What is the Khanda?

For centuries, various symbols have played a significant role in different cultures and religions around the world. One such symbol is the Khanda, which is the emblem of the Sikh faith. Khanda is a unique symbol that is made up of various elements, each carrying a profound meaning and significance to the Sikh community. It includes a double-edged sword, a circle, and two swords. The Khanda represents many important aspects of the Sikh religion, including courage, justice, and strength. In this article, we delve into the history, design, and meaning of the Khanda and its importance in Sikhism.

History of the Khanda

History Of The Khanda
The Khanda is a symbol that is widely recognized in Sikhism. It originated in the 17th century and has since become an important emblem for the Sikh community. The word “Khanda” means “sword” in Punjabi, which is the language spoken by the Sikh people. The symbol consists of three parts: the two kirpans (swords) on either side, the chakkar (circular weapon) in the center, and the khanda (double-edged sword) itself. The Khanda reflects the importance of Sikh teachings on justice, equality, and defense against oppression. Throughout history, the Khanda has undergone various transformations, and today it remains a vital component of Sikh identity.


The Khanda has its roots deep in the history of Sikhism. The word “Khanda” is derived from the Sanskrit word “khanda,” which means a double-edged sword. The emblem originated in the 17th century, when Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, created the Khalsa, an order of initiated Sikhs, and the Khanda became its symbol.

The Khanda is a combination of three different weapons: the double-edged sword or “Khanda,” the chakkar, which is a circular weapon, and two swords or kirpan. The Khanda represents wisdom, strength, and justice. The chakkar stands for the continuity of God and the oneness of humanity, while the two swords symbolize spiritual and temporal power.

The Khanda represents the fundamental values of Sikhism and is a reminder to the Sikhs of their commitment to live a disciplined life. At the heart of Sikhism lies the belief in the oneness of God, and the Khanda represents this belief through its design and symbolism. The significance of Khanda is so much in Sikhism that it is placed at the center of the Sikh flag or Nishan Sahib that flies high in every Sikh shrine or Gurdwara.

The emblem is also intricately linked to the initiation ceremony of Sikhs called “Amrit Sanchar.” Any Sikh who wants to become initiated goes through the ceremony that involves drinking a sweetened mixture known as Amrit. During the ceremony, the Khanda is held over the Amrit to signify the sanctity and purity of the ceremony.

The Khanda is not just an emblem but is also an integral part of “Gatka,” the Sikh martial art. The martial art uses the two swords of the Khanda as its primary weapon, and it is said that every Sikh warrior must master the art of Gatka.

The Khanda has a rich and profound history in Sikhism and embodies the core values of the religion. Its design and symbolism continue to inspire and guide Sikhs around the world.


Evolution of the Khanda: The Khanda symbol has a rich history and has undergone a significant evolution from its creation. The original Khanda symbol consisted of only one sword, which was used by Guru Hargobind during his reign as the sixth Sikh guru. It was not until later, during the time of Guru Gobind Singh, that the second sword was added to the Khanda, creating the symbol we see today. The addition of the second sword represented the dual nature of the Sikhs’ responsibility to defend their faith and protect the weak.

Over time, the Khanda symbol became a more elaborate design that incorporated several other important elements. The chakkar, a circular weapon used in battle, was added to the center of the Khanda. It represented the never-ending cycle of life and death and the unity and oneness of all things. The khanda also includes the kirpan, a small sword worn by Sikhs as a symbol of their duty to defend their faith and protect the weak.

During the early 20th century, Sikh reformist movements tried to simplify the Khanda symbol, but they were met with resistance by the traditionalists who saw the symbol as an integral part of their faith. Today, the Khanda remains an essential symbol in Sikhism, representing the unity of God, self-realization, and the importance of community service.

Evolution of the Khanda:

  • The original Khanda consisted of only one sword, used by Guru Hargobind.
  • The second sword was added by Guru Gobind Singh, representing the Sikhs’ dual responsibilities.
  • The chakkar, a circular battle weapon, was added, representing the never-ending cycle of life and death.
  • The kirpan, a small sword, was included to symbolize the Sikh duty to defend their faith.
  • Sikh reformist movements attempted to simplify the symbol in the early 20th century, but traditionalists resisted.

Today, the Khanda represents a unifying force for Sikhs around the world and remains a vital symbol of their faith. To learn more about other important symbols in Sikhism, check out our articles on the Five Ks, the Sikh flag Nishan Sahib, the Golden Temple, Ek Onkar, and the Gurmukhi alphabet.

Design and Symbolism

The Khanda emblem is a unique and powerful symbol in Sikhism, with a design that incorporates several important elements. At the center of the Khanda is the kirpan, a Sikh dagger that represents the power and readiness to fight for justice and righteousness. Surrounding the kirpan is the chakkar, a circular weapon that symbolizes the eternal nature of God and the unity of all things. Finally, flanking the kirpan and chakkar are two swords, which represent the dual qualities of miri and piri – temporal and spiritual power. Together, these elements create a striking and meaningful emblem that embodies the core values of Sikhism.


The is one of the important components of the Khanda. It is a small sword or dagger that represents the Sikh’s duty to stand up against injustice and defend the oppressed. The Kirpan is a symbol of the courage and fearlessness of the Sikhs. The word “Kirpan” comes from the Sanskrit word “Kiratam,” which means “mercy, grace, and magnanimity.” The Kirpan is usually worn in a sheath or scabbard, and is typically between three and nine inches long.

Sikhs consider the Kirpan to be a sacred object, and it is part of their religious attire. It is mandatory for all initiated Sikhs to wear the Kirpan on their person. Sikhs are required to carry the Kirpan with them at all times, and it is not to be used offensively. The Kirpan is only to be unsheathed when necessary to protect oneself or others.

In some cases, the Kirpan has caused controversy when it has been used in public places. In countries like the United States and Canada, for example, there have been instances where Sikhs have been asked to remove their Kirpan in public places like schools and airports. The Sikh community has argued that this is a violation of their religious freedom, and have fought for their right to wear the Kirpan.

The Kirpan is a significant element of the Khanda, representing the Sikh’s responsibility to stand up against injustice and protect the weak. It is considered to be a sacred object and is worn by all initiated Sikhs as a symbol of their faith and commitment to the Sikh way of life.


The Chakkar is a circular weapon that is one of the symbols found in the Khanda emblem. It is a throwing weapon that was commonly used in Indian martial arts, and was favored by the Sikh warriors. The Chakkar has a sharp outer edge and can be used both in close combat and for throwing. Here are some important details about the Chakkar :

Characteristics Importance
The Chakkar is a circular weapon with sharp edges. It represents the wheel of time and emphasizes the cyclical nature of life.
The edges of the Chakkar are used for inflicting wounds in close combat. It represents the power to fight against injustice and protect oneself and others.
The throwing technique of the Chakkar requires practice and precision. It signifies the importance of discipline and focus in both physical and mental pursuits.
The Chakkar is a versatile weapon that can be used in different situations. It symbolizes adaptability and readiness to face challenges in all aspects of life.

The Chakkar is also associated with the concept of Chakravyuh, which is a military tactic that involves creating a circular formation of soldiers to trap enemies. The Chakkar thus represents the strategic planning and organization required for successful warfare. In Sikhism, the Chakkar is seen as a symbol of protection and defense, as well as an embodiment of the divine power that protects the righteous. It is also used in the Sikh martial art called Gatka, which emphasizes the use of weapons for self-defense. However, the misuse of the Chakkar and other weapons has also led to controversies and conflicts, highlighting the importance of responsible use and respect for all forms of power.

Two Swords

The two swords featured in the Khanda symbol represent the dual nature of Sikhs. According to Sikhism, one sword represents spiritual power while the other represents political power. The two together indicate the harmony between these two elements in the Sikh religion. Sikhism teaches the importance of both physical and spiritual strength, and the two swords highlight this principle.

The spiritual sword, or “Piri,” refers to spiritual sovereignty and represents the spiritual authority of the Sikh faith. It signifies the need for every Sikh to be in touch with their inner self and follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, which is considered the ultimate spiritual guide. The sword represents the power of truth and the need for every Sikh to constantly fight against the five vices, namely lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego, in order to achieve spiritual liberation.

On the other hand, the political sword, or “Miri,” represents temporal power. It signifies the need for Sikhs to defend the oppressed and fight against injustice. The political sword represents the Khalsa’s commitment to protect the weak and promote justice. It signifies that Sikhs should not hesitate to defend their faith, especially when their freedom of worship is threatened.

The balance between the two swords, Piri and Miri, emphasizes that Sikhs should not only focus on their spiritual growth but also be engaged in the world. They should work towards achieving justice and peace in society. The Khanda symbolizes the Sikh’s commitment to both inward and outward growth, which is crucial in the Sikh faith.

The two swords in the Khanda symbol remind Sikhs of their dual nature, the importance of spiritual and temporal power, and the balance between the two. The two swords highlight the need to fight against evil both internally and externally and work towards achieving spiritual and political liberation.

Importance in Sikhism

Importance In Sikhism
The Khanda holds immense importance in Sikhism as it represents the faith and principles of the religion. It is a symbol of unity, equality, and justice, and is seen as a reminder for all Sikhs to live their lives in accordance with these values. The kirpan, one of the elements of the Khanda, represents the courage and bravery that a Sikh must possess in both the spiritual and physical realms. The chakkar, on the other hand, represents the cycle of life and emphasizes the importance of balance. The two swords symbolize the dual nature of reality, and how it is both the creator and destroyer of life. The Khanda serves as a reminder for all Sikhs to live their lives with courage, balance, and always striving for justice and equality.

Sikh Initiation

Sikh initiation, also known as Amrit Sanchar, is a significant moment in a Sikh’s life as it marks their commitment to the Sikh faith and way of life. During the initiation ceremony, the Khanda is prominently featured as a symbol of the Sikh identity and faith.

The ceremony involves five initiated Sikhs, known as the Panj Pyare, who prepare a mixture of sugar and water known as Amrit. The Panj Pyare also recite specific prayers and hymns, and initiate the new Sikh into the Khalsa, a community of initiated Sikhs.

The Khanda plays a crucial role in the initiation ceremony as it represents the values and principles of the Sikh faith. The ceremony involves the recitation of the Mool Mantar, the basic statement of Sikh beliefs, while the Sikh drinks Amrit from the Khanda. This reflects the Sikh tradition of seeing the Khanda as a source of spiritual strength.

During the initiation ceremony, the Khanda is also used to administer the Amrit, representing the Khalsa’s power to defend and protect the faith. After the Amrit ceremony, the initiated Sikhs are given the name Singh (meaning lion) for men and Kaur (meaning princess) for women, as a sign of their new identity as members of the Khalsa.

The use of the Khanda during Sikh initiation highlights the importance of the symbol in the Sikh faith and its role in defining the Sikh identity. Through the initiation ceremony, Sikhs demonstrate their devotion to the Khalsa and their commitment to the values and principles of the Sikh faith.

Sikh Martial Art

Sikh Martial Art, also known as Gatka, is a traditional form of combat and self-defense that originated in the Punjab region of India. It is an integral part of Sikh culture and is closely associated with the Khanda symbol. The practice of Gatka involves the use of a variety of weapons, including swords, sticks, and daggers, as well as hand-to-hand combat techniques.

The practice of Gatka is based on the principles of spiritual and physical discipline, as well as the teachings of Sikhism. Historically, Sikh martial arts were used to defend against invaders, and Gatka was developed for this purpose. This martial art is taught in gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and is considered an important part of Sikh heritage.

Gatka is not just about physical strength and combat skills. It also incorporates the principles of meditation and mindfulness, and emphasizes the importance of spiritual and emotional discipline. Practitioners of Gatka are taught to cultivate inner strength as well as outer strength, and to approach the practice with a sense of humility and respect.

In recent years, Gatka has gained popularity outside of the Sikh community, and is now practiced by people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. However, there has been some controversy over the use of Gatka as a sport or performance art, as some critics argue that it detracts from the spiritual and cultural significance of the practice.

Despite these controversies, Sikh Martial Art continues to be an important part of the Sikh identity, and the Khanda remains a powerful symbol of Sikh strength, unity, and courage.

Controversies and Misuses

The Khanda, being a symbol with religious significance, has unfortunately been subject to some controversies and misuses. While the emblem is revered by Sikhs, it has also been appropriated and misused by certain groups or individuals.

One of the most common controversies surrounding the Khanda is its use by extremist groups and individuals to promote violence or hate. This is ironic since the Khanda is, in fact, a symbol of peace and equality. Some people who do not truly understand the values associated with the Khanda have used it to promote their own agenda, often motivated by hatred towards other religions or groups. However, this goes against the true spirit of the emblem and is not tolerated by the vast majority of Sikhs.

Another misuse of the Khanda is its inappropriate use in fashion, jewelry, or other commercial products, which is considered disrespectful by many Sikhs. The Khanda is a symbol of immense spiritual value and should be treated with respect and dignity. Its use in fashion or commercial products could be seen as trivializing its significance, making it little more than a fashion statement. To Sikhs, this is considered a form of cultural appropriation and is not appreciated.

Additionally, the use of the Khanda in politics can also be controversial. There have been instances where the Khanda has been used as a political symbol to represent a particular stance or ideology. This has sparked debates among Sikhs about the use of religious symbols in politics and whether it is appropriate. Some feel that the use of religious symbols in politics can be divisive and may lead to conflict, while others believe that the Khanda can be used as a symbol of unity and empowerment in the political sphere.

The Khanda, like all religious symbols, should be treated with respect, dignity, and the understanding of its true meaning. While controversies and misuses of the emblem have occurred, they should be viewed as exceptions rather than the norm. As a symbol of Sikhism, the Khanda continues to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds and beliefs.


In conclusion, the Khanda is a powerful symbol that represents the core values of Sikhism. Its design and symbolism embody the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and their emphasis on human equality, justice, and righteousness. The Khanda serves as a reminder to the Sikh community of their duties and responsibilities towards themselves and towards society.

Throughout the history of the Khanda, various controversies and misuses have arisen. However, it is important to remember that these incidents do not reflect the true essence of the symbol. The Khanda is a sacred emblem that should be treated with respect and used only for its intended purposes.

The Kirpan, Chakkar, and Two Swords that make up the Khanda each carry their own significance and symbolism. The Kirpan represents the Sikh duty to protect the innocent and fight against injustice. The Chakkar symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and the unity of God. The Two Swords represent the balance between spiritual and temporal power.

The Khanda holds great importance in the Sikh religion and is a prominent feature in Sikh initiation and martial arts. Its design and symbolism are intricately connected to Sikh beliefs and values and serve as a source of inspiration for the community.

Overall, the Khanda is a symbol of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. It embodies the fundamental principles of Sikhism and serves as a constant reminder to the Sikh community of their spiritual and moral duties. It is a symbol that will continue to hold great significance for generations of Sikhs to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Khanda?

The Khanda is the emblem of Sikhism, consisting of a double-edged sword, two swords, and a chakkar.

What is the history behind the Khanda?

It originated in the 17th century and has evolved over time to represent the values and beliefs of Sikhism.

What does the Kirpan represent in the Khanda?

The Kirpan represents the duty to defend the truth and protect the weak.

What does the Chakkar represent in the Khanda?

The Chakkar symbolizes the circle of life and death and the eternal nature of God.

What do the two swords represent in the Khanda?

The two swords stand for spiritual and temporal power and the importance of using both for the betterment of society.

What is the significance of the Khanda in Sikh initiation?

The Khanda plays a central role in Sikh initiation ceremony to symbolize commitment to uphold the values and principles of Sikhism.

What is the relation between Khanda and Sikh martial art?

The Khanda is used in the Sikh martial art of Gatka, where practitioners use it as a weapon and a symbol of Sikh values.

Are there any controversies surrounding the Khanda?

There have been instances of misuse of the Khanda and controversy surrounding its display, including it being used as a hate symbol.

What is the message behind the Khanda?

The Khanda represents the importance of upholding Sikh values of truth, justice, and equality and the need to use all available resources to serve the greater good.

Can the Khanda be used by non-Sikhs?

The Khanda is deeply rooted in Sikh beliefs and values, so it is up to individuals to decide whether or not they want to use it. However, it should be used with respect and understanding of its significance in Sikhism.


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