Gurbani may be recited in the Sadh Sangat at any time, whether or not one is in the presence of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. A beautiful form of recitation in a group is to divide into groups of men and women with each reciting an alternate sutra. (A sutra is a complete line of poetry.) In the Gurmukhi each sutra is separated by two vertical lines (//). Gurbani should be recited rhythmically and meditatively.
Reading of certain banis is part of a Sikh’s nitnem or daily religious regimen. Paath of these prescribed texts is performed from a handy collection, called gutka (missal or breviary) or from memory. Three of the banis, Guru Nanak’s Japji and Guru Gobind Singh’s Jaap Sahib and Savaiye — constitute the Sikhs mandatory morning paath or devotions, and two — Rehras and Kirtan Sohila — evening paath. Individuals add certain other texts as well such as Shabad Hazaare, Anand Sahib and Sukhmani.
The paath is also performed individually and more particularly in sangat from the Guru Granth Sahib itself. The Holy Volume is ceremonially installed under coverlets on a decorated seat resting on a raised platform, with a canopy above, and is opened by the paathi or reader who sits reverentially behind. Usually, another person stands in attendance, waving the fly-whisk over the Holy Book. The paathi should have bathed and be dressed in clean clothes. Besides the reading of one single hymn to obtain vak or hukamnama (lesson or command for the day) or of some passages, three forms of complete paath of the Guru Granth Sahib are current: Akhand Paath (unbroken recitation completed in forty-eight hours), Saptahik (completed in a week) and Sadharan or Sahij (taken in slow parts with no time-limit for completion). A rarest variety is Ati Akhand Paath, hardly ever practised, in which a single participant reads within the prescribed 48 hours the entire text.
Another variety is the sampat paath. No time-limit is specified for it. Different schools and different groups or paathis have their own schedules. But the commonest factor in this variety of paath is that a whole shabad or a portion of it from the holy text will be set apart for repetition after every full stanza or apportioned section of it has been recited. Time-limit will thus be variable, depending upon the length of the verse or verses chosen for repetition. The hymn or portions of it chosen for repeated recitation will be governed by the occasion or purpose of the paath. At certain places even the Mul Mantra is repeated with the chosen line or lines. The relay of paathis (readers) in this instance will naturally be larger than in the case of a normal akhand paath.
Cole, W. Owen and Sambhi, P.S., The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Delhi, 1978 T. S.