MASANDS were, in early Sikhism, local community leaders who looked after the ^an^a^in their diocese and linked them to their spiritual mentor, the Guru. They led Sikhs, preached the word of the Guru and transmitted to him their offerings, escorting occasionally batches of them to his presence. The first such masands were appointed by Guru Arjan. The word masand is from Persian masnad, meaning a throne or a cushion to recline. As appropriated into the Sikh tradition, it further advanced the concept of wan;?(cot)on which the preachers sat, reclining against a cushion, as they expounded to the people GuruNanak`sgospel.

This manjl system had been introduced by the Third Guru, GuruAmarDas( 1479-1579). The new nomenclature arose from the Sikh custom of designating the Guru as sachchdpdtshdh, the True King, in contradistinction to the temporal king. The functionaries, who acted on behalf of the Guru in spreading the Sikh teaching as also in collecting for him tithes and offerings from the followers, came to be known as masandsm imitation of masnadi `all, an imperial title for ranked nobles. The masand structure helped in the expansion of Sikh faith and in knitting together centres established in farHung places.

The beginnings of such centres went back to the time of Guru Nanak who had travelled extensively preaching his message, his disciples setting up in different places dharamsalas wherein to meet together in sangat or holy fellowship to recite his hymnsTo activate the sangatsm different parts, Guru AmarDas had established twenty-two manfiswith several local groups affiliated to each. Guru Arjan further consolidated the system by appointing masands who were invested with greater authority and with more varied religiousand social functions. Masands were chosen for their piety and devotion. Besides preaching the Sikh tenets in their areas, they visited the Guru at least once every year.

They were accompanied on such occasions by groups of Sikhs, from amongst those under their guidance. They carried with them offerings from the disciples for the langar, or community kitchen, the digging of tanks and for other philanthropic works. To help them with their preaching work, masands had their own deputies known as metis. The masands who enjoyed the status of the Guru`s own representatives served to spread the Sikh faith and consolidate the ecclesiastical structure.

But as time passed, they became neglectful of theil` religious office and took to personal aggrandizement. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the last of the Gurus, had to charge them with corruption and oppression. Those found guilty were punished. Guru Gobind Singh abolished the institution of masands. He, as sang the poet Bhai Gurdas II, converted the sangat into Klialsa, i.e. directly his own, eliminating the intermediary masands.

References :

1. Macaulif`fe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909
2. Ganda Singh, “Nanak Panlhis” (translation from Dabistdn-i-Mazdhibby ZulfikarArdistani) in The Punjab Past and Present. Patrala, April 1967
3. Fauja Singh, “Development of Sikhism under the Gurus” in Sikhism. Patiala, 1969
4. Banerjee, I.B., Evolution of the Khnlsn, vol. I. Calcutta, 1936 5- Gian Singh, Giani, Pnnth Prakash. Delhi, 1880