Sikh Collection


This specially selected collection of artefacts contains everything you need to talk about the 5 K's of Sikhism, with teachers' notes.

It comes complete with an authentic turban and pattka - piece of cloth worn underneath, Nishan Sahib, Mala (prayer beads), Kara (bangle), Kangha (comb), Sikh symbols to be work around the neck, Kacchera (shorts), a wooden Kirpan for safety reasons, and teachers' notes.

The Kara is the steel bangle which is worn on the right wrist. It represents the oneness of God and the unity of the Khalsa. It is also said to have protected the wrist from the bow which Sikhs carried into battle. When Guru Gobind Singh gave them the five Ks, the Sikhs were being persecuted for their religion and often had to fight to defend themselves.

Sikhs do not cut any hair on their body. They wear a comb (Khanga) to keep their long hair tidy. It is usually made of wood and may have a small symbolic Kirpan (knife) and Khanda (double-edged sword) fixed onto it.

The Kirpan may be a short knife in a sheath or a full size ceremonial sword. The Kirpan is never to be used, except in defence. It was given so that Sikhs could protect themselves when undergoing persecution. They can also use it to defend the rights of others to their beliefs. Some Sikhs regard the Kirpan as symbolic and prefer to carry a tiny representation of it around their neck, or on their Khanga (comb). We have included a wooden representation of the Kirpan so that children can safely handle it, as well as a necklace of Sikh symbols.

Kacchera are shorts made of cotton and designed to be loose. They are held in place by a drawstring. Their purpose was practical. They gave the Sikhs riding into battle on horseback a more convenient garment than the dhoti they replaced. 

The turban is not itself one of the five Ks, nor is its use restricted to Sikhs. However, it is mainly associated with Sikh men because they wear it to cover their long hair. This uncut hair is the fifth K - Kesh. It includes all hair on the body, including the beard, so some Sikhs wear an invisible beard net to keep the beard neat. Turbans may be any colour, though darker colours seem to be preferred. For ritual and ceremonial occasions a saffron yellow turban is worn, similar in colour to the Sikh flag. Turbans are tied from a single piece of muslin cloth, about five metres long. Boys usually learn to tie the turban around five years of age. Younger boys will wear their hair in a topknot covered with a square of cloth called a rumal. This is also used in sports. Some Sikhs wear a starched, previously made-up turban (like the one included in our collection), whereas others prefer to tie it fresh each time. A badge with a Sikh symbol (also included in the set) may be placed on the centre front and a piece of material called a pattka may be worn beneath the turban. Increasingly, girls and women also wear the turban. For more insight into the importance of the turban and Sikh identity in modern Britain, see the film My Turban and Me

The Nishan Sahib is the name of the symbol on the yellow triangular Sikh flag which is found outside every Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). The symbol depicts the central Khanda, a double-edged sword which is used in the amrit ceremony, when new Sikhs are baptised into the Khalsa. The Khanda dissects a circle, the symbol for the oneness of God and the unity of the Khalsa. On either side of the circle are the twin Kirpans (swords) representing spiritual and temporal justice.

Mala, or prayer beads, are used in Sikhism, as in many other religions, to assist the worshipper in prayer. The Sikh mala consists of 108 beads and may be made in a variety of materials, such as wood, plastic or cotton. Guru Nanak is often depicted holding a set of mala in his right hand or around his turban.


Teachers' notes about all of the artefacts are also included.

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