The Five "K's": How to Spot a Sikh -- Most Sikh men wear turbans wrapped around their heads and sport full beards, making them highly distinctively recognizable in all parts of the world. However, there are five other symbols -- known as the five K's (kakkar in Punjabi) -- worn by Sikh men to indicate that they are part of Guru Gobind Singh's sacred Khalsa brotherhood, which unites all Sikhs and are said to be emblems of purity and courage. Traditionally, a Sikh man does not cut his hair or shave his beard; ask him why and he'll tell you that one of the tenets of Sikhism is to avoid interfering with nature. This unshorn hair is known as the kesh, and is kept neat with a wooden comb known as the kangha. As a symbol of dignity and power, he carries a saber or sword, known as the kirpan, at all times -- usually these days it's a small, symbolic sword, and you'll also see some Sikh women carrying them. You won't see it, but a Sikh man wears loose underpants known as the kachera said to symbolize modesty. Finally, look on his right wrist: The karra is a traditional bangle of iron or steel that indicates fearlessness and strength; pick one up as a reminder of your visit -- there are thousands for sale at any of the many stalls and shops directly outside The Golden Temple.
Bloody History of the Holy Temple -- In 1984, the Sikh fundamentalist Sant Bhindranwale and his followers armed themselves and occupied The Golden Temple as part of a campaign for a separate Sikh state, which they wanted to call Khalistan. Acting on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's orders, the Indian Army attacked, killing Bhindranwale and others and causing serious damage to the temple. Sikh honor was avenged when Indira Gandhi was later assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, which in turn led to a massacre in which thousands of Sikhs lost their lives. The Sikh community refused to allow the central government to repair the damage to the temple, instead undertaking the work themselves. Although most of the cracks and crevices have been repaired, the incident has not been forgotten, and you will find many people in Amritsar keen to explain the Sikh side of the story.
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