Panj Pyare means literally the five beloved.
The word panj is the Punjabi word for five. Pyara is the singular Punjabi word for beloved. Panj Pyare refers to the five beloved ones collectively.
The Panj Pyare are beloved by Sikhs because the tenth guru of the Sikhs Gobind Rai called to a crowd of thousands who had assembled on the day of Vaisakhi, asking for volunteers who would give him their heads. Five men came forward:
- Bhai Daya Singh
- Bahi Dharam Singh
- Bhai Himmat Singh
- Bhai Muhkam Singh
- Bhai Sahib Singh
Panj pyare consists of five initiated Sikhs (Amritdharis) and may be either men or women. Duties of the panj pyare are to:
- Prepare and administer amrit, the immortalizing nectar given to initiates in the Amrit Sanchar ceremony.
- Instruct initiates in the Sikhism Code of Conduct.
- Assign tankhah, or tasks of reinstatement, to the transgressors of initiation vows.
- Assemble when important councils meet to make decisions affecting all Sikhs.
- To be present at all important occasions such as laying the foundation of a gurdwara.
- Take the lead walking ahead of the Guru Granth in ceremonial or commemorative processions.
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