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Empowering Sikh Women to Administer Amrit Sanchar

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Empowering Sikh Women to Partake in Amrit Sanchar (Sikh Baptism Ceremony) Sikh religion was started by Guru Nanak Dev ji in 15 th century. The tenth Sikh Guru made the Sikhs ready for war against evil forces of the time and initiated the concept of Khalsa and Amrit Sanchar, the baptism ceremony for Sikhs. Amrit Sanchar  or Amrit Chhakaona ceremony is the Sikh ceremony of initiation or baptism into the fold of Khalsa or Sikhism. This practice had been in existence since the times of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the 1 st Sikh Guru(1469 - 1539). During the period of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, this ceremony was known as Charan Amrit  or charn pahul. The word Pahul is derived from a substance called Pahu – an agent that brightens, accelerates or sharpens the potential power of a given object. The Charan signifiles the foot of the master. During that period, the sevaks (servants) poured water over Guru's foot. Devotees would then drink the water dripping from Guru's foot and seek blessings of the Guru for initiation or baptism into Sikhism. The Guru would then guide and teach about Sikhism and instruct them to adopt Sikh way of life.

The Sikh baptism ceremony was given a new form by our 10th Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji when he founded the Khalsa At Anandpur Sahib on the day of Vaisakhi in 1699. The ceremony of charan amrit was changed to khande da amrit to administer the Khalsa rites and now called Amrit Sanchar or Khande di Pahul.

Guru ji prepared amrit by dissolving the sugar-rounds (patashe) in water, stirring with khanda (two-edged dagger) and reciting Gurbani (Sikh holy scripture). Guru Gobind Singh ji administered Amrit (nectar) to 5 beloved ones or punj pyaare and then authorized them to initiate others into Sikhism thus starting a new maryada (ritual) of baptism in Sikhism.

The same ritual is currently followed in Sikhism and the Sikh rehat maryada (ritual) for baptism involves a bowl made of Sarab Loh (iron) filled with clean water. Sugar rounds/plums (Patashe) are then dissolved in the water by stirring them with Khanda (double-edged dagger). The punj pyare or five beloved ones then sit in Vir Asana (seated on the ground with left knee down and the right knee up) around the cauldron. Panj Pyare recite path of five Bani (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).

Amrit sanchar ceremony is conducted by panj pyaare, one who is to be initiated kneels, while those administering Amrit sprinkle amrit in the hair and eyes and give amrit to drink as per maryada. The one being initiated agrees to foreswear all other allegiance and follow the Sikhism code of conduct outlined by panj pyaare. The ceremony is conducted in a quiet and convenient 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, representing the original five beloved disciples, to administer rites. Till date Amrit Sanchar is predominantly administered by Sikh males only as India is a patriarchal society.

A Sikh who has been initiated into the Khalsa is titled as Amritdhari or Khalsa and adds a suffix Singh (man) or Kaur (woman) to their names. Amritdhari is the word used to indicate the possessor of Amrit, baptized Sikh, or one who has gone through the initiation ceremony, and who takes the name of Singh, or Kaur. Those who undergo initiation are expected to dedicate themselves to Waheguru. Khande Di Pahul not only embodies the primary objects of Sikh faith but also represents a promise to lead a pure and pious life and unite with Almighty Lord.

LETTER TO JATHEDAR GIANI GURBACHAN SINGH JI

Ek Onkar, Satguru Parsad!!

Hon'ble Singh Sahib Gurbachan Singh Ji,

Jathedar Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar,

Subject: Regarding Women to Partake in Amrit Sanchar (Sikhism initiation rites) and empowering them to inspire Sikh Sangat

Hon'ble Jathedar Gurbachan Singh ji,

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

The practice of Amrit Sanchar (baptism) holds paramount importance in Sikh Religion. Guru Gobind Singh ji made baptism mandatory for all Sikhs through the ritual of Amrit Sanchar. However, today’s generation is moving away from the rites and rituals of Amrit Sanchar that were started by our Gurus.

Women are the foundation and unifying force in all families. When the families have amritdhari (baptized) women, they can share the importance of being amritdhari with their family and children and direct the young generation towards Sikhism.

The Sikh Gurus and Sikhism have always praised women and the honour bestowed to women in Sikhism is unmatched. Our Gurbani teaches us to be fair and equitable to everyone. The hymns "So kyo manda akhiye jit jammey raajaan (why call her inferior? From her, the Kings are born) and “Dhan Dhan so janani jin guru jania mae" (Blessed, blessed is the mother, who gave birth to the Guru)” further promotes the idea of an equal society by giving respect to women. History is profound with stories of Sikh women who fought Mughals, gave sacrifices and led marches by example.

Amrit Sanchar is the ritual used to initiate Sikhs into the Khalsa fold. Originated and formalized by Guru Gobind Singh ji, 10th Guru on 30th March 1699, Amrit Sanchar is predominately exercised by baptized Sikh men since that era due to socio-political situations which had its restrictions.

All the preaching in Guru Granth Sahib ji are for Sikhs irrespective of their gender and its Maryada should be followed without any distinction for the betterment of society and our religion. Women are inspired by other women who they can relate with and consider them their role models. The need of the hour is to have more women leading and partaking in Amrit Sanchar to inspire and invite more women to be Amritdharis. The more women become devout Amritdharis and participate in baptism or Amrit Sanchar, the more they will inspire their kids to be Amritdharis by telling them the importance of Amrit and living the Sikh way of life.

The rehat maryada (code of conduct for Sikhs) published by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC) on page 20 section 2, clearly mentions that Amrit Sanchar can be performed by women. The provisions, however, are still debated and never saw the light of the day due to some reasons or patriarchal society.

The rehat maryada published by SGPC states that:

(a) The initiation ceremony may be conducted in any quiet and convenient place. In addition to the Guru Granth Sahib, presence of six Sikhs is necessary: one granthi to read from the Guru Granth Sahib and five to administer the rites.

(b) Both receiving initiation and those administering it should bathe and wash their hair prior to the ceremony

(c) Any Sikh who is mentally and physically “whole” (man or woman) may administer the rites of initiation provided that he himself had received the rites and continues to wear the five K’s, i.e. Sikh symbols each beginning with the Gurmukhi letter “k”.

Women can play a greater role to strengthen the essence of Sikhism among ourselves and to give a very strong message of gender equality in Sikhism to the world by partaking in Amrit Sanchar. Amritdhari women who have done Amrit Sanchar (baptism) can easily convince the youth or their children in their families to follow the ritual.

Sikh women have always led from the front since ages and have laid down their lives for Sikhism. They have excelled in the areas even those considered to be dominated by men and have shown great dedication and courage. The time is ripe for Sikhism to lead the world by having more women in Amrit Sanchar and to further spread the teachings of universal equality, justice and peace; the teachings our Gurus have always spoken for. This will not only help share the teachings of our Gurus but also spread a strong and positive impression of Sikhism.

Sikhism is the religion for all human beings and the humanity. To eradicate any inequality and discrimination that exists in the society, Sikh panth should inculcate every process to bring women on par with men on all aspects. In Sikhism, this would inspire women to take more prominent role by becoming priests and lead Amrit Sanchar. Having more women as priests and serving Amrit Sanchar will add strength to Sikhism and help in betterment of society. This will also improve the perception of Sikhism across the world.

It is our due request that Sikh women should not be kept away from something that is so pious and sacred in Sikhism like Amrit Sanchar and be allowed to partake and lead Amrit Sanchar programs and follow the teachings of our Gurus. The practice of baptism/ Amrit Sanchar by Amritdhari women should be started by SGPC and Akal Takht Sahib. It will help elevate the position of Sikhism in the eyes of world since it is rare to see women being given prominent religious roles across religions.

We hope, you will consider our right demand for upliftment of whole Sikhism and treat this letter as a request from thousands of Sikh mothers and sisters.

 



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