Society: Sikhism: Institutions:
Community Kitchen-Refectory in Gurdwaras
(srIrk Aqy rUhwnI lMgr)
“Let no one be hungry where the spirit of God
Langar is the name given to free community kitchen run by
the Sikh Gurus and their followers. It is known as Guru-Ka-Langar. It is
served to everybody without any consideration of caste, color, creed and
status in the society. It is an important institution in Sikhism.
Puran Singh calls Langar as a temple of bread for poor, needy and
there is a Gurdwara, there is sure to be a free Langar attached to it.
A Sikh Gurdwara without Langar is inconceivable. All the devotees and visitors
who come to visit Gurdwara or attend Sangat (Holy congregation) in the
Gurdwara, are provided with free Langar (Free Kitchen ). Sikh Langar
is probably the most largely attended community kitchen in the world.
It is a strong belief that the visitor to the Gurdwara must first sit in
Pangat to partake Langar and then enjoy Sangat.
Pehle Pangat pichhe Sangat
Freshly prepared vegetarian meals are served in the Langar.
The Langar contains Parshada (Roti), cooked vegetables, Daal, Khatta (Yogurt),
Kheer (Rice pudding cooked in sweetened milk), Karah Parshad (consecrated
food ), Laddoos and Jalebis etc. This service is performed by the
volunteers called Sevadars. Guru-Ka- Langar is prepared by the devotees
themselves. Langar is placed before Sri Guru Granth Sahib prior to
Ardas for blessings of God. It is served by the volunteers without
any discrimination to the Sangat in Pangat (People sitting and eating Guru-ka-Langar
together in a row ).
The community kitchen system encouraged the Sikhs to eat
together in Pangat irrespective of caste, color and creed. In Langar, rich
and poor, king and pauper, Sikhs and non-Sikhs, all share food sitting
together in one row. The Sikhs feel it to be their honor to serve the travelers,
pilgrims or other visitors to their homes or the Gurdwaras. Langar has
led the followers to the path of equality, universal brotherhood,
love and harmonious living.
a Great Service to down trodden and caste ridden
The Sikh Gurus used the institution of Langar as a powerful
lever for equalitarian uplift of the down trodden community.
institution of Langar came into being in the times of Guru Nanak Dev when
devotees used to attend to his discourses at Kartarpur. Guru Nanak Dev
would use a little share of his agriculture earnings for his domestic affairs
and would contribute the remaining towards service of Sangat and Pangat.
Guru Nanak Dev introduced the system of community kitchen to eradicate
the social barriers between high and low, rich and the poor, touchable
and non-touchable, Hindu and the Shudra, king and the pauper. Guru
Angad Dev Ji popularized and expanded the community kitchen as it
was of great service to the outcaste, destitutes and poor people.
Mata Khivi, wife of Guru Angad Dev Ji prepared and distributed food with
her own hands.
“Saith Balwand, Khivi was a noble person who
afforded very effectual shade to the disciples. She distributed wealth
in the kitchen, rice boiled in milk and Ghee that tasted like ambrosia.”
Guru Amar Das wanted the visitors to shun caste system and
create liberal views in their routine life. He made it obligatory for the
visitors to go to langar first and then attend the Sangat or behold him.
This created amongst the followers a feeling of affection, mutual harmony,
fellowship and unity.
blvMf KIvI nyk jn ijsu bhuqI
Cwau pqRwlI ]
lµgir dauliq vMfIAY rsu
AMimRqu KIir iGAwlI ]
(rwmklI kI vwr, rwie blvMif
qQw sqY fUim AwKI )
Emperor Akbar came to meet the Guru and he had to first partake in Pangat
(sitting in a row ) and then he could meet the Guru. The Langar system
was run from the offerings of the faithful Sikhs. Whatever was daily received,
used to be spent daily. Nothing was saved for the next day.
Balwand and Satta write in Ramkali Ki Var,
“In thy kitchen (O Amar Das), butter and flour
are served in plenty every day.”
The Sikhs believe,
inq rsoeI qyrIAY iGau mYdw
“Bread and water belong to the Lord and the desire
to serve is the pleasure of Sikhs.”
Bhai Nand Lal says,
A@n pwxI gurU kw, tihl Bwvnw
is@K~ dI |
“It is against Maryada to roam about bare headed,
eat bareheaded and serve Parsad bareheaded . Such person who defies this,
is the biggest Tankhahya.”
Preparation of Langar
ngn hoie bwhr iPrih, ngn sIs
ngn pRswd jo bWteI qnKwhI bfo
(Tankhahnama Bhai Nand Lal. p-58 of Rehtname by
Piara Singh Padam)
The provisions in the Langar are voluntarily offered by
the devotees and food is cooked by the volunteers while chanting hymns.
It is considered to be an honor to do Seva in the Langar and serve the
community. All rich and poor are treated alike in Langar. The service in
community kitchen aims at doing away with ego. It inculcates a sense of
human service, humility and humbleness. Langar serves as a strong bond
of union within the community. It acts as a fair leveler and equalizer
in the society.
concerning tradition of Langar
a new direction to Sikh Charities
The Langar must be simple and vegetarian
The Langar must be prepared by devotees by reciting Gurbani
The Langar must be served after performing Ardas
The Langar must be distributed in Pangat without any discrimination
Langar must be fresh and clean
It gave a new direction towards Sikh sense of offering
charities. According to Dr. Narang, “It taught Sikhs the first lesson of
contributing money towards a common fund.” Langar played a significant
role in India to eradicate caste system, untouchability, and other social
and cultural evils. People of high and low castes sit and dine together
in Langar. It created a sense of unity and oneness as preached by the Gurus.
It was a powerful aid in promoting and spreading the Sikh religion. Langar
manifests the principle that all are equal before God and equally entitled
to the nourishment for body and soul.
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