What is “Katha”?
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee and great Sikhs of his era performed Katha and it was and is still through Katha that many people gain knowledge about Sikhism and become enlightened. Katha is both a spiritual and historical discourse, it endows the listener with spiritual and worldly knowledge, and helps Sikhs along the path of Sikhi.
Katha is the verbal explanation/discourse of Gurbani (the utterings of the Guru’s) and our great history. Katha has been an integral part of Sikh practice since the revealed inception of Sikhism by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee.
Sri Guru Amar Das Jee enlightens us about Gurbani Katha in the following manner,
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Through the Guru’s Teachings, they intuitively taste the sublime, exquisite and ambrosial sermon of the Lord. (SGGS Ang 87)
Gurbani Katha is also a form of Amrit, as the teachings verbally expressed in Katha make us reach this sublime stage of immortality. In the same manner that Naam/Gurbani is Amrit the discourse of this Naam/Gurbani is also Amrit as Sri Guru Amar Das Jee taches us in the above quotation. The filth of our bad actions is removed by listening and practising the teachings of Katha, as Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee explains to us
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Hearing Your Sermon, all filth is removed. (SGGS Ang 104)
Katha is not just expressed on a stage in a Gurdwara, it can exist in conversation and discussion as well, so all the above quotations are relevant if we are promoting the idealogy of Gurbani when we are discussing things. This Katha is described as the most supreme discourse to enter,
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Highest of all is the Lord’s Discourse. (SGGS Ang 265)
This Katha has an equally important place in Sikhi, as it helps to preserve our heritage and reminds of our moral duties as Sikhs and to live up to the high standards set by our forefathers. The majority of this Katha is done by translating the Suraj Parkash Granth written by the Great Kavi Santokh Singh Jee. The Suraj Parkah is the most extensive history of the Sikhs that has been written but it was written approximately a 100 years after the ascendancy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee to Sachkand.The majority of our history was written by non-Sikhs and even the history written by Sikhs has become distorted and we can only rely on those historical references which are backed by the ideology of Gurbani. Relevant stories are told that fall within the ideology of Gurbani and those which promote hypocrisy or non-Sikh practices are discarded. Historical Katha still holds great importance in what it teaches us, in terms of stories about the Gurus and Great Sikhs of the past.
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Historical stories relating to our forefathers which are moralistic are narrated by Sikhs. (SGGS Ang 951)