MANJI, derived from the Sanskrit mancha and manchaka meaning a stage, platform, raised seat, dais, throne, beadstead, or a couch, has a special connotation in Sikh tradition. Ordinarily, a manji, in Punjabi, means a cot, especially of the simple, stringed variety. Social manner in India requires that when more than one person are seated on the same cot, the one senior in age or superior in relationship should occupy the upper portion of it. But when someone commanding high social or spiritual status is present, he alone occupies the manji, while the others squat on the ground in front of or around it.
When Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, appointed some leading Sikhs to cater for the needs of Sikh sangats in different parts of the country, the districts or dioceses came to be known as manjis, from the manjis or high seats on which the incumbants sat when preaching the Guru`s word. According to Sikh chroniclers, Guru Amar Das established 22 manjis. The persons appointed came to be called masands, a word derived from the Persian masnad, also meaning, like the Sanskrit manchakd, a throne or a couch. These manjis and masands played a significant role in knitting the Sikhs into a community.
Guru Gobind Singh abolished the institution of masands and, implicitly, of manjis, establishing a direct relationship with Khalsa, without any intermediaries.The Gurus themselves travelled widely and frequently to visit their devotees, individually or collectively organized in sangats or holy fellowships. The Sikhs, naturally, had the Guru seated on a cot while they sat on the ground to listen to his sermon. After the Guru`s departure the Sikhs treated the places where the Guru had sat or stayed as sacred.
Usually a platform was constructed on the spot, where they would assemble on festival occasions to pay reverence to the memory of the holy visit.Such a platform was reverentially called many, sahib. Later, as Sikhs came through a period of prolonged persecution and acquired power in the Punjab, small shrines were raised over these platforms and the Guru Granth Sahib installed. Each such shrine or Gurdwara was also called a manji sahib. It usually consisted of a small, domed building, square or octagonal in shape, with or without circumambulatory passage.
Even those constructed on a grandiose scale and liberally endowed with land and cash grants by Sikh rulers continued to be similarly designated. This name is generally followed by a reference to the Guru whose visit the shrine commemorates like (Gurdwara) Manji Sahib Patshahi Pahili shrine in honour of the first Guru, i.e. Guru Nanak, and so on.
1. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs/or Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980
2. Banerjee, Indubhusan, Evolution of the Khalsa. Calcutta, 1936.
3. Fauja Singh, “Development of Sikhism under the Gurus” in Sikhism. Patiala. 1969.