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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, only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals.
Langar was first started by Baba Farid, a Muslim of the Chishti Sufi order. It became a common practice amongst Sufi Muslims in South Asia and it was later adopted by Sikhs. In Sikhism the practice of the langar, or free kitchen, is believed to have been adopted by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. 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. The reason cited for this by historians is the accommodation of Vaishnavite members of the community.
The institution of Guru ka langar has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of Sikhs in a task of service for mankind. Even Sikh children help in serving food to the people (Sangat). Langar also teaches the etiquette of eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of equality of all human beings and provides a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.
People from all classes of society are welcome at the Gurudwara. Food is normally served twice a day, on every day of the year. Recent reports say some of the largest Sikh community dining halls in Delhi prepare between 50,000 and 70,000 meals per day. At Golden temple nearly 100,000 people dine everyday and the kitchen works almost 20 hours daily. Each week one or more families volunteer to provide and prepare the langar. This is very generous, as there may be several hundred people to feed, and caterers are not allowed. All the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up is also done by voluntary helpers, known as Sewadars.
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
- Epilogue, Vol 4, Issue 1, p. 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.
- A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7023-139-4. "However, it is strange that nowadays in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off."
- S.R. Bakshi, Rashmi Pathak,, ed. (2007). "12". Punjab Through the Ages. 4 (1st ed.). New Delhi: Sarup and Sons. p. 241. ISBN 81-7625-738-9.
- Vera, Barry. "Old Delhi". Feast: India. Season 1. Episode 3. 2005.
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