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The free Kitchen open to people of every religion: Guru ka langar

No one is turned away

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People in Gurdwara having Langar, Wikimedia commons
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By Pashchiema Bhatia

Guru Ka Langar is a tradition where people sit on the ground, at the same level (exception for people with disabilities and elderly), regardless of religion, caste, beliefs etc. and have food served to them by volunteers. The concept of langar was initiated by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji based on his dictum of earning bread by honest means and sharing it with others and donating one-tenth of one’s income for a noble cause. Any time a Gurdwara (or, Gurudwara) is open; everyone is welcomed to have a hot meal. It has ensured the participation of women and children to volunteer and render service to mankind. Preparations of the meal are done by women and children help in serving the food.

In the most revered Gurdwara, The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab , India , at least 50,000 devotees or tourists are served daily in the community kitchen and the number becomes almost double on special occasions. Even the Mughal King Akbar sat among common people and shared langar.

Women preparing roti for langar, Wikimedia commons
Women preparing roti for langar, Wikimedia commons

Bhai Desa Singh in his Rehitnama says, “A Sikh who is ‘well to do’ must look to the needs of his poor neighbours. Whenever he meets a traveler or a pilgrim from a foreign country, he must serve him devotedly”. It is believed that when you are having Guru ka langar, you experience Chadti kalan (the feeling of being lifted up) and Sarbhat da bhala (the loving intent of desiring the best for all people). Before serving the food, a prayer (Ardas) is recited and a sacred knife (Kirpan) is passed through for blessings.

The food prepared in the Guru ka langar is mostly vegetarian (except nihangs sometimes serve meat referred as Mahaprashad on Hola Mohalla). The reason of serving vegetarian food might be to welcome people from every religion as Hindus don’t eat beef and Muslims didn’t eat non-halal meat therefore opening langar to both the main religious groups of India. As the congregations are mostly of Indian origin therefore the food served is based on Indian cuisine. This tradition of offering food to everyone and the practice of Seva (selfless service to others) is highly valued in Sikhism. The Seva of serving Guru ka langar has become associated with the identity of Sikhs and is popular in every part of the Globe wherever there is Gurdwara and major Sikh diaspora. At the 2004 World Parliament of Religions conference in Barcelona, Spain, Sikhs made a huge impression by serving Guru ka Langar to all the participants. It was a reflective exhibition of the assets of diversity, humility and loving service to all.

People are supposed to take off their shoes and cover their heads while sharing langar. Everyone is welcome to Gurdwaras eradicating the distinction between the rich and the poor and also curbing egoism as everyone sits together and eats the same food.

Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    something like this should be done in temples too! If you notice, there are no beggars outside gurudwaras but temples, this can be one reason

  • Simranjeet Singh

    It really feels great to see people from different religion, race, region, sitting together and enjoying food in Gurudwaras. And, the way they prepare food in these Mega Kitchens is really fascinating. I captured such a video of Gurudwara Nada Sahib. See in a short video how they prepared Langar on the Eve of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Birthday.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMIeUrJlaMo

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    something like this should be done in temples too! If you notice, there are no beggars outside gurudwaras but temples, this can be one reason

  • Simranjeet Singh

    It really feels great to see people from different religion, race, region, sitting together and enjoying food in Gurudwaras. And, the way they prepare food in these Mega Kitchens is really fascinating. I captured such a video of Gurudwara Nada Sahib. See in a short video how they prepared Langar on the Eve of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Birthday.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMIeUrJlaMo

Next Story

20 Indians Killed In A Terrorist Attack In Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) condemned the attack

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Afghan firefighters clean up the site of a deadly suicide bombing near Kabul University, in Kabul, March 21, 2018.
Afghan firefighters clean up the site of a deadly suicide bombing near Kabul University, in Kabul, March 21, 2018. VOA

A suicide bomber targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus, two Afghan minority communities, in Jalalabad city, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, on Sunday, killing nearly 20 people.

“They brutalized us. They have martyred 15 and wounded 15 other Sikhs. We are not aligned with any group or party. Why would anyone attack us? We never harmed anyone,” Tarlok Singh, a member of the Sikh religious minority, told VOA.

However, an Afghan health official told VOA the death toll was higher, with 19 people killed — at least 17 from the Sikh and Hindu communities — and at least 20 others injured.

The Sikhs and Hindus were reportedly on their way to attend a gathering led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the provincial governor’s office when a suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosive device.

Islamic State through its media wing, Amaq, took responsibility for the attack in Jalalabad city, however, the militant group claimed to have targeted a “medical compound.”

It is believed to be one of the first times a suicide bomber has targeted members of the Sikh minority group in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, it is the first time that our Sikhs become the victim of suicide bombing. The leaders of the group and their active community members were all killed or injured today,” Zabihullah Zimaray, a former provincial secretary general of Nangarhar province, told VOA.

Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader in the Sikh community, was among those killed in today’s suicide attack, an Afghan official told VOA.

Khalsa was an unopposed candidate running for the only seat for Afghan Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan’s parliamentary election in October.

Place where the attack took place
Map, Place where the attack took place. VOA

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) condemned the attack and called the attack on minority groups “… an obvious example of a war crime,” and asked the Afghan government to bring those responsible to justice.

“The Afghan armed oppositions must respect the international humanitarian laws and human rights values and refrain from targeting specific groups or individuals,” IHRC spokesperson Mohammad Bilal Sidiqi told VOA.

Discrimination

The Afghan Sikh and Hindu populations totaled about 220,000 in the 1980s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahedeen were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country, according to an investigation conducted by TOLO news, Afghanistan’s most viewed private television station.

Discrimination is one the many reasons Sikh and Hindu minorities are fleeing Afghanistan, Anar Kali Hunaryar, an Afghan Sikh senator, told VOA in a previous interview.

“Discrimination has caused our children not to attend the mainstream schools and that is why most of our kids in Afghanistan remained illiterate and could not actively participate in their communities,” Hunaryar said during the interview.

Afghanistan is a predominantly Muslim country, but the constitution spells out equal rights to the followers of other faiths.

“The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rituals,” reads Article Two in Chapter One of the constitution.

However, Rawinder Singh, a member of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Union, who spoke to VOA previously on the topic, named “social discrimination” as the No. 1 problem religious minorities face in the country.

The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of the Sikh faith, and India is home to the world’s largest Sikh population.

“Our fellow Afghans call us Indian and we are being told to go back to India. We are Afghans just like any other resident of this country. Yes, we follow the same religion as Indians, but it’s not rational to say that we do not belong to Afghanistan,” Singh told VOA.

Sikh and Hindu minorities mostly dwell in the south and eastern Afghanistan, and their numbers continue to fall.

Also read: Twin Bomb Attacks in Afghanistan’s Kabul Kills 25 , IS Takes Responsibility

“We were being treated ill and discriminated in the past, but today they badly brutalized us,” Tarlok Singh said, referring to the suicide bomber attack. (VOA)