A community meal in progress at a Sikh langar in December 2005
A community meal in progress at a Sikh langar in December 2005

In Sikhism, a langar (Punjabi: ਲੰਗਰ, "kitchen")[1] is the community kitchen of a gurdwara which serves free meals to anyone and everyone regardless of their background or beliefs such as caste, religion, gender, economic status, or ethnicity. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers,[2] while the meals served are always vegetarian to make them available to a wider range of people.[3]

Etymology

Langar is a Persian word and came into Punjabi from it.[4][5][6]

Origins

As per Sikh historian Gurinder Singh Mann,[7] free food distribution practices were already in vogue in fifteenth century among various religious groups like Hindu Nath Yogis and Muslim Sufi saints.[8]

According to Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, a professor of Sikh studies, community kitchens were already operating in Punjab when Guru Nanak founded Sikhism, and these were run by Gorakhnath orders and Muslim Sufi groups.[9]

The roots of such community kitchen and volunteer-run charitable feeding is very old in Indian tradition; for example: Hindu temples of the Gupta Empire era had attached kitchen and almshouse called dharma-shala or dharma-sattra to feed the travelers and poor for free, or whatever donation they may leave.[10][11] These community kitchens and rest houses are evidenced in epigraphical evidence, and in some cases referred to as satram (for example, Annasya Satram), choultry, or chathram in parts of India.[12][13] In fact, Sikh historian Kapur Singh refers Langar as an Aryan institution.[14]

The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim I Ching (7th century CE) wrote about monasteries with such volunteer-run kitchens.[15][16] The institution of the Langar emerged from Fariduddin Ganjshakar,[17][18] a Sufi Muslim saint living in the Punjab region during the 13th century. This concept further spread and is documented in Jawahir al-Faridi compiled in 1623 CE.[19]

The concept of langar—which was designed to be upheld among all people, regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender, or social status—was an innovative charity and symbol of equality introduced into Sikhism by its founder, Guru Nanak around 1500 CE in North Indian state of Punjab.[9]

The second Guru of Sikhism, Guru Angad, is remembered in Sikh tradition for systematizing the institution of langar in all Sikh temple premises, where visitors from near and far could get a free simple meal in a simple and equal seating.[9]: 35–7 [20] He also set rules and training method for volunteers (sevadars) who operated the kitchen, placing emphasis on treating it as a place of rest and refuge, and being always polite and hospitable to all visitors.[9]: 35–7 

It was the third Guru, Guru Amar Das, who established langar as a prominent institution, and required people to dine together irrespective of their caste and class.[21] He encouraged the practice of langar, and made all those who visited him attend langar before they could speak to him.[22]

Contemporary practice

Volunteers helping prepare food for Langar at the Golden Temple
Volunteers helping prepare food for Langar at the Golden Temple

Langars are held in gurdwaras all over the world, most of which attract members of the homeless population. The volunteers feed people without any discrimination, alongside the Sikh devotees who gather.[23][24][25] Almost all gurdwaras operate langars where local communities, sometimes consisting of hundreds or thousands of visitors, join together for a simple vegetarian meal.[26] Anyone can volunteer in langar, regardless of whether or not they are Sikh adherents.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech, 2014, The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies[dead link]
  2. ^ Mark McWilliams (2014). Food & Material Culture: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2013. Oxford Symposium. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-909248-40-3.
  3. ^ William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi (1995), The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1898723134, page 148
  4. ^ Kathleen Seidel, Serving Love, Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook", September 2000. Accessed 15 January 2010.
  5. ^ Satish C. Bhatnagar (November 2012), My Hindu Faith and Periscope, Volume 1, p. 245, ISBN 9781466960978
  6. ^ Steingass, Francis Joseph (1992), A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, p. 1130, ISBN 9788120606708
  7. ^ Mann, Gurinder Singh (2001-05-03). The Making of Sikh Scripture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-802987-8.
  8. ^ Singh, Pashaura; Fenech, Louis E. (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  9. ^ a b c d Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4411-1708-3.
  10. ^ Manabendu Banerjee (1989). Historical and Social Interpretations of the Gupta Inscriptions. Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar. pp. 83–84.
  11. ^ Vasudeva Upadhyay (1964). The Socio-religious Condition of North India, 700-1200 A. D.: Based on Archaeological Sources. Munshi Manoharlal. p. 306.
  12. ^ [a] Prabhavati C. Reddy (2014). Hindu Pilgrimage: Shifting Patterns of Worldview of Srisailam in South India. Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-317-80631-8.; [b] Sanctuaries of times past The Hindu (June 27, 2010)
  13. ^ Singh, A.K. (2002). "A Śaiva Monastic Complex of the Kalacuris at Chunari in Central India". South Asian Studies. Taylor & Francis. 18 (1): 47–52. doi:10.1080/02666030.2002.9628606. S2CID 191573026.
  14. ^ Siṅgha, Prakāsha (1994). Community Kitchen of the Sikhs. Singh Bros. ISBN 978-81-7205-099-3.
  15. ^ William M. Johnston (2013). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Routledge. pp. 953–954. ISBN 978-1-136-78716-4.
  16. ^ Nancy Auer Falk; Rita M. Gross (1980). Unspoken worlds: women's religious lives in non-western cultures. Harper & Row. pp. 210–211. ISBN 978-0-06-063492-6.
  17. ^ Epilogue, Vol 4, Issue 1, p. 45
  18. ^ R. Nivas (1967), Transactions, Volume 4, The word langar, and this institution has been borrowed, so to speak, from the Sufis. The khanqas of the Chisti and other Sufi saints had a langar open to the poor and the rich, though the Hindus mostly kept away from them. To make the Brahmin sit with the pariah and do away with untouch- ability, and to make the Hindus and Muslims eat from the same kitchen and destroy all social, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, p. 190
  19. ^ Barbara D. Metcalf (1984). Moral Conduct and Authority: The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam. University of California Press. pp. 336–339. ISBN 978-0-520-04660-3.
  20. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  21. ^ Eleanor Nesbitt (28 April 2016). Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-106277-3.
  22. ^ Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). "3 Guru Amar Das". The History of Sikh Gurus. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 38. ISBN 81-8382-075-1.
  23. ^ "Why homeless Britons are turning to the Sikh community for food". 22 February 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
  24. ^ Paterson, Kirsteen (July 14, 2016). "Scotland: Sikh charity feeds those most in need". The National. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  25. ^ Shamsher Kainth (March 8, 2017). "Sikh volunteers take hot food to homeless in Melbourne". SBS Punjabi. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  26. ^ Harold Coward; Raymond Brady Williams; John R. Hinnells (2000). The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada, and the United States. SUNY Press. pp. 196–198. ISBN 978-0-7914-4509-9.