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LANGAR : The Community Kitchen

The Sacrament of Langar.    The two important features of a Gurduaaraa are Sangat - congregation, and Pangat - Community Kitchen, also known as Guru- Kaa-Langar. This community kitchen is meant for providing food to all devotees, and visitors. It is a symbol of equality, fratemity and brotherhood. It is here that the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the leamed and the ignorant, the kings and the paupers, all share the same food sitting together in one row. This kitchen is run by the common contributions of the Sikhs. The institution of Langar (Common Kitchen) is instrumental in creating social equality among the whole mankind.

The community kitchen in the medieval Sufi khanqas was known as the langar. The word langar in Persian means:

(1) an anchor; a stay or rope for the tent.
(2) the house or monastery of the Sufi dervishes
(3) an alms-house.

The Sikh Gurus established this institution as a major part of the Sikh temples, and it became a very important sacrament of the Sikh Church which has the inner process of germination of the spirit of Sikh charity and spirituality, and it is on the efficiency of the langars, in all their aspects that the strength, self-sufficiency and progress of the Sikh Church has always depended. There are two types of langars which are attached to all major Sikh temples.

(a) Langar of Daily Meals: (free kitchen or open alms house) attached to most of the important Sikh temples offers two square meals to every visitor, rich or poor, and more so to the destitute and the homeless, the travellers and pilgrims. When President Nasser of Egypt visited the Golden Temple, he was so deeply impressed by the unique sight of the Kashmiri Mus- lims, Tibetans, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, the rich and the extremely poor with tattered clothes sitting as equals in the Langer Hall of the Golden Temple, that he and his party left all the money they carried as donation for the Guru's free kitchen. lt is a sin for a Sikh to question a man's faith and creed before offering him a seat in the community kitchen. It is open to all human beings of all nationalities, and all peoples of all countries. The rich and the poor, the black and white people, the Hindus, Muslims and Christians all sit in a row and eat to their fill the food that is prepared. In the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the Bards, Rai Baiwand and Satta, record how Guru Angad's wife, Khivi, distributed food in the langar, with her own hands, and how she took care to see that the food was properly pre- pared and delicious. Milk pudding mixed with clarified butter was distributed by her in the langar, a delicacy which the poor man could not afford. It is also recorded in Bhai Mani Singh's Bhagatmal that the food taken by Guru Angad was simpler than this Even when individual devout Sikhs are asked for food, shelter, or any help in the name of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh Ji, they dare not say no. Bhai Desa Singh in his Rehitnama says, "A Sikh who is well to do must look to the needs of a poor neighbour. Whenever he meets a traveller or a pilgrim from foreign country, he must serve him devotedly.

(b) Shabad-Ka-Langar : The Word as Sacramental Food : Equally important is the spiritual food which must be imparted to all who come to the temple for participation in worship and prayer not only through any liturgical prayer but through the follow- itig traditionally established practices: Before elucidating these practices it may be emphatically stated that there are clear-cut references and comments to this Shabad-ka-langar, and its various aspects throughout the Sikh scriptures. The most conspicuous is one mentioned by Rai Balwand and Satta, the bards of Guru Angad, who say in their Var: Langar Chalai GuShabad Ka Har Tot na Avi Khatiai: The Sacramental food of the Divine Word is being ceaselessly distributed, it is open for distribution all day, and yet it is ever full."

(Dr. Trilochan Singh Ji)