A [Simple] Langar

Challenges_Sikh_Studies_Academia_Ajeet_Courm4d156542.jpgThe concept of langar is probably one of the most unique aspects of the Sikh faith. For hundreds of years now, Sikhs have carried on this tradition which was first started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and later institutionalized by Guru Amar Das Ji. W.O. Cole, who studies Sikhi, states “, the unique concept of universality and the system of Langar (free community meal) in Sikhism are the two features that attract me towards the study of Sikhism. Langar is the exclusive feature of Sikhism and found nowhere else in the world.”

There are essentially two elements of langar. One is clear in its definition of free kitchen and the tradition of expressing the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. The second element is that langar should be simple. The cost of langar is covered by voluntary donations from the sangat and is made through the hands of seva.

Today, langar has transformed into (as some people joke) the dollar buffet. I dont find this joke to be amusing at all. Everytime I go into a gurdwara now, I am overloaded by the amount of food which is made (and often times wasted). Langar was meant to be simple probably so that we could feed the most amount of people in the most efficient manner. Everyone wants their langar to be the most complimented and delicious meal but too often we forget that is not the intention.

We want the sangat to participate in langar seva and we want them to be able to afford to do so. Lets not add the adverse health impact of food we serve in gurdwaras today to this equation. If our standard today is that langar should include lavish spreads at breakfast time and lunch time, I am not surprised why gurdwaras need to constantly ask the sangat to please do langar seva. Lets keep the costs down and encourage the making of simple langars and this way, all community members (not just middle and upper class Sikhs) have an opportunity to do this seva.

An interesting read on the Sociology of Langar can be found here.


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58 Responses to “A [Simple] Langar”

  1. Pritpal says:

    I'm surprised…this place is called Langar Hall, yet no one has commented on this article!

  2. Pritpal says:

    I'm surprised…this place is called Langar Hall, yet no one has commented on this article!

  3. iSingh says:

    Comment on the original article:

    Langar was a social concept and remains a social concept. It is an avenue for socialization – that a few folks replace langar with cooking meals at home seems perfectly fine with me as long as they are not a net economic drain. The net economic value of the community goes up as many involved in the langar preparation process are saving cooking time of others.

    I think the author wove multiple issues – obesity epidemic, unhealthy langar food, charitable services of gurudwaras but I think the most important takeaway is that there should be a movement to make langar healthy, starting with maybe krrah-prashaad ??

    Btw author should remember that langar remains one good meal of the week for many impoverishing students, immigrant workers. And maybe one of the few Sikh institutions that earns the respect of non-Sikhs.

  4. iSingh says:

    Comment on the original article:

    Langar was a social concept and remains a social concept. It is an avenue for socialization – that a few folks replace langar with cooking meals at home seems perfectly fine with me as long as they are not a net economic drain. The net economic value of the community goes up as many involved in the langar preparation process are saving cooking time of others.

    I think the author wove multiple issues – obesity epidemic, unhealthy langar food, charitable services of gurudwaras but I think the most important takeaway is that there should be a movement to make langar healthy, starting with maybe krrah-prashaad ??

    Btw author should remember that langar remains one good meal of the week for many impoverishing students, immigrant workers. And maybe one of the few Sikh institutions that earns the respect of non-Sikhs.

  5. Parnam Shaheeda Nu says:

    iSingh,

    Are you seriously going to call for a movement in making krrah-prashaad "healthy"? That's absurd – with all due respect. If you're extremely obese or have high blood sugar or cholesterol or perhaps a lethal combination of all three, I am prettttty certain that it wasn't that one handful of kraah which got you to that point – it's probably all of the terrible food you eat the other 6 days of the week. If you want your own batch of 'diet kraah' make it at home brother – leave the good old desi ghai da kraah for the rest of the sangat to enjoy and thank Waheguru for.

  6. Parnam Shaheeda Nu says:

    iSingh,

    Are you seriously going to call for a movement in making krrah-prashaad "healthy"? That's absurd – with all due respect. If you're extremely obese or have high blood sugar or cholesterol or perhaps a lethal combination of all three, I am prettttty certain that it wasn't that one handful of kraah which got you to that point – it's probably all of the terrible food you eat the other 6 days of the week. If you want your own batch of 'diet kraah' make it at home brother – leave the good old desi ghai da kraah for the rest of the sangat to enjoy and thank Waheguru for.

  7. iSingh says:

    @PSK
    Sure. When and if I "sponsor" a langar / ardas, will make sure that only a 'diet kraah' is distributed.

  8. iSingh says:

    @PSK
    Sure. When and if I "sponsor" a langar / ardas, will make sure that only a 'diet kraah' is distributed.

  9. Parnam Shaheeda Nu says:

    iSingh,

    Sounds good man. Be certain to use splenda, "i can't believe it's not butter," and PAM spray.

  10. Parnam Shaheeda Nu says:

    iSingh,

    Sounds good man. Be certain to use splenda, "i can't believe it's not butter," and PAM spray.

  11. I Singh says:

    I have looked long and hard and find no historical precedent or scriptural evidence that seems to support the view that langar should be "simple". To the contrary some secondary Sikh texts refer to a menu of langar as the "choicest and dainty panjabi fare" and in the Guru Granth Sahib a direct reference to Mata Khivi ji distributing "khir" which is rich and sweet.

    Nevertheless, there is a dire need to get back to the basics on the purpose of langar. It is not to feed the already fat and well fed (which most of diasporic Sikhs are today). It was originally for the traveler, the needy, and the one who needs a lesson in equality (eg. Akbar in the darbar of Guru Amardas ji). In addition the Sikh Rahit Maryada clearly states that the purpose of langar in the gurduaras is to provide a "practice ground" – to learn the import of the ideals of seva.

    If we go back to those basics then langar menu, although important, will not be such a big issue.

    P.S. – please don't confuse iSingh with me I Singh. surely we don't see eye to eye.

  12. I Singh says:

    I have looked long and hard and find no historical precedent or scriptural evidence that seems to support the view that langar should be "simple". To the contrary some secondary Sikh texts refer to a menu of langar as the "choicest and dainty panjabi fare" and in the Guru Granth Sahib a direct reference to Mata Khivi ji distributing "khir" which is rich and sweet.

    Nevertheless, there is a dire need to get back to the basics on the purpose of langar. It is not to feed the already fat and well fed (which most of diasporic Sikhs are today). It was originally for the traveler, the needy, and the one who needs a lesson in equality (eg. Akbar in the darbar of Guru Amardas ji). In addition the Sikh Rahit Maryada clearly states that the purpose of langar in the gurduaras is to provide a "practice ground" – to learn the import of the ideals of seva.

    If we go back to those basics then langar menu, although important, will not be such a big issue.

    P.S. – please don't confuse iSingh with me I Singh. surely we don't see eye to eye.

  13. Supinder Singh says:

    As part of a research project i read a paper by Roger Ballard and Marcus Banks ('Differentiation and Disjunction among the Sikhs'); I happened upon a useful detail; that the Sikhs incorporated a Muslim Sufi institution (the Langar – communal kitchen) into their religion.

    How many Sikhs know about this?

    Sufi's still have a form of Langar in their Mosques.

    Google “Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh langar” or “Data Darbar langar”

    Hazrat Data Ganj Bakshs shine is in Lahore and Sufis have visited it many a time to offer langar to the poor and needy. Langar is not strictly a sufi concept, as several offshoots of the Hanafi Islamic school follow sufi practices (but don’t necessary consider themselves sufis e.g. Barelvi). Langar is provided at functions at Barelvi mosques.

  14. Supinder Singh says:

    As part of a research project i read a paper by Roger Ballard and Marcus Banks ('Differentiation and Disjunction among the Sikhs'); I happened upon a useful detail; that the Sikhs incorporated a Muslim Sufi institution (the Langar – communal kitchen) into their religion.

    How many Sikhs know about this?

    Sufi's still have a form of Langar in their Mosques.

    Google “Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh langar” or “Data Darbar langar”

    Hazrat Data Ganj Bakshs shine is in Lahore and Sufis have visited it many a time to offer langar to the poor and needy. Langar is not strictly a sufi concept, as several offshoots of the Hanafi Islamic school follow sufi practices (but don’t necessary consider themselves sufis e.g. Barelvi). Langar is provided at functions at Barelvi mosques.

  15. iSingh says:

    @I Singh
    Thanks for clarifying that we are different for the benefit of millions of loyal fans lest they mix up accurate attribution of this path breaking debate.

    @PSN
    I didn't grow up on those commercials so didn't quite appreciate the finesse of your suggestion. Splenda – get it – not good for you either.

    @SS
    Believable. As per your research, will you classify Guru Nanak as a Sufi saint ?

  16. iSingh says:

    @I Singh
    Thanks for clarifying that we are different for the benefit of millions of loyal fans lest they mix up accurate attribution of this path breaking debate.

    @PSN
    I didn't grow up on those commercials so didn't quite appreciate the finesse of your suggestion. Splenda – get it – not good for you either.

    @SS
    Believable. As per your research, will you classify Guru Nanak as a Sufi saint ?

  17. balmeet says:

    rajinder – i like how you label your own cited source as mythology. do you believe what you write?

  18. balmeet says:

    rajinder – i like how you label your own cited source as mythology. do you believe what you write?

  19. Harpreet says:

    This place too couldn't remain free of the tress passing by Hindu Nationalists (Yes, a BIG HINDU NATIONALISTS!). If any Sikh site talks of bad done by Hindus, then its synonymous with Hindustani Nationalists, who leave no stone unturned to associate religion of other Indians when they have grudge against someone. I don't have time to involve in this 'slow-act' discussion but I'm writing here on seeing the cosmetically written statements by these above mentioned people, who have never ever been worth a salt to our community in any manner. Sikhs who are uninformed and don't have knowledge of their history, who are in majority of course, may come in your trap of cosmetically written sentences but not those who have genuinely realized that they are Sikh.

    Its not a hidden secret of how the major party in India is fighting for Hindu Rashtra. You don't have moral right to come and question Sikhs who are involved in discussion which are in abidance with law. Hopefully Sikhs will understand and learn on their own who is right and who did wrong. Period.

  20. Harpreet says:

    This place too couldn't remain free of the tress passing by Hindu Nationalists (Yes, a BIG HINDU NATIONALISTS!). If any Sikh site talks of bad done by Hindus, then its synonymous with Hindustani Nationalists, who leave no stone unturned to associate religion of other Indians when they have grudge against someone. I don't have time to involve in this 'slow-act' discussion but I'm writing here on seeing the cosmetically written statements by these above mentioned people, who have never ever been worth a salt to our community in any manner. Sikhs who are uninformed and don't have knowledge of their history, who are in majority of course, may come in your trap of cosmetically written sentences but not those who have genuinely realized that they are Sikh.

    Its not a hidden secret of how the major party in India is fighting for Hindu Rashtra. You don't have moral right to come and question Sikhs who are involved in discussion which are in abidance with law. Hopefully Sikhs will understand and learn on their own who is right and who did wrong. Period.

  21. Sher says:

    Harpreet, too much of ambiguity. What are you trying to say precisely? You sound too paranoid about some Hindu nationalists.
    Is this about 'gangu' being a figment of imagination of some fiction writers in mid to late 19th century? simple solution my friend, just give ONE evidence from any book written before cir. 1850 which mentions 'Gangu'.

    while you see it as a 'Hindu nationalist' conspiracy, i have too many reasons to believe that 'Gangu' theory is one weapon being used by separatist and divisive Tat Khalsa forces to denigrate Hindus and Hinduism. the same forces also specialise in distorting punjab/sikh history and in 'wholesale' concocted history too.

    As far as "bad done by Hindus" is concerned, that is indefensible provided you could establish beyond any reasonable doubt that such events did happen and also weigh such "bads" against atrocities committed by Bhindran & co against Hindus.

    Every Hindu has condemned the likes of Sajjan Kumar and Arjun Dass for the heinous acts they are believed to have done. condemned even though evidence is sketchy. How about Sikhs doing the same and condemning Bhindranwala and his thugs? And feel free my friend to list Hindu 'bads' against Sikhs. simple suggestion: PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

    Sher

  22. Sher says:

    Harpreet, too much of ambiguity. What are you trying to say precisely? You sound too paranoid about some Hindu nationalists.
    Is this about ‘gangu’ being a figment of imagination of some fiction writers in mid to late 19th century? simple solution my friend, just give ONE evidence from any book written before cir. 1850 which mentions ‘Gangu’.

    while you see it as a ‘Hindu nationalist’ conspiracy, i have too many reasons to believe that ‘Gangu’ theory is one weapon being used by separatist and divisive Tat Khalsa forces to denigrate Hindus and Hinduism. the same forces also specialise in distorting punjab/sikh history and in ‘wholesale’ concocted history too.

    As far as “bad done by Hindus” is concerned, that is indefensible provided you could establish beyond any reasonable doubt that such events did happen and also weigh such “bads” against atrocities committed by Bhindran & co against Hindus.

    Every Hindu has condemned the likes of Sajjan Kumar and Arjun Dass for the heinous acts they are believed to have done. condemned even though evidence is sketchy. How about Sikhs doing the same and condemning Bhindranwala and his thugs? And feel free my friend to list Hindu ‘bads’ against Sikhs. simple suggestion: PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

    Sher

  23. Supinder Singh says:

    The foundation of Guru Ka Langar had nothing to do with 'Tillas'…what bogus rot! The concept of Langar come for Persian Sufi influences, a cultural meme that was present in Punjab circa the late 12th century and early 13th century. The Sufis and Persians even still use the word Langar. Nothing at all to do with 'Tillas'.

    As for the Gurus never eating langar; rubbish…Guru Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahadur inaugurated the Sangats of locations all throughout Punjab by partaking in Guru Ka Langar. Read Sant Harnam Singh Ji Rampur Khere Wale biography 'Se Kinehyaa' for a treatise on Langar and the Gurus.

    More research needed by the poster who calls himself 'Rajinder SIngh Virk'. Perhaps who'd feel more comfortable posting at an anti-Sikh/Muslim message board?

  24. Supinder Singh says:

    The foundation of Guru Ka Langar had nothing to do with 'Tillas'…what bogus rot! The concept of Langar come for Persian Sufi influences, a cultural meme that was present in Punjab circa the late 12th century and early 13th century. The Sufis and Persians even still use the word Langar. Nothing at all to do with 'Tillas'.

    As for the Gurus never eating langar; rubbish…Guru Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahadur inaugurated the Sangats of locations all throughout Punjab by partaking in Guru Ka Langar. Read Sant Harnam Singh Ji Rampur Khere Wale biography 'Se Kinehyaa' for a treatise on Langar and the Gurus.

    More research needed by the poster who calls himself 'Rajinder SIngh Virk'. Perhaps who'd feel more comfortable posting at an anti-Sikh/Muslim message board?

  25. Sher says:

    Harpreet/Singh….
    The anti-everything Hindu tirade continues. If RS Virk has dared to express an opinion which does not conform with ultra tat khalsas like harpreet and Supinder, he is in deep trouble. simple Tat khalsa diktat "support our aggressive, divisive agenda otherwise we would snatch your 'sikhi' away'. no choices here. forget 'manas ki jaat aik pechanbo' forget all the egalitarian message Nanak and other Gurus preached. bhindranwala rocks!

    If you want to be counted among the inclusive, elite religion named Sikhism, just stick to "we have nothing to do with Hindus and their mumbo-jumbo' line.

    when anyone tries to challenge the premises of this hate Hindus and Hinduism campaign (Gangu, chandu, 1984 riots, pahari rajas, Hinduism references in Sikh scriptures, etc) that person is asking for swift retribution and heckles by 'holier than thou' Hate-filthy-Hindus campaigners.

    Any chances of civilised debate here? yes, TLH is one such forum which provides op to present the other side of the argument for which they have my gratitude.

    coming back to Supinders and Harpreet Singhs; PLEASE LET ME KNOW AT WHICH POINT GURUS DECLARED SIKHISM TO BE SEPARATE 'DHARAM'. Can you Gyanis please provide one evidence where the words 'Sikh' and 'Dharam' have been used together by the gurus?

    Any evidence that Gurus stopped following 'Hindu' way of life in birth, marriage (married within caste) or, even, death? They were born like any other khatri Hindus, lived a life of Khatri householder and were cremated like any other Khatri man. so at which point we should consider them to have shunned Hinduism?

    On the other hand, i can give you thousand instances where Gurus have expressed reverence for Hindu deities, heaps of evidence telling us that the Gurus visited ‘Hindu’ pilgrimage places.
    Lastly, even today, where do you think tat khalsa oriented Sikhism differs radically from the way of life we have come to know as HINDUISM?
    Do not go on with simplistic rhetoric of Hindu nationalist claiming the whole world as their own (what is wrong with this humanist approach anyway?)… every religion originated from them (who is making such stupid claim? Abrahmic religions have nothing to do with Indic ‘religion/s’ like Hinduism). Why such sweeping generalisations. Why do you think Sikhism is so weak, vulnerable that other ‘faiths’ like Hinduism can gobble it in say three weeks time?

    If you have some paranoia, go and take some help my friend instead of propagating your conspiracy theories here. If you have some specific issue to back your claims about the so-called Hindu nationalism, please share with us.

    Sher

  26. Harpreet Singh says:

    Sher (or Observer?): Perhaps you need to take a lesson of comprehension. Read what I have written and then speak in reference to that. Not about your Indian history class. If you see even a non-keshdhari, non-practising Sikh as you describe aove, then you need immediate attention to your obsessed mind and thoughts. Come over your fears. Period.

  27. Sher says:

    harpreet Singh,

    "Didn't you see how Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are subject to them in India – Whenever they want they can do anything with them knowing its their own law. As it is not a single person would be convicted for any of the charges."

    Please give specific examples to back your assertion.

    As far as I know even Hindu Chief Ministers (eg Modi) are not immune from the law of the land. few weeks back a Hindu MLA was jailed for his part in Orissa violence. A sadhvi and army colonel are facing the music for malegaon bomb blasts. a shankracharya (!) was arrested like a petty criminal for a murder in his matth. these are just a few examples of what i am trying to argue – LAW IS THE SAME FOR EVERY RELIGION.

    Show me one evidence where sikhs have followed even tiny problem in practicing their faith. i can give you dozens of instances where armed sikhs have interfered in functions being organised by 'other' faiths.

    Your turn sir.

    Sher

  28. Sher says:

    Harpreet/Singh….
    The anti-everything Hindu tirade continues. If RS Virk has dared to express an opinion which does not conform with ultra tat khalsas like harpreet and Supinder, he is in deep trouble. simple Tat khalsa diktat "support our aggressive, divisive agenda otherwise we would snatch your 'sikhi' away'. no choices here. forget 'manas ki jaat aik pechanbo' forget all the egalitarian message Nanak and other Gurus preached. bhindranwala rocks!

    If you want to be counted among the inclusive, elite religion named Sikhism, just stick to "we have nothing to do with Hindus and their mumbo-jumbo' line.

    when anyone tries to challenge the premises of this hate Hindus and Hinduism campaign (Gangu, chandu, 1984 riots, pahari rajas, Hinduism references in Sikh scriptures, etc) that person is asking for swift retribution and heckles by 'holier than thou' Hate-filthy-Hindus campaigners.

    Any chances of civilised debate here? yes, TLH is one such forum which provides op to present the other side of the argument for which they have my gratitude.

    coming back to Supinders and Harpreet Singhs; PLEASE LET ME KNOW AT WHICH POINT GURUS DECLARED SIKHISM TO BE SEPARATE 'DHARAM'. Can you Gyanis please provide one evidence where the words 'Sikh' and 'Dharam' have been used together by the gurus?

    Any evidence that Gurus stopped following 'Hindu' way of life in birth, marriage (married within caste) or, even, death? They were born like any other khatri Hindus, lived a life of Khatri householder and were cremated like any other Khatri man. so at which point we should consider them to have shunned Hinduism?

    On the other hand, i can give you thousand instances where Gurus have expressed reverence for Hindu deities, heaps of evidence telling us that the Gurus visited ‘Hindu’ pilgrimage places.
    Lastly, even today, where do you think tat khalsa oriented Sikhism differs radically from the way of life we have come to know as HINDUISM?
    Do not go on with simplistic rhetoric of Hindu nationalist claiming the whole world as their own (what is wrong with this humanist approach anyway?)… every religion originated from them (who is making such stupid claim? Abrahmic religions have nothing to do with Indic ‘religion/s’ like Hinduism). Why such sweeping generalisations. Why do you think Sikhism is so weak, vulnerable that other ‘faiths’ like Hinduism can gobble it in say three weeks time?

    If you have some paranoia, go and take some help my friend instead of propagating your conspiracy theories here. If you have some specific issue to back your claims about the so-called Hindu nationalism, please share with us.

    Sher

  29. Harpreet Singh says:

    Sher (or Observer?): Perhaps you need to take a lesson of comprehension. Read what I have written and then speak in reference to that. Not about your Indian history class. If you see even a non-keshdhari, non-practising Sikh as you describe aove, then you need immediate attention to your obsessed mind and thoughts. Come over your fears. Period.

  30. Sher says:

    harpreet Singh,

    "Didn't you see how Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are subject to them in India – Whenever they want they can do anything with them knowing its their own law. As it is not a single person would be convicted for any of the charges."

    Please give specific examples to back your assertion.

    As far as I know even Hindu Chief Ministers (eg Modi) are not immune from the law of the land. few weeks back a Hindu MLA was jailed for his part in Orissa violence. A sadhvi and army colonel are facing the music for malegaon bomb blasts. a shankracharya (!) was arrested like a petty criminal for a murder in his matth. these are just a few examples of what i am trying to argue – LAW IS THE SAME FOR EVERY RELIGION.

    Show me one evidence where sikhs have followed even tiny problem in practicing their faith. i can give you dozens of instances where armed sikhs have interfered in functions being organised by 'other' faiths.

    Your turn sir.

    Sher

  31. iSingh says:

    @Sher
    "i can give you dozens of instances where armed sikhs have interfered in functions being organised by 'other' faiths"
    Please go ahead. Thanks.

    @Harpreet
    "Gurus were meant to be care-taker and propagater of our religion"
    As mentioned in the post above, I am looking for evidence which says that Gurus established Sikhism as a religion – as in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc. Can you please cite?

  32. iSingh says:

    @Sher
    "i can give you dozens of instances where armed sikhs have interfered in functions being organised by 'other' faiths"
    Please go ahead. Thanks.

    @Harpreet
    "Gurus were meant to be care-taker and propagater of our religion"
    As mentioned in the post above, I am looking for evidence which says that Gurus established Sikhism as a religion – as in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc. Can you please cite?

  33. shamsher singh says:

    @harpreet
    Tat Khalsa & SGPC are stooges & puppets of British Colonial masters who enjoyed using us to fight on their behalf against our own brothers (Hindus) during 1857 mutiny; made punjab the food basket for England while they starved our farmers & nation to death; Tat Khalsa were mob with western ideas – many of them who lived in Uk also & were bribed by gorre masters – Macualiffe the irishman was their leader who rewrote Sikh history & Guru Granth Sahib ( Shri Adi Granth is a better name) where he put in what the Tat Khalsa wanted to write rather than what was initially written by our Gurus. Stop being a puppet of the Gorre Malesh & do some research on Sanatan Sikhi which is our great pride. This is all divisive for us. Ancient Hindu Sikh history has been distorted for the benefit of divide & rule of stinky gorre. Wake up brothers. Many myths have been edited & put in & added which are anti Brahmin/Hindu just to brainwash gullible people like you. Nothing of today's Sikh history makes any sense which is full of contradictions.
    Study deeper to find the flaws made by Macauliffe & his stooges.

  34. Kiana says:

    I have been really looking for something about this subject and your writing perfectly matches my current requirements. Will you please write more along these lines? Viewers are looking for this knowledge as well as the type of unbiased opinion that you bring to the table.