Akhand Path as a Holy journey for the devotees
Akhand Path, a Holy ceremony, is basically a continuous recitation and chanting of the verses, from beginning to the end, directly from Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Granth Sahib happens to be a compilation of hymns and writings of the earlier Sikh Gurus, including other saints and sages. Sikhs bow and pray to the Word, the Truth and the Light that is enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib. The central purpose of conducting an Akhand Path is to provide protection of light for the community and to give its participants the opportunity to have an exposure of deeper insight, and a proper understanding of the Shabad Guru. This holds an important aspect to every Sikh. Recitation forms a crucial and meaningful part of the meditative practice among the Sikhs. These are part of important community events which are conducted either by the granthis, who take turns reading for long periods or by community members, who take turns reading in hour-long reading slots.
An Akhand Path can be organized for various reasons. It could either be in honor of a particular occasion or to mark a blissful or sad occasion (like a death) within the family. Some occasions which people mark the celebration with Akhand Path include ceremonies like birth, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, historic occasions, etc. An Akhand Path can either be performed in a Gurudwara or at home, where the choice is left to the discretion of the individuals organizing it.
Some Gurdwaras organize a weekly Akhand Path, which further gives the congregation an opportunity to establish a close relationship with the Guru. This comes as a chance for the attendees to carry out volunteer work, known as Sewa. This helps them in obtaining the blessing of the Guru Granth Sahib. It is said that when Guru Gobind Singh had finished writing the Guru Granth Sahib, he had five members of the congregation (Sadh Sangat) who had chanted him the completed Granth continuously. It was a non-stop recitation for more than two days and nights. That’s from where the importance of the duration comes to the forefront. Taken from this, the recitation of Guru Granth Sahib in the Akhand Path needs to be completed within the deadline of 48 hours, without any breach.
The non-stop recitation would imply continuous and uninterrupted chanting. The recitation needs to be clear and correct. Reciting too fast, that the person listening to it is unable to follow the contents, is equivalent to irreverence to the Scriptures. Proper concentration needs to be put into the consonants, and vowels, even though it takes a little longer to complete.
The continuous recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken by the reciter and the listener as an enlightening journey. It begins with Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Mool Mantra and ends with the Raag Mala, which is an important Bani that discusses the spiritual aspects pertaining to the different raags in classical North Indian music used in the Guru Granth Sahib. Chanting it gives a dual sense of experience and learning together.
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