Nationality: Indian American
Residence: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24, 2017
Primary Language: English
Informant is a student at USC, and is a practicioner of the Sikh religion.
“The Kara is a plain, completely round steel bracelet worn by all Sikhs to identify themselves to other Sikhs. You receive it right when you are born, and you’re supposed to wear it until you die. Well, I guess that you have to swap it out once it gets too small on you, but that’s besides the point. It is a form of identification so that everyone would know that we were Sikhs, because the Sikhs were known as the protectors of people from the Mughal empire. It is also a charm that protects you from bad spirits, and the circular shape is used to represent and remind us of the infiniteness of God. It is always made of steel so that everybody is equal. Like, the peasants will wear steel karas and the richest people would wear steel karas too, to show that everybody was the same under the eyes of God. So I wear one, and all of my family wears them as well, as a sign that we are Sikhs.”
This is a very good example of jewelry that is worn for religious reasons. This is very interesting to me personally, because I have seen a few people who are Sikhs wearing the same bracelet, but I had not known what the purpose was. It is also very interesting because this is an identifying mark within the Sikh community so that other members can recognize each other, so even today, beyond its religious significance, it serves a functional purpose.