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BHOG

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BHOG (which by literal etymology, from Sanskrit, signifies "pleasure," "delight") is the name used in the Sikh tradition for the group of observances which accompany, the reading of the concluding parts of Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. This conclusion may be reached as part of the normal and routine reading in the daytoday lectionary of a major centre of worship with a staff of readers. But in the mind of the community the word is very deeply associated with a complete, end to end, reading of the Holy Book without interruption which is called akhand path. This usually takes two twenty four hour days of nonstop reading by a relay of readers.

This type of path, and hence the bhog which comes at its end, can be performed in conjunction with weddings, obsequies, anniversaries and other occasions when a family or a worshipping community may consider such a reading appropriate. Similarly, a bhog` takes place at the end of the slower reading (sahaJ path) when, for instance, a family decides to read the entire book as continuously as circumstances permit. For such a reading no time limit applies. Of course, the bhog comes at its end, and it must be recited entire in a single service, without a break. Another variation on path is the saptahik path in which case the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is completed within one week (saptah).

The recital of the text is taken in parts and completed within the seven day span. The saha; or slow reading path may continue for a longer time, even for months. The verb form bhogpauna simply means to end or conclude. In Punjabi idiom it may mean to end or conclude an argument or discussion. Bhog especially stands for funeral service. In a derivative use of the term, sacramental karahprasad distributed at the end of any congregational service is also sometimes called bhog.

Any occasion whether of joy or sorrow, wish fulfilment, or trial would usually prompt a Sikh householder to have a path of the holy book said, preferably by himself and/or jointly by members of the family.If however this is not possible pathis or Scripture readers will be invited or hired for the purpose. Date and time of bhog` are notified in advance by word of mouth, through an announcement in sarigat during routine service in the local gurdwara (almost every Sikh hamlet has a gurdwara), or through written letters to friends and relations. Coming into vogue is the custom of placing notices in newspaper.

In the case of sadharan and saptahik paths, the reader would have already completed the reading of the Holy Book except for the last five pages. While the sarigat is gathering at the appointed time. the officiant will be preparing karahprasad in a steel cauldron over burning logs, coal or in an electric oven.When ready, it is respectfully lifted and carried overhead to the site of the congregation and placed on the right side of where the Holy Book rests. If a choir is on hand, some scriptural hymns appropriate to the occasion will be sung. The granthi (officiant) will then read from the Holy Book what may be called the inaugural hymn.

Thereafter he will turn over reverently the pages of the Holy Volume to arrive at the unread portion. He will start reading slowly and in a singing tone the slokas of Guru Tegh Bahadur (couplets, 57 in number, popularly called bhog de slokas), Mundavani and a s/oka by Guru Arjan. Then follows the last composition, Ragamala. The bhog must in all cases include the reading of the end of the Holy Book.That is, the recitation of the last five pages, pages 1426 onwards.

This begins with the reading of 57 slokas by Guru Tegh Bahadur and continues to the end of the Book. The music, cadences and imagery of these verses have a unique and exquisite beauty of their own. After these slokas, Mundavani by Guru Arjan, is recited. This is a kind of seal to the Scripture. It reiterates the essentials of the teaching of the Book sat (truth), santokh (contentment; rejoicing in one`s lot), vichar (wisdom) and the remembrance of the Holy Name (nam).

It is essentially a word to all humankind.After the Granth reading has been completed, ardas is recited by the entire congregation. In it a special blessing is called for the purpose for which the path was held. Ardas has its own powerful associations which are now brought into bhog.

These include the recalling to mind of past Sikh heroism, devotion and martyrdom and the marking present of the Khalsa in all its venerable might. After ardas, the Hukam or command for the day is obtained by reading out the hymn offered by the text which is naturally interpreted in the context of the intention of the path, that is, as the word of the Guru to those receiving it at that point with their purposes particularly in mind, be it a family event, a funeral, a wedding, or invocation for blessing on a new venture. N.Q.K.

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