Khanda Defined: Sikh Emblem Symbolism

The Khalsa Coat of Arms

Khanda Float Yuba City California
Khanda Float Yuba City California. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Khanda is a Punjabi language term which refers to a flat broad sword, or dagger, having two edges both of which are sharpened. The term Khanda may also refer to an emblem, or symbol recognized as the Sikh's coat of arms, or Khalsa Crest, and is called a Khanda because of the double-edged sword in the center of the insignia. The coat of arms emblem of the Sikhism Khanda always appears on the Nishan, the Sikh flag which identifies the location of every gurdwara worship hall.

Modern Day Symbolism of Khanda Coat of Arms

Some people consider the components of the Sikhism Khanda to have special significance:

  • Two swords, signify the spiritual and secular forces influencing the soul.
  • A double-edged sword symbolizes the ability of truth to cut through the duality of illusion.
  • A circlet represents unity, a sense of being at one with infinity.

Sometimes the Sikhism Khanda is rendered in the form of a pin which can be worn on a turban. A Khanda somewhat resembles the crescent of Islam, with a sword replacing the star, and also resembles the crest on the flag of Islamic Iran. A possible significance could have arisen during historical battles in which Sikhs defended innocent people against the tyranny of Mughal Rulers.

Historic Significance of Khanda

The two swords: Piri and Miri
Guru Har Govind became the 6th guru of the Sikhs when his father, Fifth Guru Arjan Dev, achieved martyrdom by order of Mughal emperor Jahangir.

Guru Har Govind wore two swords to express the aspects of both Piri (spiritual) and Miri (secular)  as the symbol establishing his sovereignty, as well as the nature of his throne and ruler-ship. Guru Har Govind built up a personal army and constructed the Akal Takhat, as his throne and seat of religious authority facing towards Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, commonly known in modern times as the Golden Temple.

The double edge sword: Khanda
A flat double edge broadsword is used to stir the immortalizing nectar of Amrit given to initiates to drink in the Sikh baptism ceremony.

The circlet: Chakar
The chakar circlet is a throwing weapon traditionally used by Sikh warrior in battle. It is sometimes worn on the turbans of devout Sikhs known as Nihangs.

Pronunciation and Spelling of Khanda

Pronunciation and Phonetic Spelling: Khanddaa:
Khan-daa (Khan - a sounds like bun) (daa - aa sounds like awe) (dd is pronounced with the tip of the tongue curled back to touch the roof of the mouth.)

Synonym: Adi Shakti - The Sikhism Khanda is sometimes called an Adi Shakti, meaning "primal power"  usually by English speaking American Sikh converts, members of the 3HO community, and non-Sikh students of Kundalini yoga. The term Adi Shakti introduced in the early 1970's by the late Yogi Bhajan founder of 3HO, is rarely if ever, used by Sikhs of Punjabi origin. The traditional historic term used by all mainstream Sikhism sects for the Khalsa Coat of Arms is Khanda.

Examples Of Khanda's Use

The Khanda is a Sikhism symbol representative of the Sikh's martial history and is displayed proudly by Sikhs in a variety of ways:

  • Adorning the Nishan Sahib, or Sikh flag.
  • Decorating ramalas draping the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • As a pin worn on the turban.
  • As a vehicle hood ornament.
  • Appliquéd and embroidered on clothing.
  • In poster form and artwork on a wall.
  • Computer graphics and wallpaper.
  • Accompanying articles in print.
  • On banners and on floats in parades.
  • On gurdwaras, building structures, and gates.
  • Embellishing letter heads and stationary.
  • Identifying Sikhism websites.

See Examples in the Khanda Image Gallery