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Langar (community kitchen)


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I grew up as a Sikh and my fondest childhood memories (practice is still part of my life) are related to participating in the tradition of “Langar”. So while I thought of writing one thing about my culture, I was tempted to write about this amazing practice.
The Langar or free community kitchen is a hallmark of the Sikh faith (I came across other mentions as well “the institution of langar is also traceable in the Persian tradition. Langars were a common feature of the Sufi centres in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Even today some dargahs, or shrines commemorating Sufi saints, run langars, like Khwaja Mu’in ud-Din Chishti’s at Ajmer”).

It was established by the first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, around the year of 1481.
It is designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender, or social status; to eliminate the extreme poverty in the world, and to bring about the birth of "caring communities". In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind.
All people would sit on the floor together, as equals, to eat the same simple food. It is here that all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit in the same pangat (literally "row" or "line") to share and enjoy the food together.
In social context, it has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the pangat. The institution of Langar had thus demolished the long established caste barriers and gender prejudices of the time, High caste Brahmins would eat from the hands of low caste Sudar and vice-versa (Before the establishment of Langar, a Brahmin would not eat in the presence of a low caste person and was thought a bad omen if a low caste person was to enter a room where the high caste Brahmin was eating). Langar also teaches the etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings; providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.

Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. One can participate right from donating required ingredients to preparing them for cooking to serving to cleaning up. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. Those who serve the food eat last. Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar. Depending upon the gurudwara and meals it serves each day. 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 done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (Sewadars).

The Langar is run by sevadars 'volunteers doing selfless service’ Sikhs and others who wish to help. It is a community kitchen and anybody can help in its running.4. Serving these many people day after day is no easy task, but the clockwork efficiency of the sewadars (workers) makes the task simple. Usually, 90% of the working staff is made up of volunteers who, along with the 300 permanent sewadars, ensure the food is cooked and delivered on time. Some people volunteer for a few hours, some for a day, while others volunteer for days on end!
This function of Sewa results in a community feeling in peoples' minds as they drop their mask of ego. The feeling of "I" or "me" is forgotten as they perform this valuable service to humanity.
Rules concerning the tradition of Langar
The Langar must be:

1. simple vegetarian meals Meals in the langar are vegetarian, and are simple, nourishing and nutritious. They usually consist of rotis(bread), rice, daal (lentils), a vegetable dish, and kheer(dessert).
2. prepared by devotees who recite Gurbani while preparing the langar
3. served after performing Ardas
4. food distributed in Pangat without any prejudice or discrimination
5. all food must be fresh, clean and hygienically prepared


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Find out more about Cultural Connection Week and view other people’s posts about their cultures here.

10 replies

Userlevel 2
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Namrate, this is a nice post. Doing something together for someone with a good will always bring peace and warmth in our heart. I was in India in my childhood. I have visited Delhi, Kalkata, Agra, JayramBati, Kamarpukur, Malda, Brindaban, Nabadwip. But I wasn't in your region. In future I would like to visit Langar. It will be heartwarming experience.
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Debashish, you visited Delhi. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and many more are situated there. If you get a chance, do visit.
@Namrata Tejwani ,this is so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You really get the sense of community and what this means through the photos. Seeing everyone sitting together and sharing food was such a powerful image.
How many Langars are there?
Where do they get the funds to purchase the food?
Thank you again for posting this.
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Thank you @Namrata Tejwani. I was a child back then. I didn't know so much that time. In future I will definitely go there.
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@Judith, yes, a sense of community is very strong. The whole process is managed by volunteers.
Expenses are met purely by voluntary donations and by offerings made at Gurudwara. In the Sikh community, one-tenth of earnings is meant for donations in kind or cash. I remember as a child offering food grains on a regular basis whenever my family visited gurudwara. Even till today anytime I visit gurudwara, I offer cash against receipt or when we want to start eating new seasonal fruit each year, like mango, muskmelon, first I offer it at some local gurudwara, to be enjoyed by visitors in the langar, only next day onwards the fruit is consumed at home.

Preparation to eating, serving cleaning is taken care of by volunteers themselves, playing different roles at different stages. As a child, I used to enjoy rolling bread.

The langar is served twice a day thru out the year without fail in most gurudwara for hundreds of years.
Many gurudwaras have been extending this service outside premises in case of natural disasters as well.
A few have come forward to help patient's relatives who visit new city for treatment and have neither money nor place to live during prolonged treatment.

The best part is that this practice is part of the Sikh community all across the globe, be it USA or Canada or Australia or the UK.
@Namrata Tejwani , thank you for all the details about this incredible service. It is so wonderful to see so many kind, caring people volunteer their time to making this possible. I was impressed to see the photo of the young children who were making bread. It’s so important for children to learn the importance of helping and giving to others. Like you, when they grow up, hopefully they will continue to support this most important organization.
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Thanks for sharing the wonderful info. I've got to know many things from your post! Let me share one of my Gurudwara visit experience.
I visited Bidar Gurudwara. Guru Nanak Jhira is a famous pilgrim centre for Sikhs from across the world. I heard that around five lakh devotees visit the place every year with the numbers growing over the decades.!
I personally felt that its a good place to visit in Bidar. Visit post 7 pm to avoid crowd and experience the serenity of the place. But they close the entry to water pool post evening.

Aside this i also love Narsimha Jhira Cave Temple in Bidar. Awesome place to go, especially for the one who likes to walk in the caves and water. you need to walk in water inside the cave to have darshan of God Narasimha, peaceful place.
PS: This is how we go for darshan in water. Some people might get scared by looking inside the cave, however proper light arrangements are there.

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@Kalyan , I visited Bidar a long time ago, I think in year1995. But I missed the water cave darshan, there was some local unrest going on at that time, so we hushed up our trip. My most recent visit was to Golden Temple at Amritsar, where I visited gurudwara at 2:30 am aa well and while returning back to my hotel room at 5 am I was pleasantly surprised to see breakfast langar going on. I mean, volunteers must have been busy whole night. It was followed by a hot cup of tea on a winter morning. The dedication to serving others was amazing. For most volunteers I talked to, it was a way of life.
Userlevel 7
The best part is that this practice is part of the Sikh community all across the globe, be it USA or Canada or Australia or the UK.
@Namrata Tejwani, I echo the others here who have expressed appreciation for your post. The practice of Langar as you describe it is so heartwarming. Thank you for taking the time to share this special Sikh tradition with us. And yes! The fact that Langar is practiced in Sikh communities around the world is pretty cool. This really shows that the value of "sameness of all human beings" is so strong!
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@Namrata Tejwani This is a beautiful and very inspiring tradition Namrata! Thank you very much for sharing. It is so nice to see children participating and learning about equality. 🙂

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