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Feeding the Hungry, Educating Women and Children, and providing Healthcare to the Underprivileged

Langar: The Community Kitchen

Langar is the name given to the community kitchen or the refectory run by the Sikh Gurus and their followers. It is known as Guru-Ka-Langar. It is served to everybody without consideration of caste, color, creed and status in the society, especially the needy and the destitute. It is a tradition initiated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, himself. It was aimed at removing the distinctions of caste and creed far back five hundred years ago and has endured through all the ups and downs in Sikh history. It is as popular today as it was in the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who established it. In the langar, all sat in a line without any distinction to eat food cooked and served by persons of any caste. They were called a Pangat.

The langar gives us a glimpse of real Sikhism both in theory and practice. Guru Nanak insisted upon his disciples sharing meals with others, visitors, strangers, friends and foes alike. Every Sikh was expected to contribute liberally for the maintenance of Guru Ka Langar. This could be done by making an offering in cash, kind and personal labor in cleaning, cooking and serving meals.

Preparation of Langar

Provisions for the Langar are the offerings of the devotees and food is cooked by volunteers while chanting hymns. It is considered an honor to do Seva (Service) in the Langar, where a king and a pauper are treated the same. The purpose of this service is to help eradicate ego and imparts a sense of humility. Langar strengthens bonds within the community. It acts as a fair leveler and equalizer in the society.

The traditional way of Langar

1. Langar is usually simple and vegetarian.
2. Langar is prepared by devotees or sevadaars while reciting Gurbani.
3. Langar is served after performing Ardaas and offering it to Almighty God.
4. Langar is to be distributed in the Pangat without any discrimination.
5. Langar must be freshly prepared and clean.

Langar is shared by Sikhs and all visitors to a gurdwara and has become an important part of Sikh religious life. After the service, no Sikh leaves without partaking of langar. For Sikhs, eating together is expression of equality and oneness of all humankind. Visitors and guests are readily and warmly included in this hospitality of the Sikh tradition. While visiting a gurdwara everyone is offered parshaad which is distributed in the sanctuary, after a prayer service, signifying the “grace” of the Guru.

One of the most obvious signs of caste inequality in traditional Indian society is the taboo against eating with those outside one’s caste group, of a lower caste, or of a different religion. Rules for the sharing of food and water are many, especially among high caste Hindus. From the beginning, the Sikh Gurus explicitly rejected this inequality by asking that all Sikhs and all visitors to the Sikh gurdwaras partake of common food in the company of one another. In the langar hall, women and men, rich and poor, high and low sit together. The langar meal thus assails the inner core of inequality and symbolizes a Sikh’s personal rejection of prejudice. It played a significant role in India in eradicating the caste system, untouchability, and other social evils.

When the meal is ready, a small portion of each dish is put in a dish and placed beside the Guru Granth Sahib. A prayer or Ardaas is recited to seek Almighty God’s acceptance of the food. The food is then returned to the original pots so that the blessings of the Guru can be passed on to the people through the entire pots of food. When people come into the langar hall, they sit on the floor on long rows of rugs as the servers circulate among them, bringing fresh food and hot bread.

At the Tikana Sahib in Goniana Mandi, Mahant Kahan Singh Ji makes sure that all three meals are served 365 days a year. Most of the people that partake of the meals are destitute and needy, and represent all kinds of faiths.

During Yag Samagams, as many as 50,000 people partake of the Guru Ka Langar.

Bhai Kanhaiya
Charitable Trust Inc.

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