Guru Gobind Singh and the History of Sikh Baptism

The Origins of Khalsa Initiation

The Panj Pyare at Vaisakhi
The Panj Pyare at Vaisakhi 2010 Birmingham, UK. (Michael Clark/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)

The History of Vaisakhi

The Sikh baptismal Amrit ceremony of initiation has its origins in early April of 1699 on the Vaisakhi festival of ancient Punjab.

Guru Gobind Rai, the 10th guru of the Sikhs, stood with his sword in hand and called to a crowd of thousands who had assembled in the Fort of Kesgar at Anandpur. He asked for volunteers willing to give their heads. The five men who stepped forward are known as the five beloved ones, or Panj Pyara:

  • Bhai Daya Singh
  • Bhai Dharam Singh
  • Bhai Himmat Singh
  • Bhai Mukham Singh
  • Bhai Sahib Singh

The panj pyara gathered inside a tent. They knelt over an iron bowl to prepare Amrit, the immortalizing nectar of initiation. Jeeto, the wife of Guru Gobind Rai, added sugar to the water in the bowl. The five beloved ones stirred the Amrit with a double edged iron sword. Guru Gobind Rai submitted himself to the panj pyara and asked to be baptized. The five beloved ones performed his baptism by giving him the Amrit to drink and initiated him into the order of Khalsa. Afterward, he and his wife became known as Guru Gobind Singh and Ajit Kaur. The five beloved ones went on to baptize thousands of people. The Khalsa initiates of 1699 drank the immortalizing nectar of Amrit to prepare for battle with Mughals who had been forcing local populations to convert to Islam by sword point.