In Sikh theology, as in the Indian classical tradition generally, panj (ਪੰਜ) or paanch (पांच), the numeral five, has a special significance. Guru Nanak in Japji refers to five khands, stages or steps in spiritual development, and calls a spiritually awakened person a panch. The ancient Indian socio-political institution panchayat meant a council of five elders. Something like an inner council of five existed even in the time of the earlier Gurus: five Sikhs accompanied Guru Arjan on his last journey to Lahore; the five 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.
Until the Baisakhi of AD 1699, Sikh initiation ceremony, charan pahul, comprised the administering of charanamrit or charanodak to the novitiate. As Bhai Gurdas, Varan, I.23, records, this was the practice Guru Nanak introduced for the Sikhs. At the ceremony the novitiate quaffed water poured over the foot of the Guru and vowed to follow the religious and moral injunctions as well as the code of communal conduct laid down. Later, masands or local leaders, specially authorized by the Gurus, also administered charan pahul. According to Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansavalinama, a modification was introduced in the time of Guru Hargobind when water, poured over the toe of the right foot of each of the five chosen Sikhs assembled in a dharamsal, was received in a bowl and administered to the seekers after ardas or supplicatory prayer.