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Origin Of Khanda Symbol, The Sikh Insignia

Aman Singh

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Coins of Banda Bahadur or of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the museum of Maharaja Patiala, did not bear Khanda symbol (Dr. Dalip Kaur, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar). The British introduced an insignia for the Sikh soldiers to fix on their turbans. It was a ring (Chakkar) on top of which was perched a tiger.

Origin of this symbol is not known. Very likely this developed gradually over time and it took really long time to become popular. Originally, Nishan Sahib did not bear the figure of Khanda symbol. Now, its one side has Ik-Oankar as written in Gurmukhi and on the other side is Khanda Symbol. It also appeared fixed at the crossing of two bars holding two Nishan Sahibs in the front of Akal Takht in the Harimandir Sahib complex at Amritsar. True Sikh symbol, as seen on Nishan Sahib and even on some Gurdwaras (Gurdwara Hemkunt Sahib, Rishikesh, U.P.) is Ik-Oankar written in Gurmukhi.

Presently, Khanda symbol has become popular and pride of Sikh. Symbol of Iran, presented caligraphically appears like Khanda symbol when looked at superficially. Perhaps, it is written Allah in Arabic.

Khanda Chakkar Kirpan
Khanda - double-edged sword. Chakkar quoit: a flat, steel ring with sharp outer edge. Kirpan slightly curved dagger, or small sword. The people have started calling this simply a "Khanda." It becomes confusing because the name means only a double-edged sword. It will be reasonable to call it "Khanda-Symbol," or “Khanda-Kirpan. The history of Khanda-Symbol, may be a mystery, but it has attained great significance as a symbol of the Sikhs.

It is hard to say anything conclusive about the meanings of this Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan symbol, because it all appears to be stretching the individual imagination. At the Sikh Takhts (Religio-political High Seats) especially, and at some other Gurdwaras, the weapons are often seen arranged like Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan. This might have given idea of the symbol, but it can be the other way round, too.

At Akal Takht, Amritsar, only the weapons used to be displayed on the Palki (Palanquin). It was some time back that Guru Granth - the Sikh Holy Book, was placed there (Dr. Man Singh Nirankari).

Khanda
It is double edged, straight, sword. Its edges are concave. It is placed in the middle of the symbol. To some, the Khanda, like a numerical represents One God.

It stands for the "Amrit", which is prepared with it (Dr. Dilgir - referred to above, and Naunehal Singh Grewal, Sikh Review - June, 1995). It symbolizes disintegration of the false pride, vanity and demolition of the barriers of cast and inequalities (Khanda, H.S. Singha, Mini Encyclopedia of Sikhism, page 65).

Double-edged Khanda means to cut evil both ways (Around the Golden Temple, Narinderjit Singh, page 20).

The original Khanda, with which the Tenth Master prepared Amrit on the Baisakhi of 1669 AD, is at display in the Gurdwara Kes-Garh, Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab, India. It is a full length weapon.

Chakkar
A Chakkar quoit, has no beginning or end; it exhorts the Sikhs to make the whole universe the object of their compassion and activities (H.S. Singha, referred to above).

It may be for the universality or eternity of the God Factor - the mystique of the Almighty and the humanity (Dr. Dilgir, referred to above). Circle means continuation of life (Narinderjit Singh, referred to above). The Khanda symbolizes justice, self-preservation, and continuity of the humanity and destruction of cruelty. Besides representing the eternal God, it stands for the continuity of His creation (universe), transmigration and the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation).

Kirpan
Two swords, one on each side of the symbol, are usually taken to represent the spiritual, and the temporal aspects of the faith. It seems to be in line with the two swords of the 6th Guru Hargobind i.e. one sword of Meeree (sovereignty) and the other of Peeree (Guruship - Spirituality). His sword of Peeree worn on his right was 40" and that of Meeree on left was 36" long. This indicated that the temporal power was under the spiritual one (N.N.S. Grewal, referred to above). Two Kirpans stand for temporal and spiritual leadership of the Guru (H.S. Singha, referred to above).

Two Kirpans show that the balance in every thingis most essential in the life. One of the two means that you need power to protect your faith. The other impresses on the need of authority to live with dignity and to face and curb all wrongs, as well as to help the needy - to use it for justice and Dharam (principles protection of the faith). These two demonstrate the
balance of life including that of the spiritual and mundane, and this make one a Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier).

In the symbol, two Kirpans might have been used for symmetry. Kirpan is an essential item of the Sikh-Reht (Bindings of the one inducted into the
faith).


Kulwant Singh Khokhar,
USA
 

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