KAṚĀH PRASĀD. Kaṛāh, soft sweetened food made of flour or semolina and ghee, which placed before the Gurū Granth Sāhib as offering gets transubstantiated for Sikhs into prasād, i.e. a mark of AkālPurakh's grace. Kaṛāh Prasād is thus the sacrament which is distributed among the saṅgat after ardās at all Sikh religious services and ceremonies. The word kaṛāh is derived from Sanskrit kaṭāh which means a large boiling pan, and what is cooked therein by the specific formula has, by transference of meaning, come to be called kaṛāh. In Sikh parlance, this communion food is also known by several other names such as deg, tihāval or tribhāvalī (lit. made of three ingredients of equal quantity, viz. ghee or clarified butter, wheatflour and sugar) and pañchāmrit (most blessed sacrament). Kaṛāh is common to some other religious traditions as well. Muslims, who call it halvā, prepare it in large quantities on the occasion of Eid. Kaṛāh was also offered among the ancient Aryans to the deities and idols as lāpasī.
For kaṛāh prasād meant for offering at a Sikh assembly, its main ingredients, ghee, wheatflour and sugar, must be weighed out in equal measures. The cookingplace or kitchen must be cleaned to ensure sanctity as well as hygienic standards, and a person cleanly dressed should be ready to take charge of the proceedings in the prescribed manner. Reciting the holy hymns, water, four times the weight of one of the ingredients, will be heated and sugar poured into it to dissolve and the mixture brought to boiling point in an open pan, called kaṛāhī or kaṛāhā, more ceremonially deg, then ghee is heated and the wheat flour is fried and roasted brown in it. The syrup of sugar is then poured down into the pan and stirred. The preparation, properly made, will show ghee floating around the sweet substance. It is then transferred to some other pan, generally a large salver, and is covered with a clean white piece of linen, and taken to the presence of the Gurū Granth Sāhib in gurdwārā or site of the assembly, before the service is concluded with ardās. The kaṛāh prasād is touched with the tip of a kirpān or sword before it is distributed. Then, the granthī, or any other pious Sikh, puts in a saucer, the symbolic 'shares' of Pañj Piāre, i.e. the Five Beloved and distributes it among five amritdhārī Sikhs of approved standing from among the assembly. After this, some volunteers, generally led by the granthī, distribute the holy sacrament among the saṅgat, without any distinction of status or caste. Every one, whatever his worldly position or station, must receive prasād while sitting on the floor, with both hands piously cupped. It is partaken of as a mark of receiving divine grace. This tradition of offering kaṛāh prasād in a gurdwārā is traced back to Gurū Arjan, who himself went to the Harimandar to offer prasād on certain occasions.
Ordinarily, kaṛāh prasād is prepared in the gurdwārā itself, but people are free to prepare it, in the prescribed manner and with due care, at home and bring it to be offered at the gurdwārā. In the larger gurdwārās which are under the control of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar, there are set counters from which readymade kaṛāh prasād is available on cash payment, generally in multiples of one and a quarter of a rupee. The devotees then carry it reverentially into the sanctuary.
The deg or kaṛāh prasād is compulsory offering at all Sikh ceremonies and observances. However, on less important occasions or if the devotee at whose instance the dīvān takes place cannot afford it, other and less expensive types of prasād can be offered. These substitutes are limited to four commodities, viz., patāsās (sugar crystals), guṛ (unclarified sugar), phal (fruit) and makhāṇās or lāchīdāṇā (sugar plums). Other sweets are not ordinarily offered as prasād, but are not forbidden.