RECITATION OF AGGS
Recitation of AGGS has been done in various ways since Its completion by Guru Arjan in 1604, to remember and praise the Akal Purkh as well as to understand the message contained there in. Its various ritual type recitations with out any spiritual benefit are reviewed here, unless the message is practiced in word, thought, spirit and deed.
Historical Akhand Path; this is continuous recitation of AGGS Path to be finished in 13 Pehars. One Pehar/watch (ਪਹਰ- ਦਿਨ ਰਾਤ ਦਾ ਅਠਵਾਂ ਭਾਗ, ਤਿੰਨ ਘੰਟੇ ਦਾ ਸਮਾਂ, ਸਮੇਂ ਦੀ ਇਕ ਇਕਾਈ ) is 3 hours, so it should be completed in 39 hours, requiring 4 or 5 Recites’ at two hourly schedule around the clock. This tradition was started by Buddha Dal, and it was not done during the time of Sikh Gurus. There is reference in some documents that the first Akhand Path was performed in A.D.1728 or so. There was a tradition to keep an Akhand light (ਦੀਵਾ) all the time, a coconut, and an earthen pitcher of water but this tradition is not carried on any more.
Historical Ati Akhand Path; this continuous recitation is done by an alone recite’, who fasts till the end. This is completed in 9 Pehars (ਪਹਰ) or 27 hours and was started by Baba Narayan Singh of Nabha. -----Ref-Mahan Kosh
Present Akhand Path; This is the continuous reading of Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Page 1-1430) completed in 48 hours which is undertaken to celebrate any joyous occasion, such as birth, marriage, moving into a new house, Gurpurbs or in times of hardship as death etc.
Completed Akhand Path on the shelf can be bought by paying the proper price-it was offered to my wife in 2005 at Golden Temple Amritsar.
Many Akhand Paths (ਲੜੀ) is commonly seen in most of the Gurudwaras being run in a row as if they are in some sort of competition to win thus making it a form of joke IMHO.
Saptah Path: As the name implies, recitation of the entire Gurbani is completed in a week.
Sadharan or Open ended Path: Recitation from the beginning to the end of Sabd Guru is completed slowly depending on an individual’s speed of reading. This recitation is more enjoyable if done few pages at a time with understanding and reflection. There is no speed prescribed for the recitation. The recitation done at a speed to be finished in a specific time is a waste of time and energy. It brings no spiritual benefit to any one except for the hired reader who gets paid for reading it. Those paying money have an unfounded superstitious faith that some spiritual or material benefit would accrue from such recitation.
The notion of Akhand Paths performed after the death or at yearly anniversaries should evoke the memory of two incidents, enough to discontinue these:
1. If Guru Nanak’s watering his fields in Punjab from Hardwar is seen as implausible, how can an Akhand Path be beneficial to those already departed, after their recent death or at the anniversary of a death?
2. Kabir throws a truthful satire on the relatives of the deceased in Raag Gauri Cheti AGGS. Page 332-10.
The non stop reading takes approximately 48 hours and is usually carried out by hired recites, and the family members, are rarely seen to be around. In the majority of cases no one is present to listen to the Path and the family members only show up at the end, during Bhog ceremony. There has been a change in the time factor from 39 to 48 hours. But unfortunately these Akhand Paths are bought due to spiritual ignorance and superstition for the fulfillment of desires against the teachings incorporated in the Sabd Guru. Spiritually ignorant Sikhs assume that God can be bribed. A relevant reference to this is documented in AGGS by Guru Arjan to a Sikh named Samman in Chaubolay Slokes, AGGS, Page, 1363-18:
Guru Arjan and Kabir in Raag Gauri AGGS, Page, 283-4, describe the way that Akal Purkh can only be bought through devotion.
The reading of AGGS usually is done at a speed that words even cannot be understood. Reading must be clear and correct so that it can be understood by all listeners, but unfortunately the hired guns for the ceremony are so busy in running many Paths that some time they are speed reading or dozing off actually making a joke out of religious ceremony. After the completion of the reading the Bhog ceremony takes place. Traditionally a Hukam is taken by randomly opening the AGGS and reading the hymn on the left top and if the Sabd starts from the previous page than turning the page and reading from the beginning of the Sabd. But the hired reciters had already planned which Hukam should be read to fit the occasion. Karah Parshad or sacred pudding is normally distributed to all those present at this time.
This ceremony evolved in the mid 18th century when there were few hand written copies of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs were fighting for their lives at this time and hiding in jungles. They wanted to perform the ceremony before any battles etc. Performance of Akhand Path is a blind and empty ritual with out any spiritual value. It is contrary to the teachings of the Sabd Guru.
Q. Does reading of Sabd Guru confer any spiritual benefit?
A. No, except when reading is done with understanding, contemplation, and deliberation on the message in one’s daily life. AGGS is inundated with Sikh Gurus’ comments on such readings e.g. Guru Nanak In Raag Ramkali, AGGS, Page, 930-4
Reciting AGGS by individuals or hired hands with out understanding and living in the message has no spiritual value but a superstitious idolatry ritual.
ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਜੀਵਿਆ ਜਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਵੇਚਹਿ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਖੇਤੀ ਜਿਨ ਕੀ ਉਜੜੈ ਖਲਵਾੜੇ ਕਿਆ ਥਾਉ ॥ ਸਚੈ ਸਰਮੈ ਬਾਹਰੇ ਅਗੈ ਲਹਹਿ ਨ ਦਾਦਿ ॥ ਅਕਲਿ ਏਹ ਨ ਆਖੀਐ ਅਕਲਿ ਗਵਾਈਐ ਬਾਦਿ ॥ ਅਕਲੀ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥
Ḏẖarig ṯinā kā jīvi▫ā jė likẖ likẖ vecẖėh nā▫o. Kẖeṯī jin kī ujṛai kẖalvāṛe ki▫ā thā▫o. Sacẖai sarmai bāhre agai lahėh na ḏāḏ. Akal eh na ākẖī▫ai akal gavā▫ī▫ai bāḏ. Aklī sāhib sevī▫ai aklī pā▫ī▫ai mān. Aklī paṛĥ kai bujẖī▫ai aklī kīcẖai ḏān. Nānak ākẖai rāhu ehu hor galāŉ saiṯān.
Cursed are the lives of those who read and write the Akal Purkh's Name to sell it. Their crop is devastated - what harvest will they have? Lacking truth and humility, they shall not be appreciated in the world hereafter. Wisdom which leads to arguments is not called wisdom. Wisdom leads us to serve our Creator and Master; through wisdom, honor is obtained. Wisdom does not come by reading textbooks; wisdom inspires us to give in charity. Says Nanak, this is the Path; other things lead to Satan. -----Guru Nanak, Raag Sarang, AGGS, Page, 1245
Virinder S. Grewal