Kangha (Kanga) Defined: 5 Aspects of the Sikh Wooden Comb

A Sikhism Article of Faith

Kanga Wooden Comb
Kanga Wooden Comb Sikhism Article of Faith. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Definition:

Kangha (kanga) is a wooden comb, and is one of the five kakar, or mandatory Sikhism articles of faith, that are required wear for the Amritdhari, any Sikh who has been initiated into the order of Khalsa in the Amritsanchar ceremony. The kangha has five primary aspects:

  1. The kangha is used twice daily to comb and to clean the kes, the long uncut hair that is mandatory for Sikhs.
  2. The kangha is worn tucked in beneath the joora, the topknot of unshorn hair bundled upon the head of the Amritdhari Sikh.
  1. The kangha is commonly carved from rose wood, or sandal wood. The kangha may be light or dark in color depending on material used. The kangha may be embellished with carvings, inscriptions, or miniature replicas of the kirpan or khanda sword symbol.
  2. The kangha may be anywhere between two through six inches in size. A smaller kangha may be preferred for daily wear while a larger kangha might be more desirable for combing through long thick hair that has been recently washed. The small fine tooth kangha resembles the modern nit comb, and in olden times would likely have been used along with oil to prevent and control infestations in the hair of the head, and rid the kes of fleas and lice by cleaning twice daily.
  3. The kangha is worn in the hair under under turban or keski a kind of under turban, and is kept on the person of the Amritdhari at all times. The kangha is to be present immediately prior to the Amrit ceremony and thereafter is to remain with the initiated Sikh even while bathing, eating, sleeping, during intimate relations and while traveling. The kangha is never supposed to be removed. Even after death, the kangha is to be respectfully kept with the body of the deceased and be present throughout the antam sanskar funeral ceremony and cremation.

    Spelling and Pronunciation:

    Kangha is a Punjabi word and is spelled phonetically. When transliterated into Roman characters English letter spellings may vary and be shortened for ease of writing.

    Pronunciation:

    • Kang-ghaa, the first syllable k is a hard sound like ck with no aspiration. The first syllable  a-ng is a short a sound with nasalization and sounds like ung.
    • The second syllable ghaa is an aspirated gh spoken with a puff of air that can be felt with the hand in front of the mouth. The second syllable aa is a long vowel sound similar to the a sound of awe.

     Spelling:

    • Kangghaa is the most correct phonetic spelling maybe shortened to be spelled as kangha.
    • Kanga is the most common spelling, but does not properly emphasize the aspirated gh.
    • Kangaa properly emphasizes the second syllable vowel, but neglects the aspirated gh.  
    • Khanga is an incorrect spelling of both consonants, and neglects the emphasis on the final a.

    Examples:

    The hukamnamas or edicts of Tenth Guru Gobind Singh are the basis of Rehit Maryada the Sikhism code of conduct. requested the Sikh sangat to take care of their unshorn hair and comb it after waking, or washing, and before sleep.

    "Dono vakat kesa dee palna karna|
    Twice daily take care of your hair, with a comb (kangha) keep it clean." Letter to Kabul Sikhs

    "Kanghaa dovaen vakat kar pagg chunnai kar baaindha-ee ||
    With the kangha, comb the hair twice daily, and wrap it with the turban, or cover with chunni." (23) Bhai Nand Lal Ji Tankhanama