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 Guru would touch a container in which there was water and initiates would drink this water to be taken 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 bowl was touched by the Guru's foot 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 was 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 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.
It denotes 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. The candidates take full bath, wear the five 5 Ks and present themselves before the Guru Granth Sahib for initiation of Amrit. The five Sikhs, who represent the five beloved, who had 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-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 (sit on ground with left knee down and the right knee up) around the cauldron.
The mixture 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 journey on a right path to attain pure and pious life which is essential to attain God (according to the Guru Granth Sahib. It is not something external.
A Sikh must live life according to terms of Sikhism. There is general understanding that novice must have "lent period" during which he must prepare to go the way of Guru and a voluntary firm decision to change life style and must be desirous and willing to live 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,
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.
Amrit Sanskar is not ritualism, when novice promises and submits to the will of Gurmat, leads clean, pure and pious life according to 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.