requested him to protect them, "We have founded it very difficult to approach thee on account of the violence of Muhammadans. Some of our companies have been killed on the way. Others have been wounded, and have returned to their homes. To whom can we look for assistance but to thee? This narration and supplication of those Sikhs was the clarion call to the conscience of Guru Gobind Singh the Great. "The Guru invited all his Sikhs to attend the great Baisakhi fair at Anandpur, without shaving or cutting their hair". Thousands and thousands of Sikhs attended the Vaisakhi of 1699 A.D. What happened there is well known. But here we are concerned with Kesh-long hair as, "The Guru always held the belief that it would be proper and advantageous to his Sikhs to wear long hair and otherwise not alter man's God-given body, and he often broached the subject to them." So in the Sikh congregation on that Vaisakhi, he made the identity of his initiated Panj Piyare - The Five Beloveds distinct (niyare). Then he gave them the discourse of conduct and their identity revolved round the pivot of five K's, "They must always wear the following articles whose names begin with a K, namely, Kesh (long hair), Kangha (comb), Kirpan (sword), Kachh (short drawers), Kara (steel bangle)". After initiating the five beloved ones, he requested them with folded hands, to initiate him also, which they did as he had done to them about which we read, "I am the son of the Immortal God. It is by His order I have been born and have established this form of initiation. They who accept it, shall henceforth be known as Khalsa. The Khalsa is the Guru and the Guru is the Khalsa. There is no difference between you and me."

Let us examine now what does the Sikh Scripture say about kesh ? And what do the Rahitnamas, the rules of conduct written by Sikh writers, state about kesh ? Both types of these sources, if put together, are twenty-eight in numbers, speaking on various aspects of Sikh way of life. Anyhow, all of them rever the Keshas. However, we may mention here what is said about them, the very cornerstone of the foundation of Khalsa, in Guru Granth Sahib, by Guru Gobind himself and Bhai Nandlal Goya. The Brahmins, the leaders of Hindus, themselves had degenerated under the weight of ecclesiasticism, caste system, the practice of untouchability and cutting and shaving hair, but the Khalsa had to and has to give up all the customs, beliefs and practices of Brahimins, as a relapse to Brahminism was conductive to the extinction of the Sikh way of life against which Guru Gobind Singh warned the Khalsa, exhorting:

"Jab Lag Rahey Khalsa Niyara,
Tab lag tej diya main sara.
Jab eh gahen bipran ki reet,
Main na karon inh ki parteet".

"I have given all power and effulgence to the Khalsa so long as they lead a Sikh's distinct way of life. But when the Sikhs will relapse to Brahiminism, I will not trust them."

As it is associated with him by many people, he also said:

"Khalsa mero roop hai khas, khalse mein haun karon niwas".

"The Khalsa is completely my own image and I dwell within the Khalsa."

Here the word "roop" connotes a definite stress on wearing long hair, (and other bodily hair intact also), with a turban tied on one's head. If a clean-shaven person wears all other four symbols, he neither represents the roop of the Khalsa not that of Guru Gobind Singh.

According to the Sikh belief and practice, it is the long hair which are essential coupled with turban, and as you all know, the Sikh apostasy begins with cutting, trimming or shaving hair, and then the turban on the head disappears.

The hymns of saints or Bhagats included in Guru Granth Sahib are called Bhagat Bani. The Bhagats had long hair and used to have a turban on their head, and some describe how the long hair are burnt like dry grass when the body is cremated along with turban, as Kabir and Ravidas have expressed themselves. Kabir warns the proud man, who prides on seeing his slantly tied turban. Namdev praises the turban of the Lord "Khoob teri pagri". Even Guru Arjun Dev feels blessed due to God's Grace, who has awarded and honored him with a turban or dumalra like a champion. Farid reminds himself of his approaching end, day by day seeing his graybeard. Farid describes his well-cared and profusely grown long hair on his head, beard and moustaches.

Hair should not be depilated from any part of the body. Apostasy has got to be stopped! It is increasing day by day, by the destruction of an invaluable gift of nature. Long hair is the crown of Sikh faith.

Like we disturb the natural ecology of environment, people who destroy their hair are disturbing the ecology of their body-rendering a great loss to themselves. Think of how much energy is spent on repeated growing of hair! of what avail is this perversion or self-destruction?

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