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Amrit Sanchar or Amrit Parchar or Khanda-ki-Pahul is the term used to refer to the Sikh baptism ceremony. In the year 1699, this ceremony was established when the religion's tenth leader (Guru Gobind Singh) first baptised 5 followers of his faith and then was baptised himself by the 5 followers, who are called the Panj Pyara. The Khalsa is said to have taken Amrit once they have been baptised.
See main article Pahul for more details
Amrit Sanskar or Amrit Sanchar or the Amrit ceremony is the Sikh ceremony of initiation or baptism. This practice has been in existence since the times of Guru Nanak Dev (1469 - 1539). During that time-period, this ceremony was known as Charan Amrit or Charan Phul or the Pag Pahul, the words Charan and Pag both signifying the foot of the teacher. During that time-period, the neophytes poured water over Guru's toe to be initiated into the fold. When the Guru was not present, the masands or the local sangat leaders officiated. A reference to initiation by Charan Amrit occurs in Bhai Gurdas, Varan, I.23, born 12 years after the passing away of Guru Nanak. The water was poured on Guru's toe and then the devotees would drink it and seek blessings of the Guru. The Guru would guide the Sikhs about the Sikh teachings and instruct them to adopt them as a way of life.
Khande di Pahul (Amrit ceremony) was initiated in the times of Guru Gobind Singh when Khalsa was inaugurated at Sri Anandpur Sahib on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh asked a gathering of Sikhs, "who is prepared to die for God?" At first, the people hesitated, and then one man stepped forward, and he was taken to a tent. After some time, Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent, with blood dripping from his sword. He asked the same question again. After the next four volunteers were in the tent, he reappeared with the five, who were now all dressed like him. These five men came to be known as Panj Pyares or the Beloved Five. These five were initiated into the Khalsa by receiving Amrit. These five were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh. Sikh men were then given the name "Singh" meaning "lion" and the women received the last name "Kaur" meaning "princess"
Khande Di Pahul not only embodies the primary objects of Sikh faith and the promises connected therewith, but also is itself a promise to lead a pure and pious life to unite with Almighty Lord. It is about inward cleansing of the conscience and seeking unity with The Supreme Lord through His Grace. The word Pahul is a derivative from the substantive, Pahu- which is an agent which brightens, accelerates or sharpens the potentialities of a given object.
Amrit Chhakhna refers to the drinking of the Amrit or the Nectar. The Amrit is administered in the presence of the holy text of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib which is consideded the 11th Guru. The candidates take a full bath, wear the five 5 Kakas and present themselves before the Guru Granth Sahib for initiation of Amrit. The five Sikhs, who represent the five beloved, who have led a virtuous life and have strictly observed the Sikh discipline are chosen to prepare and administer the Amrit. The candidates for baptism are apprised of the Amrit conditions for acceptance before the ceremony is started. They are apprised about the pure and virtuous life they must lead. When the candidates agree to live by the discipline and code of Sikh conduct, the Panj Pyares start preparing the Amrit.
A Sarb Loh (Iron or steel) cauldron (Bata or bowl) is filled with clean water. Some Patashas (sugar crystals/plums) are poured into the water. The Five Beloveds then sit in Vir Asan ( seated on the ground with left knee down and the right knee up) around the cauldron.
The mixture of Amrit is stirred with a Khanda while the Panj Pyares recite path of five Banis (Japji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Sawayae, Chaupai Sahib and Anand Sahib) from Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth with attention and full concentration on the Amrit preparation in the cauldron. The solution thus prepared is called Amrit (nectar of immortality).
The various ingredients and the aids to the preparation of this Holy Nectar are symbolic of a few things that are held in the highest regards by the Khalsa. The "Sarb Loh Bata" (Iron cauldron) signifies the strength of heart and mind. The chanting of hymns signify strong faith and cohesion in the devotees. The Khanda (the two-edged sword) signifies a spirit of valor and bravery.
Five handfuls of Amrit are given for drinking, five handfuls are sprinkled over the hair and another five are sprinkled into the eyes of each of the devotee who offer to be initiated.
In this religion, it is believed that it should not be taken into mind that Amrit Chhakhna is the end purpose. It is the start of one's journey on a right path to attain a pure and pious life which is essential to attain God (according to the Guru Granth Sahib. It is not something external.
Is Amrit Chhakhna essential for a Sikh?
Every Sikh is under an obligation and is required to submit himself to the order of the Khalsa. This is a pledge to remain under control, governance of the Ultimate reality. Amritdhari is the honour of being a member of the Panth (a disciplined force of God).
A Sikh must live life according to the terms of Sikhism. There is general understanding that a novice must have a "lent period" during which he/she must prepare to go the way of Guru with a voluntary and firm decision to change his/her life style, they must desire to and be willing to live their life by the values and virtues of Gurmat. Then and then only, the novice will become worthy to get the gift of Almighty Lord's grace and attain eternal unity.
Some people are of the view that initiation may be administered to a boy or girl when he or she reaches an intelligent age.
According to Bhai Gurdas,
- "Whosoever gets initiation of the Guru and follows the Guru’s instructions is in fact a real Sikh."
-(Bhai Gurdas Var 3.11)
- "The life may become successful and blessed, if you take Amrit of double edged sword."
-(Bhai Gurdas Var 41)
Directions to the Amrit Ceremony
- "The Guru caused his five faithful Sikhs to stand up. He put pure water into an iron vessel and stirred it with a Khanda or two edged sword. He then repeated over it the sacred verses which he appointed for the ceremony , namely, the Japji, the Jaap, Guru Amar Das's Anand, and certain swaiyas or quatrains of his own composition."
- -The Sikh Religion by M.A. Macauliffe, V-5, p.94
- The ceremony is to be conducted in any quiet and convinient place. In addition to the Guru Granth Sahib, the presence of six Sikhs is necessary, one granthi to read from the holy text and five to administer it.
- Washing of hair prior to the ceremony is mandatory by those who are receiving the initiation and those who are administering.
- Any Sikh who is mentally and physically sound (male or female) may adminster the rites of initiation, provided that he himself had received the rites and continues to wear the 5 Kakas, i.e. the Sikh symbols.
- No minimum or maximum age is stipulated for those receiving the initiation.
- Those undergoing initiation have to wear the four holy symbols, the 5 Kakas. No jewellery or distinctive marks associated with any other religion should be worn. The head must be covered with a cloth.
- Anyone seeking re-initiation after having resiled from his previous vows may be awarded a penalty by the five administering initiation before being re-admitted.
- During the ceremony, one of the five Pyare (the beloved ones), stands and explains the rules and obligations of the Khalsa Panth
- Those receiving initiation have to give their assent as to whether they are willing to abide by the rules and obligations.
- After their assent, one of the five Pyare utters a prayer for the commencement of the preparation of the Amrit and a randomly selected passage from the Guru Granth Sahib is read.
The person being initiated "Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh". The salutation is repeated and the holy water is sprinkled on their eyes and hair, five times. The remainder of the nector is shared by all receiving the initiation, all drinking from the same bowl.
Does Amrit Sanskar constitute ritualism?
One who performs this external gesture without inner commitment to the ideas being expressed under philosophy of Amrit, is performing ritual. Without practice of the teachings in life and without cleaning inside and outside, such like initiation will be termed as ritualism. The Amrit Sanskar ritual is not external. The cleansing of the soul can only be done internally by the subject himself.
But, when the novice promises and submits to the will of Gurmat, leads a clean, pure and pious life according to the concepts and philosophy of the Guru and emerges from the ordeal endowed with a totally different being from that which he possessed before his initiation Amrit Sanskar is not ritualism.
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