At the start of the year I had to research an article on religious jewellery. I discovered that this country is swamped with crucifixes, scapular medallions, St Christopher pendants and about a million other jangly Christian icons (67% of our population is Christian, do not say I never impart anything educational on this blogge), and not much else. I also found that much of my other fascinating research on Islamic, Judaic and Masonic jewellery was completely overlooked by the editors. Pfft.
Anyway. While in the midst of my unusable research, I had a thoroughly enjoyable look into the Sikh religion. How I love the Sikh! The beard! The turban! The robes! The pointy symbol! Is that the wrongest thing ever said on this site?? I care not.
I also confirmed in my very hasty overview of world religions (“summarise the five main religions of Australia, in 300 words or less” – that took me yonks) that everyone is pretty much following the same path: do unto others as you’d do yourself, help the poor, be honest, cultivate wacky theories about the afterlife, remove the mighty log from thine own eye blah blah blah. This interests me not at all. That’s just about learning to be a decent human being (apart from the afterlife thing which I can only attribute to boredom, dehydration, Purple Hearts or watching too many old episodes of Monkey). There’s no need to make such a song and dance about it.
What really interests me about religion is the ritual. The symbolic artefacts. The unusual food. The cool holidays. And the special underpants. Oh yes, particularly the special underpants. In my journeys through Sikhism I found that there are 5 ‘visible items of faith’ that Sikhs are supposed to keep on their person at all times:
KESH – The uncut hair. You have to let your hair grow naturally as a representation of the perfection of God’s creation. Constant grooming is a big deal in Sikhism, and you have to comb your immense locks twice a day with the kanga (below), knot it and wrap it up with a turban.
KACCHA – The special dacks. Loose, drawstring undies made of cotton. Supposed to give a feeling of dignity, modesty and honour to the wearer. The kaccha also refers to feelings of lust: the drawstring is another reminder that when one is untying it one is given time to think about what one is about to do. And from the Sikh Net website: “The kaccha also reminds the Sikh of his freedom, that he is not bound by any worldly government.”
KARA – The iron bangle. A visual marker that whatever you do with your hands, you must be reminded of the Sikh teachings. To deter the Sikh from committing any kind of sin. The iron symbolises strength and courage.
KIRPAN – The ceremonial dagger. As a 2nd-rate jewellery journalist, this one interests me the most. The Kirpan reminds the Sikh of their constant battle against sin, and the readiness to defend the weak or oppressed. Plenty of Sikhs have been hauled up by airlines lately for keeping the kirpan about their person (it’s a central part of their faith), and some people have had smaller versions made as pendants, to be on the safe side. Ah, the world we live in. It’s actually a bit insulting to Sikhs to equate it with an actual weapon, as it represents courage and self-defence.
There must be a modest Sikh population living along my train line, as there’s always at least one or two groups of young lads in turbans chatting, texting and dangling their arms around each other’s shoulders. Thus adding fuel to my secret Sikh obsession.
They’re dressed like any other group of young Indian students, except for this one chap. He is always garbed in blinding white from top to toe. A long billowing shift, loose pants and leather slippers. Orange turban, golden skin, thick beard and molten chocolate eyes with long, thick lashes. He is gorgeous. Every time I see this lad I swoon. And he would be 18 if he’s a day.
Shit. I am a sick, sick woman. Fortunately I am a godless spinster, because if I believed in Hell, I would surely be headed in that direction.