akhand = uninterrupted, without break; path = reading
An Akhand Path (uh-K’UND PAHT’’) is an unbroken out loud reading of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib that takes seventy-two hours in translation. (Forty-eight hours in the original Gurmukhi, if the readers are skilled.) It requires a team of readers to prevent breaks in the reading.
An Akhand Path endows the community reading it with the blessing of the Guru’s vibration and enhances the consciousness of the readers. Speaking the Guru’s words is one way we become one with the Guru.
For it to be classified as a "Akhand paath", this reading must go on day and night, without a moment's intermission. The relay of reciters who take turns at reading the scripture must ensure that no break occurs in the reading. As they change places at given intervals, one picks the line from his predecessor's lips and continues. When and how the custom of reciting the canon in its entirety in one continuous service began is not known. Conjecture traces it to the turbulent days of the eighteenth century when persecution had scattered the Sikhs to far off places. In those exilic, uncertain times, the practice of accomplishing a reading of the Holy Book by a continuous recital is believed to have originated.