The Sikh baptism ceremony known as Amrit Sanchar originated with Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The Panj Pyare, or five beloved ones, administer the Khalsa initiations rites. Vaisakhi Day (Bhaisakhi) is the anniversary of the first Amrit initiation ceremony and is celebrated by Sikhs world wide in mid April.
The First Amrit Sanchar ceremony took place in 1699. Tenth Guru Gobind Singh created the new spiritual order of warriors known as the Khalsa. He performed the first Sikh baptism, created the Panj Pyare, and then asked to be baptized himself.
The Panj Pyare, or five beloved ones, were the first initiates of Sikhism. Their representatives administer Amrit in the Sikh baptism ceremony to Khalsa initiates. Panj Pyare instruct initiates in the code of conduct and issue penance. Panj Pyare also have important roles in the Sikh community on special occasions and commemorative events.
Amrit Sanchar, the Sikh baptism ceremony, is conducted by the Panj Pyare who administer initiation rites. Initiates kneel while Panj Pyare sprinkle Amrit in the initiate's hair and eyes and give them Amrit to drink. Initiates agree to forswear all other allegiance and follow the Sikhism code of conduct outlined by the Panj Pyare.
During the process of the Sikh baptism Amrit Sanchar ceremony, Amritdhari initiates are reborn as Khalsa, or immortal saint soldiers who battle egoism. Panj Pyare bless the initiates reverberating "Waheguru". instructing them to practice naam jap and simran reciting Gur mantar and Mool mantar while engaging in the practice of early morning meditation known as Amritvela to counter affect ego and encourage humility. Initiates are encouraged to read and sing hymns of Gurbani kirtan selected from Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism's holy scripture.
Initiated Sikhs are instructed to follow the Khalsa Code of Conduct by the Panj Pyare during Amrit Sanchar baptism ceremony. All initiated Sikhs are bound by the code of conduct there after and must incorporate gurmat principles and mandates into daily life, or face the penalty of infraction.
An Amritdhari initiate is required to wear five articles of faith during the Sikh baptism Amrit Sanchar initiation ceremony. The five articles are to be kept on or with the Amritdhari at all times thereafter:
- Intact hair
- Wooden comb
- Iron bangle
- Ceremonial sword
Five prayers known as Amrit Banis are recited by the Panj Pyare during the Amrit Sanchar initiation ceremony . The Khalsa initiate is required to review a set of five prayers every day there after. These five prayers are known as Panj Bania or Nitnem.
A Khalsa initiate is instructed to follow four cardinal commandments by the Panj Pyare at the time of initiation. If any one of these four mandates is breached it is considered to be a major misconduct:
- Keep hair intact.
- Forgo flesh slaughtered with sacrificial rites.
- Intimate relationship with spouse only.
- No smoking, drinking or using drugs.
Any initiated Sikh who purposely breaks any of the four major mandates of the code of conduct is guilty of misconduct, and faces boycott by the congregation of Khalsa initiates. The transgressor must appear before the Panj Pyare for penance in order to be reinstated.
The anniversary of the first Amrit ceremony is celebrated on Vaisakhi Day, in early April. Sikhs gather for kirtan programs and festive events which take place at Gurdwaras all around the world. Usually an early morning Amrit Sanchar initiation ceremony, is held. In many locations, worshipers meet for a procession. Langar, blessed food from the Guru's free kitchen, is available for all worshipers throughout the entire day.