PAHUL or Amrit Sanskar, is the name given in the Sikh tradition to the Baptism ceremony which is also known as the initiation ceremony into the Khalsa "brotherhood". The word Pahul or Puhul is a derivative from a substantive, "pahu" — meaning an agent which brightens, accelerates or sharpens the potentialities of a given object.
In the history of the Sikh faith, the initiation ceremony has passed through two distinct phases. From the time of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder up to 1699, charan amrit or "pagpahul" was the custom. Charanamrit and pagpahul meant initiation by water touched by the Master’s toe — the charan and pag both being equivalents of the word ‘foot’. In early Sikhism, the neophytes sipped water poured over the Guru’s toe to be initiated into the fold. Where the Guru was not present, masands or 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 practice continued until 1699 when, at the time of the inauguration of the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh introduced "khande di pahul", i.e. pahul by khanda, the double-edged steel sword. This was done at Anandpur at the time of Baisakhi festival on 30 March 1699, in a soul-stirring drama. At the morning assembly of the Sikhs drawn from all four corners of India,
Guru Gobind Singh, sword in hand, proclaimed,
“My sword wants today a head. Let any one of my Sikhs come forward. Isn’t there a Sikh of mine who would be prepared to sacrifice his life for his Guru?”
To five similar calls successively made, five Sikhs offered their heads one after the other.
They were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh proceeded to hold the ceremony of initiation to mark their rebirth as new men.