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Langar (Punjabi: ਲੰਗਰ) (kitchen) is the term used in the Sikh religion for the common kitchen/canteen where food is served in a Gurdwara to all the visitors, without distinction of faith, religion or background, for free.
At the langar, mostly only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals. The exception to vegetarian langar is when Nihangs (in India) serve meat on the occasion of Holla Mohalla, and call it Mahaprasad. But there are variations on langar, for example at Hazur Sahib, where meat is included.
Langar is also a common term used across various units in the Indian Army, when referring to a mess, especially when there is no building and the food is served in open air (or through temporary arrangements like tents).
The institution of the langar, or free kitchen, is believed to have been started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak but it was already popular in Chisti Sufis of the Indian subcontinent and it is said to have been started by Baba Farid. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th-century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. "...the Light of God is in all hearts."
After the Second Sikh Guru, the institution of langar seems to have changed, somewhat, and meat seems to have been excluded from this institution. There is no evidence of meat ever being served in langar.
Besides the langars' attachment to gurdwaras, there are improvised open-air langars during festivals and gurpurbs. These langars are among the best attended community meals anywhere in the world; upwards of 100,000 people may attend a given meal during these langars. Wherever Sikhs are, they have established the langars for everyone. In their prayers, the Sikhs seek from the Almighty the favour: “Loh langar tapde rahin—may the hot plates of the langars remain ever in service.”
Notes and references
- UNITED SIKHS
- "The most special occasion of the Chhauni is the festival of Diwali which is celebrated for ten days. This is the only Sikh shrine at Amritsar where Maha Prasad (meat) is served on special occasions in Langar." The Sikh review, Volume 35, Issue 409 - Volume 36, Issue 420, Sikh Cultural Centre, 1988.
- The Myth of goat Sacrifice and Hazur Sahib
- Jhatka at Hazur Sahib Sikh Gurudwara
- "Epilogue". 4 (1): 45.
- Guru Granth Sahib pg. 282
- Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). "3 Guru Amar Das". The History of Sikh Gurus. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 38. ISBN 81-8382-075-1.
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