The unshorn hair (Kesh) is part of nature and God's system. Sikhs maintains long unshorn hair (‘Kesh') as an act of acceptance of God's Will and living as nature intended, sustaining the individual in higher consciousness. The unshorn hair is regarded with the highest importance in the Sikh religion and is one of the basic requirements for a Sikh. Dishonouring one's hair is one of the four Bajjar Kurehats (cardinal sins), which the Guru has told a Sikh never to commit. A Sikh doesn't disfigure their hair from head to toe because of the Guru's order to maintain the sanctity of the Kesh. Nothing else matters. A Sikh does what their Guru tells them to do.
ਮਾਈ ਸਤਿ ਸਤਿ ਸਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਤਿ ਸਤਿ ਸਤਿ ਸਾਧਾ ॥
ਬਚਨੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਜੋ ਪੂਰੈ ਕਹਿਓ ਮੈ ਛੀਕਿ ਗਾਂਠਰੀ ਬਾਧਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
"O mother, True, True True is the Lord, and True, True, True is the Guru.
The Word, which the Perfect Guru has spoken, I have tied to my robe.
||1||Pause||" (Ang 1204)
The Kesh act as the identity for a Sikh as well being a spiritual and practical tool that helps the body. Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, the founder of the Sikh Path, followed the ancient practice of the sages, prophets, and holy mystics of keeping the hair unshorn because keeping it in a natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the Will of Waheguru.
Biological functions and benefits of human body hair are for example:
The hair on our head protects the skull and brain.
The hair on our body acts an insulator and is linked to our nervous system.
Our eyebrows prevent water going into your eyes.
Facial hair absorb ether energy.
The hair under our armpits prevent friction and irritation when we move our arms.
There is a principle (vidhaan) of maintaining Kesh.
ਸੋਹਣੇ ਨਕ ਜਿਨ ਲੰਮੜੇ ਵਾਲਾ ॥
"Beautiful is Your nose and long hair."
Meaning, those who have beautiful nose and beautiful Kesh, they too are your nose and Kesh. Thus, a Sikh should keep full appearance (i.e. maintain unshorn hair and not pierce the nose), crowned with a turban on the head.
ਮਾਠਿ ਗੁੰਦਾਈਂ ਪਟੀਆ ਭਰੀਐ ਮਾਗ ਸੰਧੂਰੇ ॥ ਅਗੈ ਗਈ ਨ ਮੰਨੀਆ ਮਰਉ ਵਿਸੂਰਿ ਵਿਸੂਰੇ ॥
"I have woven my hair into lovely braids, plaits, and marked the centre parting with red colouring (Sandhoor); but in the presence of You, I am still not accepted, and (because of this) I am dying suffering in anguish." (Ang 558)
Meaning, braids, plaits, making partings with the hair and adding colour to the hair etc is prohibited for the Sikh of the Guru. Such people do not get accepted the Court of the Lord.
Any form of intended disfigurement or mutilation of the body is prohibited in Gurmat, including shaving, plucking, tattooing, circumcision, piercing, colouring etc. Guru Ji says:
ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥ 12 ॥
"O person of God! Purify the mind what is impure (with bad thoughts) "this is the religious tradition through which you can experience the Lord's Presence. (Abandoning circumcision, mutilation and deferment of the body etc) preserve a complete appearance with a turban on your head" this becomes the way to maintain respect and honour. ||12||" (Ang 1084)
There is one Salokh of Bhagat Kabeer Ji which is often misquoted by mischievous people trying to justify the un-Godly act of shaving or trimming their hair.
ਕਬੀਰ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਇਕ ਸਿਉ ਕੀਏ ਆਨ ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਭਾਵੈ ਲਾਂਬੇ ਕੇਸ ਕਰੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਘਰਰਿ ਮੁਡਾਇ ॥੨੫॥
"O Kabeer! When you are in love with the One Lord, duality and alienation depart. You may have long matted hair, or you may shave your head bald. ||25||" (Ang 1365)
These lines criticize both those who have long matted hair or shave their head completely in order to achieve union with God. In these lines, the question of keeping or not keeping Kesh is not the case. Similarly Guru Ji says:
ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਮੂੰਡਿਆ ਨਹੀ ਕੇਸ ਮੁੰਡਾਏ ਕਾਂਇ ॥ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮਨ ਕੀਆ ਮੂੰਡਾ ਮੂੰਡੁ ਅਜਾਂਇ ॥੧੦੧॥
"O Kabeer! You have not shaved your mind, so why do you shave your head? Whatever is done, is done by the mind; it is useless to shave your head. ||101||" (Ang 1369)
This salok (couplet) clarifies the above salok.
As well as having biological functions and benefits, the hair is sacred due to the fact that spiritual energy abides within each and every pore of hair on the body. The hairs are like electrical wires, which preserve, carry and vibrate energy. When one chants and meditates the Divine - Name (Naam), each hair vibrates. Sikhs do not forcibly or intentionally remove any hair from the body but maintain clean hair with proper washing; tying and keeping them covered are requirements for a Sikh.
Gurbaani (the Divine Word) says:
ਰੋਮ ਰੋਮ ਮਹਿ ਬਸਹਿ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ॥
"On each and every hair, the Lord abides." (Ang 344)
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰੋਮਿ ਰੋਮਿ ਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵੈ ॥
"The Gurmukh meditates on the Lord with every hair of his body." (Ang 941)
ਜਬ ਪਹਿਲੇ ਸਬ ਸਿ੍ਰਸਿਟ ਉਪਾਈ । ਤਬ ਹੀ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹਿ ਬਨਾਈ ।
ਤਨ ਇਸ ਕੇ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਜੁ ਦੀਨੋ । ਸੋ ਇਹ ਤਨ ਸ਼ਿੰਗਾਰਿਹ ਕੀਨੋ ।
ਦਾੜ੍ਹਾ ਮੁੱਛ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਬਨਾਈ । ਹੈ ਇਹ ਦਿ੍ੜ ਜਿਹ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਰਜ਼ਾਈ ।
ਮੇਟ ਰਜ਼ਾਇ ਜੁ ਸੀਸ ਮੁੰਡਾਵੈ । ਕਹੁ ਤੇ ਜਗ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਵੈ ।
"God created the whole universe and then God fashioned the human body. God gave man a beard, moustaches and hair on the head. He who submits to God's will steadfastly adheres to them. They who deny His Will how will they find God in this world?" (Bhai Desa Singh Rehatnama)
ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਪ ਸਿਰ ਕੇਸ ਕੀ ਪਾਹੁਲ, ਦੇਇ ਉਤਾਰ ਸੋ ਬੇਮੁਖ ਜਾਨਹੁ।
ਬੇਟੇ ਕੋ ਬੰਧੁ ਕੋ ਛਾਪ ਮੁੰਡਾਵਤ, ਜਮ ਦੁਖ ਭੋਗ ਕੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਤ ਪਛਾਨਹੁ।
"The Guru's stamp is Kesh and (Khandi di) Pahul, one who removes (their Kesh) is known as an apostate (bemukh). One who shaves the stamp (of the Guru) of their child (i.e. cut their children's hair), realise that person will suffer a terrible death and known as a ghost." (Bhai Sahib Singh Rehatnama)
ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤ ਰੱਬ ਦੀ, ਭੰਨੇ ਬੇਈਮਾਨ । ਦਰਗਹਿ ਢੋਈ ਨਾ ਮਿਲੇ, ਕਾਫ਼ਰ, ਕੁੱਤਾ, ਸ਼ੈਤਾਨ ।
"God has made the human perfect, but the dishonourable destroy it. They will find no place in the Court of God, like the unbeliever, dog and evil person." (Guru Nanak Janam Sakhi)
ਨਾਈ ਦਾ ਹਥ ਸੀਸ ਚਿਹਰੇ ਨ ਲਗਣਾ ਪਾਵੈ । ਕੇਸਾਧਾਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਦਾ ਪੰਥ ਕਹਾਵੈ ।
"The head (of a Sikh) should never have to pass through the hands of a barber. The Guru's Panth (community) calls itself Keshdhari (those with unshorn hair)." (Bansaavaleenama, Bhai Kesar Singh)
ਇਹੈ ਮੋਰ ਆਗਯਾ ਸੁਨੋ ਲੈ ਪਿਆਰੇ ।
ਬਿਨਾ ਤੇਗ, ਕੇਸੰ ਦਿਵੋ ਨ ਦਿਦਾਰੇ ।
"Listen O beloved ones: It (the Kesh) is my stamp. Without (wearing) a weapon and keeping Kesh, I will not give my audience." (Gurbilaas Paatshaahee 10 - Bhai Sukha Singh)
ਕੇਸਨ ਕੀ ਕੀਜਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਤਿਪਾਲ । ਨ ਉਸਤਰਨ ਸੇ ਕਟਯੋ ਬਾਲ ।੧੮।
"Maintain and look after your Kesh. Do not remove or cut any hair." (Gur Panth Prakaash - Rattan Singh)
Someone could argue why do Sikhs cut their nails when they don't cut their hair. Firstly, nails and the importance of hair cannot be compared. The hair is sacred that have a spiritual importance whereas the nails merely have biological function. Secondly, nails naturally remain short as they are brittle and rigid as a result of which they break off easily. A Sikh is required to do seva (selfless service) with his or her hands. When a individual uses their hands to do selfless service of washing up dirty dishes, cleaning shoes, sweeping the floor, cooking and serving food then there is no possibility for nails to remain long.
A Sikh lives in the grace and glory of God. The Kesh are magnificent. Biologically, physically and spiritually they do so much for us. Looking at the Kesh of a Sikh one sees the Sikh principle of "Living in the Will (Bhaanaa) of the Almighty." The Kesh is a symbol of Sikhism and what the fundamental belief of Sikhs. Bhai Taru Singh Ji is a Shaheed (martyr) who is a living reminder of what the Kesh means to the Khalsa. When asked to give up his faith and denounce Sikhi, he preferred to have his scalp removed than cut and disfigure his Sacred Kesh.
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