The Akhand Paath is a good opportunity for the family and/or community to come together for blessings and to do volunteer work called sewa. Langar, a completely vegetarian meal, is served throughout the duration of the Akhand Paath. An Akhand Paath is the uninterrupted reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib and it usually takes 48 hours to complete. It can take place in a gurdwara or your family home.
Preparing for an Akhand Paath
- At least 5 Paathis
- Ramals (head coverings for men); Woman usually wear dupattas
- Raagi jatha to perform kirtan (after bhog – the completion of the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib)
- Parshad (must be made while wearing head covering and reciting paath or Vahe Guru, Vahe Guru) – See recipe for details
- Ramala (decorative covering for Guru Granth Sahib) or cash in lieu of Ramala to present to the Guru Granth Sahib
- Money for raagi’s
- Napkins in prayer room
- Thali, steel bowl, kirpan
- Fresh Flowers in 2 vases (to place on either side of the altar of the Guru Granth Sahib)
- Langar groceries: vegetables, daal, spices, plates, spoons, glasses, tea and masalas (See sample menus)
Outline of Days
An Akhand Paath usually begins on a Friday morning and ends on a Sunday morning.
Day 1 Start Akand Paath at 10:00 am
Paathi starts with Anand Sahib (prayer) followed by an Ardaas. Paathi then recites the Japji Sahib and continues with the Guru Granth Sahib reading. Langar and tea is served to the sangat throughout the day.
Day 2 Reading of the Guru Granth Sahib continues by Paathis or other designated readers. Langar and tea is served to the sangat throughout the day.
Day 3 Reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is complete in the morning by 10:00 am at the latest. Ardaas is done marking the completion of the Akand Paath. Kirtan follows with a final Ardaas done by 12:00 pm.
Langar may be served after the first Ardaas. Generally, the sangat wait for the final Ardaas before eating.
How it’s Done
- Decide if you want to host the Akhand Paath at home or in a gurdwara.
- If you are hosting it at the gurdwara, arrangements can be made by the gurdwara’s executive committee for langar, Parshad, paathis and raagi jatha. All arrangements made by the gurdwara committee have associated costs. Alternatively, the hosting family may choose to purchase and cook the langar themselves.
- If you are hosting it at home, arrange for the paathis, raagi jatha and a proper Guru Granth Sahib altar for the reading area. The paathis will assist in setting this up and gathering the required materials.
- The hosting family gives chatrawa (an offering) to the Guru Granth Sahib. It can be a ramala or cash.
Akhand Paath hosted at home:
- Once the Guru Granth Sahib altar is set up, decorate each side with a vase of fresh flowers and place a small table to one side of it.
- Make Karah Parshad (see recipe for details) and cover with a new, clean cloth. Put it on a table beside the Guru Granth Sahib with a thali, bowl and kirpan that will be used by the paathis prior to distributing it.
- Have napkins available for the sangat.
- Arrange 5 paathis and their schedules for continuous reading.
- Make provisions to accommodate paathis regarding food and sleeping arrangements
- Prior to each paathi’s reading time (role), ensure that he/she is offered something to eat and drink. A cup of chai (tea), a parantha (flat bread with butter spread in the middle), or langar are good examples.
Akhand Paath hosted either at home and in the gurdwara:
- Prepare two meals for langar: one to be prepared and served after the opening of the Akhand Paath and one for the evening sangat.
- Before serving each langar, the food must be blessed by performing Ardaas and having each item touched by the kirpan. To perform the blessing, place individual bowls of single servings of each langar item in a silver tray and cover with a clean white cloth. Place the tray next to the Karah Parshad to await Ardaas. Once Ardaas is done, take the tray of langar items and add them back to the larger pot from which the single servings came. Langar may now be served.
- The first langar can be served anytime in the morning after the Ardaas is complete and reading starts.
- Tea with sweet and savoury snacks such as mattis (salty deep fried snacks), Indian sweets and cookies should be served throughout the day for sangat and paathis.
- While the Guru Granth Sahib is being recited, assign one person to stay with the paathi should he/she need anything. This person can also serve the sangat Parshad as they come in to matha tayk (bow to the Guru Granth Sahib).
- It may be handy to have a small bell next to the paathi in case he/she needs to be excused for any reason. If the paathi must leave, another reader must replace him/her without breaking the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Day 2 Mudh (middle)
- The amount of Parshad made should be according to the estimated number of people that will be attending the entire day. Note that the second evening usually has more attendance than the previous one.
- At the mid-point (Mudh) of the Guru Granth Sahib reading, Ardaas is done followed by serving everyone in attendance Parshad.
- The reading continues until the next morning.
- Three fresh meals of langar are served on this day
- The first meal can simply consist of paranthas, dahi (yogurt), butter and achar (pickled vegetables)
- The second and third meals should consist of a dry vegetable, daal or a vegetarian item with a sauce, dahi (raita), roti, rice, achar, dessert or fruit (see sample menu)
Day 3 Bhog (completion of the Paath)
- In the morning after reading the Guru Granth Sahib up to page 1426 (Nava Mahala Slok), the sangat gathers to listen to the last paath.
- The sangat then recites Anand Sahib Paath, followed by kirtan performed by the raagi jatha.
- Ardaas is recited by the paathi and the sangat together. The reason for the Akhand Paath is stated within the Ardaas on this day only.
- At the bhog take a ramala and matha tayk to the Guru Granth Sahib and place the ramala in front of the altar. This is called chatarwa.
- Tea with pakoras (vegetable fritters) and other snacks may be served prior to the kirtan.
- You begin serving langar after the first Ardaas of the day. (See sample menus).
Parshad is a sustenance that is blessed and offered to the sangat at the gurdwara and other Sikh religious functions. Parshad can be any type of food, for example, fruit, nuts, or Indian sweets. Karah Parshad (see recipe) is the most common Parshad served at Sikh religious functions.
Karah Parshad must be made fresh every morning in the quantity required for each day. If one does not know how to make it, the Paathis can do this – they must be informed early so they are prepared to take time to make it. Once made, it may be stored in a steel ‘parath’ (bowl) covered with a new, clean, white cloth. However, the best option for storing Karah Parshad is in a rice or slower cooker. This keeps it warm and allows it to taste fresh all day.
Bachai lok, your Auntyji loves the feeling associated with hosting an Akhand Paath. It is a worthwhile experience in which your entire family is involved. It is also no small task to carry out because of the amount and days of work involved. But remember the sewa you perform resonates within your inner being.
Also, some small helpful hints, if you are not skilled at making Karah Parshad, try a practice run a couple of days before and see how you fare. And finally, your Auntyji always recommends using envelops when giving money for chatarwa and raagi jathas as I feel this is a personal matter that does not need to be announced to those around.