Punjabi Jewellery – Types, History and Sikh Ornaments

Jewellery is a significant part of Indian Culture and dates back millenia, back to the most ancient of days. Many artefacts and examples of Jewellery use within this region have been found throughout recent history and these traditions continue, whether its the Punjabi Sikhs or Hindus.

The weddings and festivals are some of the most vibrant and impressive in the world, not just in India itself.

Sikh Festival showing Young People in Sikh Attire
Young Sikhs enjoying a Traditional Sikh Festival in Punjab

Punjab Province, India

The Indian Province of Punjab has a majority of its residents following the Sikh religion, as such it could be considered a sort of home of the Sikhs within India and has several landmarks and resting places of Sikh Gurus and Saints.

Punjabi Sikhs

According to Wikipedia, Sikhs make up 57.7% of the population of the Indian Punjab State with Hindu’s comprising 38.5%. As such we can be certain that the most relevant types of Jewellery types within this region belong to the Sikhs and their wonderful traditions. This article will therefore outline the types of Jewellery worn by Men and Women of the Sikhs. Along with the history thereof.

What is Sikhism?

The Sikh Religion was founded in the 15th century by the Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the term Sikh means disciple or learner and Sikhism adheres to 3 principles at its core:

  • Praying in the name of God.
  • Working and earning through honest methods.
  • Sharing with others, in particular those less fortunate.
 
Sikhism is known as monotheistic, which is to believe in only one God opposed to Hinduism in which many Gods are worshiped.
 
Further differentiating the Sikhs from Hindus is their rejection of the Caste system, being proponents for the equality of all. Both Men and Women and all from other nations, religions and backgrounds.
 
You can learn more about Sikhs on this informative website here.

Articles of Faith
Sikhism

The Five K's

Now lets take a look at the different types of Jewellery worn by Sikhs in addition to the tradtional ornaments worn by Men. We should first take a look at the five K’s of Sikhism:

Kesh

Kesh in Sikhism

This refers to keeping the hair uncut and as God had given it. Its important as it calls to the Sikh’s acceptance of what God wills and understanding his wisdom in all things that have been created.

It is believed that the hair acts as a receptor for energy transmitted from the cosmos and received by the person, or in metaphorical terms an antenna for transmitting the solar energy into the individual.

Its believed that hair acts to stabilize the mental capability of an individual.

 

Kanga (or Khanga)

Wooden Kanga - One of the Five K's

 
This is the wooden comb that is to be worn in the hair at all times. Its said that the Kanga is an ethereal device that brings energy into the body and keeps the hair in excellent condition.
 
The Kanga is one of the madatory religious commandments by Guru Gobind Singh.
 
Siri Singh Sahib Harmhajan Singh Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji (Known as Yogi Bhajan) said regarding the Kanga; “Guru Gobind Singh was the most scientific of all scientists. He gave you the wooden comb so that you would create your own electric energy for your brain by combing with wood. The kanga is for whenever you feel low on energy. Just comb your hair with it right there on the spot. It works much faster than you can imagine to revitalize your energy. The Kanga is a very virtuous thing.
 

 

Kada (or Kara)

The Kada is traditionally an Iron Bangle worn by all Sikhs. Men wear it on the right hand while Women on the left. It represents the Prana or life force and is a symbol of an unbreakable commitment to God [1]. Its of a circular shape and this shows that there is no beginning or end, in line with the eternal nature of God.

A Sikh pledges to dedicate ones actions in the service of the creator and this is also symbolic of this, additionally the Iron used within the Kada is said to give the wearer courage and fearlessness. 

The Kada is traditionally meant to be Iron, but Steel is most commonly worn.

 

Wearing a Gold Kada

Its ok to wear a Kada made in Gold if its in addition to your Iron or Steel one. A gold kada would give a meaning of purity, which alters the original meaning and reason to wearing one as a Sikh.

Iron is used in part due to its strength, yet vulnerability to rust, resulting in a need to revitalize it else it loses its strength and breaks.

That being said Mens Gold Kadas are very popular in Punjab, India, more so as Jewellery rather than an article of faith for the reasons stated above.

For further emphasis, Iron should be worn, for the piece symbolizing the Sikhs commitment to the religion.

 

Kachera (or Kacha)

This is an undergarment worn by Sikhs as a reminder from Gobind Singh that they should control their sexual desires [2]. These are similar to boxer shorts and were given to all Sikhs initiated into the Khalsa. 

This is worn by both males and females and as one of the five Kakars, it is a display of commitment to the order of the tenth master. 

Kirpan (or Sword)

The Kirpan of Sikhism

Attribution: Harisingh

This is an important part of the five Kakars, and its seen as a symbol for respect of weapons and indicates the highest level of responsibility to humanity, the Guru and God himself.

The sword is used only as a last resort, in the defense of self and others.

According to Guru Gobind Singh, it’s an emblem of power, dignity and self-respect [3].

The combination of words Kirpa (which means kindness) and aan (which is dignity). Showing that through it we can display kindness in the defence of the weak and protect our own dignity or that of others.

Types of Traditional Punjabi Jewellery

Now lets take a look at the different types of Jewellery and Ornaments coming from the Punjabi region in India. 

Mens Punjabi Jewellery Types

Head

Sarpesh

The Sarpesh is sometimes worn by Sikhs on the front of their turban. Its often made of precious metals and jewels.

Another term for it would be an Aigrette which refers to an ornament resembling a tuft of plumes.

Sikh Sarpesh - Turban Ornament
Head

Kalgi (or Kalangi)

The Kalgi is popular throughout India and the Middle East, featured in Hindu and Muslim weddings – especially in Punjab. 

These are worn and are meant to turn the Groom into a Prince for the day. It consists of a single or cluster of feathers termed a plume and is normally worn on the front of the Turban or Pagdi. 

Ears

Murki (or Murkiya)

These are earrings traditionally worn by a Punjabi Man, they possess a crescent moon like hoop style appearance. These are generally small in size and aren’t massively popular as of today but fashions change and traditional styles return periodically.

This piece may certainly be one, with its unique stylish design.

Necklace

Kanthi-Mala

This is a simple bead style necklace for men, that consists of many large beads hanging down loosely in a similar manner to a haar necklace. 

Often it possesses three or more strings of beads and on some a pendant of sorts will be attached at the bottom to form the Punjabi Kanth Mala.

This necklace is worn in Hinduism, most commonly by followers of Vaishnavism and Shavism [?].

Necklace

Kanth-Kanthi

This is a simple bead style necklace, that consists of many large beads hanging down loosely in a similar manner to a haar necklace. Often it possesses three or more strings of beads and on some a pendant of sorts will be attached at the bottom to form the Punjabi Kanth Mala.

Punjabi Hindu Jewellery

We will also cover Hindu styles within the Punjabi region, as a significant portion of the population there are Hindus and have a unique style that differs from Sikh styles.

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