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Eleven Year Wait for Akhand Path at Darbar Sahib


The Indian Express, Amritsar, Oct. 27, 2005

Photo: Darbar Sahib, Amritsar

It is a religious wait that has forced the rich, the powerful, the poor and the commoner into a single queue. At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the rush to perform Akhand Path at Har Ki Pauri and Dukhbhanjani Beri is so great that those who have registered now have to wait till 2016, or another 11 years, for this communion with God.

They may be used to easier passages elsewhere, but even demigods are up against it here. Industrialist couple Anil and Tina Ambani, actor Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Nanda, son and daughter respectively of Amitabh Bachchan, and scores of other celebrities are lined up like the thousands of other ordinary mortals.

The object of their exertions is the Akhand Path, the uninterrupted, 48-hour-long reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. For a coveted ritual, the price is small enough: the sponsor makes an offering (sewa) of Rs. 3,100 for karah parshad to be distributed among devotees, for rumala (unused coverings) of the holy book and payment for the granthis who do the reading. The reward: special blessings of the Guru invoked plus the solemn announcement of the sponsor's name.

Akhand Path is held round the clock at 24 places around the Golden Temple's sacred sarovar (pool), but the Har Ki Pauri and Dukhbhanjani Beri are considered the most sacred. Devotees believe that close to these two places, a pond with magical qualities had existed and it had been blessed by Guru Nanak. So most want the Akhand Path performed here, resulting in a lengthening waiting list.

'We do not differentiate among well-known personalities, rich devotees or commoners. They have to wait in the order of registration,' said Golden Temple manager Ajaib Singh. While he confirmed that the Ambanis and Bachchans were among the names wait-listed, he said it was difficult to maintain a separate V.I.P. list as everyone was equal at Guru ka ghar (Guru's home).

Anil and Tina had visited the Golden Temple over a year ago and registered their request for Akhand Path. Abhishek and his sister visited recently. This quartet may get their turn around 2014, but those who register today will have to wait till 2016, temple officials said.

People who have performed Akhand Path, but after a shorter waiting period, include filmstar-turned-politician Raj Babbar, Surinder Kaur, wife of Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal, and the family of Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. Officials said given the tremendous demand for Akhand Path, the waiting period is bound to increase.

'Thousands of requests in person, via phones and e-mails are pouring in from all over the world,' said S.G.P.C. secretary Dalmegh Singh. Proper records are being kept and each devotee intimated about his or her turn, he added.