Panj Piare –A Brilliant Concept of Collective Leadership
Col Dr Dalvinder Singh Grewal
Group Director GTBK Group of Institutions Malout
E mail dalvinder45 @rediffmail.com
Collective leadership is defined as the arrangement or organisation of things which work together.1 It is a field of management about embracing and marshaling human, cultural, and technological resources in ways that enable local people to work together to improve their communities for their collective well being. Collective leadership becomes possible when the members of a group, motivated by a common purpose, begin to build relationships with each other that are genuinely respectful to allow them to co-construct their shared purpose and work. This is about expanding from solo perspective of “I” to include the “We.” The conditions include: (a) creating gracious space (b) Recognizing our connection and interdependence (c) tapping into multiple perspectives and different ways of knowing (d) opening to the spirit that encourages people to be at their best and identifying and living into values of the individuals and the group.
When people connect to mobilize collective wisdom and spirit into collective action, the result of this dynamic process brings together a diverse community of people around a set of pressing issues in an effort to build broad-based knowledge and participation that leads to constructive change. It increases the capacity of a group of leaders to deliver a contribution in service of the common good through assuming joint and flexible leadership, according to what is perceived and required.
Effective Collective Leadership is relational that emerges out of specific situations and is transformational. It is different since it is change-oriented for the community; begins with a shared dream that forms the heart of a community; emerges from relationships people have and build with one another. It engages communities in activities that can effect sustained and systemic change by entwining leaders, partnerships and networks of individuals and organizations around the focal institutions that need development or change.
Collective leadership is cultivated by building trust, co-constructing vision and strategic plan; acting together and deepens, sustains and makes the mission a Way of Life. Historically, the ancient Indian socio-political institution panchayat meant a council of five elders which used to lead the village through collective decision-making process. This system has been continued till date because of its effectiveness, but has not been evaluated from management and leadership point of view
Globally this collective leadership was asserted within the Soviet party hierarchy immediately after the General Secretary’s death or ouster; thus, after Lenin’s death in 1924, after Stalin’s death in 1953, and after the removal of Khrushchev in 1964. The pre-eminence of the new General Secretary, however, was soon reasserted.2 North Korea has developed a new collective leadership of military leaders and close aides to its leader, Kim Jong-Il, since Kim’s health failure last summer, a Congressional Research Service report has said, “In August 2008, he suffered a severe stroke,” said the report dated March 16. “Since then, a collective decision-making apparatus has emerged, apparently headed by his brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek.”3
In Sikhism this system was introduced by Guru Gobind Singh on the day of Baisa:khi of 1699 as a full fledged system though during the period of earlier Gurus too an inner council of five existed. Five Sikhs accompanied Guru Arjun on his last journey to Lahore; the five beloved were each given 100 armed Sikhs to command by his successor, Guru Hargobind; Guru Tegh Bahadur, set out on his journey to Delhi to court execution attended by five Sikhs. The Panj Piaras led the Sikh Community effectively in the aftermath of 1984 holocaust.
The concept of collective leadership through Panj Piaras has proved to be effective on all the scores pointed above through the ages; however at times this system has been put to question by various pseudo-intellectuals without knowing the ramifications.
Let us first understand the concept of Collective Leadership through ‘Panj Piaras’. The word ‘Panj’ or ‘panch’ has originated from Sanskrit word ‘pach(i)’ which means to spread. When we spread our hand, five fingers are seen. In olden time, calculations were based on five fingers. Five thus became an important count. There being frequent fights, selection of five members i.e., two representing each party and one neutral to resolve cases has been an old tradition in India. The village leaders are often called Panch, also taken in the sense of good men and saints, because their appointment is for democratic justice and what ever they decide has to be impartial. The requirement of democratic impartiality and a sense of justice were taken in a good sense.
The Gurus lived in a period of foreign rule where the humanity was being crushed under tyranny leashed out to subdue and rule the people under fear. The Gurus not only raised their voice against this sort of rule but also started a system to oppose for which the two Gurus (Guru Nanak and Guru Hargobind) had to bear the rigours of jails and two Gurus (Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur) had to sacrifice themselves and Guru Gobind Singh had to sacrifice even his sons, father, mother and numerous other close relatives. The later Gurus even picked up swords. However, they all believed in democracy and started such traditions to lay the foundations of people’s rule.
The tradition of Five Beloved Ones (Panj Piare) was one such system where the Gurus gave decision-making in the hands of the people. The number five was appointed as a representative number when the Sikhs were in large numbers. Every one was considered equal. The odd number was to ensure that no decision hung in balance because of even number. The Gurus appointed the five beloved ones amongst the people who could guide not only the people on the lines laid down by the Guru but also who could even correct the Gurus when the decision was difficult or likely to be tilted. They, then were close to the Guru not only physically but also spiritually and had nearly the same saintly powers as that of the Guru. One thing was essential, that they must be the followers of the Gurus. All the Gurus are stated to be following this tradition.
The supremacy of this tradition was outlined by Guru Nanak:-
Panch parwan panch pradhan. Panche pavh(i) dargah(i) ma:n(u)
Panche sohh(i) dar(i) rajan(u).Pancha ka gur ek dhian(u)(Japu p.3)
(The five appointed are acceptable as leaders of men. All the five appointed are honoured in the Lord’s court. Even if they grace the King’s court: their minds are set unto the Lord.)
Gurmat(i) panch sakhe gur bha:i:. ( Mahlla 1, p.1041)
(By the Guru’s gospel the appointed five become disciple-brothers.)
The other Gurus and saints too recorded about this concept of ‘panch’ in Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
1. Panch sahai jan ki sobha ( Bhagat Namdev p.973)
2. Pancha te mera sang ( Kabir P.476)
3. Panch jana gur(i) vasgat(i) (Mahla 4, p.1200)
4. Panch jana mil mangal(u) (Mahla 5, p 205)
5. Panch jana sion sang (Mahla 5 p.236)
6. Pancham panch pradhan te ( Mahla 5, p.297)
Bhai Gurdas confirmed these views:-
Ik(u) sikh(u) dui sa:dh sang(u) panjeen Parmeshar(u) (Var 13)
(If One sikh meets another, it becomes a saints’ company, and if five join together, the Lords descends in them.)
Parmesar hai Panj Mil(i) lekh alekh na keemat(i) payee.
Panj milai parpanch taj(i) anhad sabd sabd(i) liv layee.
Sadh sangat sohan(i) gur bhayee. (Var 29)
(The five joined, become the Lord: their value can never be recorded. The five joined shrug off all falsehood and get tuned to the True Lord’s Name. They grace the congregation of the saints.)
Sanmukh(i) mil(i) panch a:khian(i) bird(u) panch parmesur(u) pa:see.
Gurmukh(i) mil(i) parwa:n p:anch sa:dh sangat(i) sachkhand bila:si:.
(The meeting of five good person only is considered as of the appointed five, and those appointed five only reach the True Lord. If these appointed five are Guru’s true followers they then are acceptable to the congregation of saints and they guide them to the True bliss.)
The ‘Beloved Five’ (Panj Piare) have been traditionally accepted as the closest to the Gurus and as the pillars of strength and wisdom of Sikh religion. The Piaras are so described by Bhai Gurdas:- Pamu Puri Guru ka Piara (Var 11/29) Harkhwant Hardas Piara (Var11/18) Naia Khullar guru piara (Var 11/17). They were called as Bhai by the Gurus considering them as close as brothers.‘Wada bhagat bhai Kidari’ (Bhai Gurdas Var 11/15) Sanmukh Bhai Ti:rtha ( Var 11/7) Bhai Bhana wirti Hani (Var 11/31)
According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha ‘the Beloved Five’ have been appointed from the times of Guru Nanak till date. He lists the names of Panj Piare of Guru Arjun and Guru Tegh Bahadur in Mahan Kosh (P.791). These names were however not permanent and changed with time, e.g., when Guru Arjun Dev ji was called to Lahore by Jehangir, the Guru selected Bhai Bidhi Chand, Paida, Pirana, Jetha and Salo to go with him to Lahore.4 Similarly at Chamkaur Garhi the Panj Piaras who gave the decision that the Guru should quit the Garhi were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharm Singh, Bhai Sant Singh, Bhai Sangat Singh and Bhai Man Singh.5 The situation is described by Bhai Gyan singh as follows: The Guru made Sangat Singh to wear all his dress including the Kalgi and after prayer said,“Guru is Khalsa and Khalsa is Guru. Brother Sikhs, from today onwards I hand over the position of Guru to the Khalsa. Consider me present in the Five. Name of Five Singhs is Khalsa. As per Adi Granth Five are the accepted ones as the Leaders. The five are honoured at the Lord’s Court.” They should not be less than five; may be more. Five Singhs are the Saints of the Saints and Gurus of the Gurus. That is why I have made them same as me by imparting them Amrit. If the five Singhs pray with pure heart what ever the task is, will be completed.”
The tradition of imparting Amrit by Panj Piare was first started by Guru Hargobind. ‘Samat sola sau athhatar beete. Guru Tegh Bahadur Mata Nanaki de udron janam leete……(107) Mela visakhi da aya. Sangat(i) bahut aaee. Lain gur deekhia lagn(i) charnee jayee. Tan sahin cha:la: aisa thehraia. Sikhan nun a:p rasni samjhaia.6 Wa:see wich jithe hoe dharmsal(i). Sikh mil baithan prem muhabbat nal(i). Shabd sa:khi Granth pothee padie. Keertan katha Gur charcha karie. (109)… Hachha sucha katora kar(i) pa:nee pa:na. Panj sikhan de angoothhe upar pa:nee wahana.(110) Tis pa:ni upper(i) Jap panj paodian padhna. Fer panj paudian anand ucharna. So pa:nee sikh nun charnmrit kar dena. Kar Arda:s parsa:d(i) wartai laina.7 ’
(Samat 1678 passed. Guru Tegh Bahadur was born to Mata Nanaki.8 On the Vaisakhi fair Sangat gathered in number, to take fellowship by touching Guru’s feet. The Sahib (Sri Guru Hargobind Ji) then acted differently and explained the congregation in his own words, “Where ever there is Dharmsal in the settlements, the Sikhs must sit together with love and affection and read Shabad from Granth Pothee (Ad(i) Granth). They must sing hymns, give descriptions and discuss about Gurus. ….Take a clean good utensil (Katora) and put water in it. The water must then be put on the Thumb of the right foot of the Five Sikhs. On that five steps of Japu followed by five steps of Anand Sahib should be recited. Water so prepared much be given to Sikhs as Charnamrit and should be distributed after Prayers.”
The above tradition of Panj Piare was also followed by Guru Gobind Singh though with certain modifications. The details are given below:
“On the Sangrand of Vaisakh 1755 (30 March, 1699 A.D.) at Anandpur in the congregation of around 5,000 devotees, Guru Gobind Singh came out on the dias with a naked sword and demanded for a Sikh to offer himself for sacrifice. It caused deadening silence among the people and a fear gripped many. It was Daya Ram Sobti Khatri who came out to offer himself for the sacrifice. He showed no fear of death at the hands of the Guru as he had totally committed himself to the Guru and his ideals. As he led, four more Sikhs, Muhkam Chand of Dwarka, tailor by trade, Sahib Chand of Bidar Karnatak, barber by trade, Dharam Chand of Hastinapur Uttar Pradesh and a farmer by trade and Himmat Chand of Jagannath Orissa, water carrier by trade followed and offered themselves for the sacrifice one after the other.
After performing the rituals, the Guru asked them to have bath washing their hair, and handed over a wear which included Kangha (a wooden comb) for the Kesh (hair), Sarb Loh Kada (an iron bracelet) for the wrist, Kachha (a pair of shorts) and Kirpan (a sword) in a cloth belt to be worn along with a kesri dress and double blue turban. Guru too wore the same dress and came on the dias in front of the congregation astonishing everyone sitting over there. The Guru then declared, “Dear Sikhs, in the trial of Guru Nanak only one Sikh Bhai Lehna (Guru Angad) passed the test and Guru Nanak closeted him and gave the name Angad. This time these five Sikhs have passed the test of sacrifice. I give them the position of ‘Panj Piare’ (The Five Beloved Ones). They shall be ever remembered so. Now on wards, their name will always be included in the prayer which we do two times a day. Whenever the Parsad of three equal items (Ghee, flour and sugar) will be prepared; a share will be taken out for them after the Guru’s share.”
Thereafter the Guru got prepared the ‘Nectar’ from the waters of Satluj mixing the various items with a ‘khanda’ while reciting Japuji Sahib. Mata Jeeto when inquired as to what was being done, was told that the nectar was being prepared. She brought ‘patashas’ and poured into the Batta in which the nectar was being prepared. The Guru carried on continuous recitation of Japuji followed by Ja:p, Sawaaiye, Chaupai and Anand Sahib. After the preparation of Amrit, the congregation joined the Guru in Prayer (Ardas) and shouted the slogan, ‘Nanak Nam Chardi Kala, tere bhane sarbat ka bhala’
He put a drop on the edge of the ‘khanda’(two sided sword); put five drops into his own mouth and called ‘Wahe Guru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji fateh’ five times….Thereafter the Guru gave the pahul of Khanda to Bhai Daya Ram and the other Piaras one by one making them to sit bent on one knee…. Guruji then attached Singh to his name as well as the names of Panj Piare.” 9
These traditions set by Guru Gobind Singh have been followed till date and have been included in Sikh Rehat Maryada adopted by Shiromani Grudwara Parbandhak Committee on 3-2-1945.
1) The names of Panj Piaras is included in the Prayer of the Sikhs.
2) The parsad is first given to Panj Piaras and then to the sangat.
3) Pahul can be imparted by Panj Piare only. One of the Panj Piare explains the tenets of Sikhism before the pahul is imparted.
4) Panj Piare only give the Moolmantra and Beej Mantra Wahiguru to the person taking pahul.
5) Panj Piaras only are authorised to declare punishment to the non-followers of Sikh tenets. They also are authorised to excuse any one on completion of punishment.
The names of ‘the beloved ones’ accepted by the Gurus are as under:
Guru Nanak Bhai Mardana, Bala, Ajita, Lalo, Lehna
Guru Angad Bhai Budha, Paro Julka, Amar Dass, Paida, Sadharn
Guru Amar Dass Bhai Budha, Paro, Malhan, Balu, Jetha
Guru Ram Dass Bhai Budha, BidhiChand, Teeratha, Dharam,Guria
Guru Arjun Dev Bhai Bidhi Chand, Gurdas, Pirana, Paida, Langah
Guru Hargobind Bhai Gurdas, Bidhi Chand, Behlo, Kalayana, Bhallan
Guru Har Rai Bhai Suthra, Feru, Dargah, Bhana, Bhagta
Guru Har Kishan Bhai Dargah,Gurbakhsh, Gurdita, Sant Ram, Gurdas
Guru Tegh Bahadur Bhai Gurdita, Diala, Uda, Jaita, Diwan Mati Das,
Guru Gobind Singh Bhai Daya Singh, Dharam Singh, Muhkam Singh,
Sahib Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh
Bio-Data of the Five Beloved Ones of Sri Guru Gobind Singh
These Panj Piaras gave account of themselves in various battles. In the Battle of Chamkaur, all of them were with Guru Gobind Singh. The lay out of the Chamkaur Garhi is drawn here based on Guru Kian Sakhian by Swaroop Singh Koshish (gist of Bhatt Wahis) showing Panj Piara’s closeness to Guruji. Bhai Mohkqam Singh, Sahib Singh and Himmat Singh laid down their lives fighting against the Mughals at Chamkaur while Bhai Daya and Dharam Singh remained with the Guru till he attained the eternal light. Guru Gobind Singh sent Zafrnama to Aurangzeb with Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh. Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh breathed their last at Nanded Sahib in Samwat 1765.
Some of the other important events connected with Panj Piarae known in Sikh History are given below:
1. At Naraina Gaon in Rajsthan when Guru Gobind Singh bowed before the monument in memory of Dadu Ram Bairagi, Panj Piare led by Bhai Daya Singh declared the Guru as punishable and gave the punishment of Rs 125/- the amount which the Guru paid appreciating the stand of the Khalsa and declared that the Khalsa has now become pure and acceptable.1
2. On Samwat 1765 Kartik Sudi Teej, Guru Gobind Singh sent five Singhs Bhai Bhagwant Singh, Koer Singh, Baz Singh, Binod singh and Kahn Singh with Baba Banda Singh Bahadur after appointing him Jathedar of Panth, with the instructions that ‘Jahan bheed pade pa:nchon se arda:s karana” (Guru Kian Sakhian p.189)
3. Bhai Mani Singh felt that Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the key scripture is difficult to handle by the rural sikhs hence must be prepared in parts. When the Khalsa came to know that Bhai Mani Singh has got Sri Guru Granth Sahib separated, they gathered and cursed that each part of Bhai Mani Singh’s body should also be separated as he has separated Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He was to be removed from Khalsa Panth. When Bhai Mani Singh came to know about the punishment, he approached the sangat to relieve him of the second punishment i.e., removal from Sikh panth, he prayed that his parts may be separated out his Sikhism must not be separated. Panj Piare were then elected who then gave the verdict that Bhai Mani Singh’s “Sikhism will remain intact”. When Bhai Mani Singh was asked by Nawab of Lahore as to ‘what punishment will you like’ he specifically chose to be cut into parts and was put through that2 Bhai Mani Singh’s acceptance of the will of Panj Piare is a trend setter.
4. When skin of the head of Bhai Taru Singh was removed, the Nawab of Lahore asked Bhai Taru Singh, “You had said that you will live till you have your hair, why are you alive then? You have told a lie.” Bhai Taru Singh replied, “My hair are with my skull, in which my life exists, till I take you along by hitting you with shoes (Ju:ta). You will go to hell. Now your urine and latrine are stopped and be ready for it.” The Nawab faced the problem of stoppage of urine and latrine immediately thereafter and his life became like hell. He tried all medicines and worshipped all Peer-Paigambar, but he got no relief. He then realised the effect of the curse of Bhai Taru Singh. He called the Singhs of the city and requested them to approach Bhai Taru Singh to relieve him of the curse. Bhai Taru Singh did not relent. Bhai Subheg Singh who was on an official post with the Nawab, was approached by the Nawab with a request that ‘now only the Khalsa can be the redeemer’. He even kept his turban at Subheg Singh’s feet. Bhai Subheg Singh again went to Bhai Taru Singh and explained how the Nawab kept his truban at his feet to get excused. Bhai Taru Singh then relented saying, “It is the Khalsa who can relieve the Nawab of the curse”. Bhai Subheg Singh went to Nawab Kapoor Singh at Amritsar who called a congregation. After discussion, it was resolved that the Guru has set the tradition that ‘even if the enemy comes for protection, he will be saved.’ The Nawab of Lahore must be relieved of the curse. Five Singhs were then selected, who gave this decision, “Shoes of Bhai Taru Singh must be touched on the head of Nawab after a touch from the hands of Bhai Taru Singh. The permission of Bhai Taru Singh is a must.” Bhai Subheg Singh carried this decision to Bhai Taru Singh and the Nawab. Both agreed to the decision and it was acted upon. The Nawab was relieved of the pain but died before Bhai Taru Singh breathed his last lying in the beheaded state for 22 days.3
5. Similarly when Kapoor Singh was offered the Nawabship, he first touched the presentation to the feet of the five beloved ones and then accepted it. (Sri Gur Panth Prakash, p.286) These five beloved ones were Bhai Hari Singh, Baba Deep Singh, Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Bhai Karam Singh and Sardar Budh Singh.4
The Methodology of Selection
The methodology of selection of the five beloved ones during the above mentioned period was as under: On the congregation of Sarbat Khalsa, all used to do prayer first. Thereafter, the order was obtained by reading Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the name of a Sikh was offered for the five beloved ones. If the Sikh was accepted by all, the acceptance was announced through a call on the name of the Lord ‘Bole so Nihal Sat Sri Akal’. The approved Sikh was called ‘The beloved one’. The selected ‘beloved one’ offered another name which if approved by all, was accepted as the next ‘beloved one’ If someone raised any objection, the doubts raised were clarified. If these doubts could not be clarified, the acceptance was withdrawn and and a new name was offered and passed unanimously if there was no objection. These two ‘beloved ones’ jointly offered the third name which if accepted and approved was named as the third ‘beloved one’. The three then offered the fourth name and the four the fifth name and acceptance and approval came in the similar manner. Thus these approved became ‘the five beloved Ones’ and were honoured by the entire Khalsa. All the five then took up their seats on Akal Takhat. The proposals were then put before the Sarbat Khalsa and the congregation used to give decisions unimously if acceptable. In case there was any hitch or any problem, these five beloved ones, sorted out the problems which thereafter became binding on all.” 5
Future of the System
The Panj Piara tradition has been regularly followed in Sikhism thereafter and decision making or leading the Sikhs in times of trouble or otherwise became the key charter of the Panj Piaras in addition to performing the ceremony of imparting Pahul to Sikhs as per Sikh Rehat Maryada. Recently, however, a debate has been started by some disgrunttled and unfaithful against the system. Religion is a matter of faith and not so much of a reason. However the faithless try to reason out that the Panj Piaras can never be so powerful that they take decision for the Panth or on behalf of the Panth. They also put question on their selection system and nomination and also question their basic education. These all are attempts to create a wedge into the minds of the faithful and must be stopped forthwith. It must be kept in mind that it was the faith in the Guru and unflinching loyalty to the point of offering one’s life to the Guru which made them to be accepted as Panj Piaras. Authority of the Panj Piaras is thus unquestionable.
3 Giani Lal Singh Sangrur: Guru Khalsa Twareekh p. 278.
4 Bhai Gyan Singh Gyani: Guru Khalsa Twareekh Part II, p.1017.
5 Kesar Singh Chhibber records in ‘Bansawli Nama Dasan Patshaheean Ka’ p. 108.
6 Ibid., p.67
7 Ibid., p.107.
8 Guru Kian Sakhian, p.111-115
9 Ibid., p.181
10 Panth Prakash p.295-300.
11 Sri Guru Panth Prakash, p. 370-380
12 Satbir Singh: Sada Itihas: p.138
13 Satbir Singh, Sada Itihas, p.282-3
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