Paath is the recitation of the holy script of the Guru Granth Sahib. Paath is an essential part of the Sikh religion. It can be reciting the Granth Sahib in its entirety or reciting particular verses. Paath can also be a religious function, like and Akhand Paath or Sehaj Paath.
An Akhand Paath is the uninterrupted reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib – also known as the Gurbani or Adi Granth. The Guru Granth Sahib has 1430 large pages and when read non-stop, usually takes 48 hours. During an Akhand Paath, it is read by trained paathis (readers of religious words) so all text are read and pronounced correctly. Akhand Paaths are held to celebrate or commemorate a particular occasion or simply to feel connected to God. Singing of shabads (hymns), giving out Karah Prasad (sacred pudding), and serving langar (a meal provided to all in attendance) follow the conclusion of an Akhand Paath.
An Akhand Paath provides good opportunity for the family and/or community to do volunteer work called sewa (e.g. serving food, washing dishes, shoe duty, temple clean-up). Sewa is an important component of Sikhism as selfless service is a duty of all Sikhs.
After an Akhand Paath, langar is always served to everyone in attendance (the sangat). Historically, because of divisions created by the caste system, people in India only ate with those of similar background to them. For example, people of higher castes would not eat with those of lower castes and the rich would not eat with the poor. Guru Nanak (Sikhism’s first Guru) acted to break down these social and socio-economic barriers by creating langar – a place where everyone was welcome to eat and everyone ate together. The philosophy behind langar is that all people are equal and should be treated as such. Langar is donated by the family hosting the Akhand Paath and is made communally.
Sahej Paath, also known as a Sadharan Paath, is a reading of the Guru Granth Sahib over an extended period of time. A Sadharan Paath can be read by one or more individuals – lay people or paathis. Any number of pages can be read at any given time. At the end of reading, an Ardaas (prayer) is done. Sahej Paath is a great opportunity for novice readers to learn proper recitation skills and pronunciations of the Gurbani.
Kirtan literally means the singing of hymns from the Gurbani. It can follow an Akhand or Sahej Paath and can also stand alone as a religious event. Kirtans can take place at home or at the Gurdwara. Like Akhand Paaths, Kirtans can be held in honour of specific occasions such as a weddings, births, birthdays, memorials or for one’s own inner peace.
Kirtan includes both singing hymns and reciting prayers, but does not include the recitation of the entire Gurbani. The ragas (music) are Sikh devotional hymns. Kirtan is rooted in Indian classical music and is accompanied by Indian classical instruments such as the harmonium and tabla. Other instruments such as the sitar and guitar are also used.
Bachai lok, your Auntyji recommends quietly listening to the reading of the Granth Sahib or the singing of kirtan because, I am sure, you will find the rhythm in which they are read or sung is quite mesmerizing regardless of you understanding the meaning of the words.
Also, many families feel that before wedding festivities begin, it’s a good blessing for the bride and groom and families involved to have an Akhand Paath, Sahej Paath, or Kirtan. This event can take place in your own home or at a gurdwara depending on your needs and space requirements.