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What has Become of The Langar?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Archived_Member16, Sep 10, 2009.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    Jan 7, 2005
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    When Guru Nanak started the tradition of Langar upon his return to Kartarpur; it was meant to be its literal meaning: ‘The Anchor’ to bind the community together under the principles of Vand Chakna . A simple diet of produce and water which would not only satiate the basic dietary need of the visitors, but of the needy, the servers and the Guru alike in their physical, mental and spiritual quest. Guru Ka Langar since then embarked on its journey enriched by the sweetness of Mata Khivi, the dedication of Bhai Manjh, the humility of Emperor Akbar, and the revival of the true spirit of the principle of Langar by Bhai Nand Lal Ji.

    Whatever the transformation, the basic principles remained the same. Langar was kept simple. It was there for everyone to partake. Needy people knew where to go to satisfy their hunger if they could not provide for their family, and the community was bound together.

    Unfortunately, today in the Diaspora, Langar is losing its meaning. It has lost most of its original characteristics. Let us see how.

    1. Langar today is anything but the simple nutritious food it was intended to be.
    2. It is not reaching the truly needy and homeless.
    3. It has become a burden and in some cases a competition.
    4. The spirit of gratefulness and appreciation with which it is received is somewhat gone.

    Simple and Langar are antonyms today. Loaded with ghee and oils, deep fried items, dairy, sugars, spices, refined white flour and artificial colors, our Langar today is complicated and refined Indian cuisine. You feel like you are eating fancy Indian Restaurant food only on the floor and in Styrofoam plates. You are virtually unable to move after you stuff yourself with Langar on Sunday afternoons. Was that Guru Nanak’s intention for Langar?

    And by the way, what happened to feeding the needy and homeless? Do they even know that something like Langar exists? Granted, often in North America Gurdwaras are not located in areas surrounded by people having to beg for food. However, even the leftover food is usually distributed among the Sangat instead of being carried to shelters or low-income areas.

    In the past Langar was prepared from the collaborative dasvandh and by the sangat pooling in physical seva together complete with humility and dedication. Today in many western Gurdwaras, it has become the responsibility of individual families as they take turns providing the seva. In the quest to show off their skills and resources, Langar has become so elaborate that some people are scared to take the responsibility for fear of not being able to meet expectations. This, in turn, means that a limited number of families keep getting assigned to the sewa. The pleasure and gratitude of doing seva for the Sangat then becomes a burden every time they have to take their turn.

    Another complication is that we produce so much non-biodegradable trash during Sunday Langars from the North American Gurdwaras that I am certain it contributes to the pollution of our environment, to Nature, and to the Cosmic Physical Entity.

    Gurbani says, “Pavan Guru Pani Pita Mata Dhart Mahat” – "Air is the Guru, Water the Father, Earth is the great mother." Yet, we go out of our way to prepare fancy dishes that are costly both in time and money when we could put that time and money towards buying and washing reusable steel plates.

    The spirit of thankfulness in which the Langar is received today is gone. If it is anything less than a lavish party meal done to culinary perfection, you can hear comments being whispered. On the flip side, unnecessary encouragement of elaborate and lavish food deters families who want to keep it simple. Instead they are forced to be flexible and keep up with the trend.

    If we transform the Langar back to a simple daal, whole grain roti and a side of slightly cooked vegetables or a salad, we can easily satisfy our stomachs. We save time, money and effort, which we can spend on spreading the mission of Langar and other useful programs. Besides, we ensure that we are providing only nutritious food to our body, mind and spirit in accordance with the Guru’s Hukam:

    "Unni Duniya toRe bandhana ann pani thoRa khaya": "They burn away the bonds of the world, who eat a simple diet of grain and water" (SGGS – Ang 467)

    It is a simple task to incorporate ‘serving the needy’ element back into Langar. Most Churches have a marquee where they display a Sunday message. We could advertise something to the effect of “Free Nutritious Food For All – Sunday 1-2 PM”. A volunteer could be assigned to receive the visitors, explain Sikhi and make sure they are served. What a way to serve the hungry and reach out to the community at the same time! In addition we could advertise in other venues like homeless shelters, local food banks, offices and universities campuses (you can find a lot of hungry; short of money and, eager to learn students).

    Also, by doing this we will alleviate the evils of competition and the problems that arise at times when Langar becomes a burden. If the Langar was going to be just the three items of daal, roti and vegetables, it would be so much easier that more people would be willing to sponsor it.

    Fortunately, in spite of the shortcomings, to a great extent Langar today is still the anchor that holds the community together; which gives us the chance and hope to revive it completely in its true meaning as Bhai Nadlal Ji did.

    For readers who are not familiar with the context; during Guru Gobind Singh’s time Langar did take a ritualistic flavor. They were offered only after a whole sequence of ceremonies, i.e. Patth and Ardas. It also was opened only at meal times when all the dishes were ready. Bhai Sahib felt that the spirit of Langar needed revival. So he opened Langar at his house where, irrespective of the time of day, whatever food was ready was rationed to any who came. Guru Ji visited Bhai Sahib’s Langar and was pleased with the true spirit.

    And now it is time for us to revive the true spirit and practice of this wonderful tradition.

    Men, discuss Langar with your families, including its simplicity, impact upon the environmental, and nutritional value as well as the need to provide it in a spirit of dedication to the Sangat and the needy alike.

    Ladies, stop that competition and let go of the desire for praise of your culinary skills. Add a piece of fruit if you feel the need for sweets at the end of Langar. Don’t worry; with the plenty of beans, lentils, legumes available in the market your daal will not be boring. With the array of vegetables, herbs and fruits your sabzi or salad can be simple, highly nutritious yet, colorful with nature’s beauty and taste. With whole grain flour available at all grocery stores around the continent; you can make the goodness and wholesomeness of the traditional Langar parshade felt once more.

    Gurdwara Management Leaders, talk to the Sangat to make Langar simple. Mandate it. Start a project to fund raise for those reusable steel utensils and build large sinks. Encourage youth to take on the dish cleaning sewa. And, make sure to get those biodegradable dishwashing soaps to protect the water and earth.

    Youngsters, stop pressuring your parents to cater Pizza and donuts for Langar. It is neither nutritious nor prepared with seva bhavna (serving devotion); nor are the devotional traditions in preparations observed, i.e. heads covered; simran done.

    Let us take whatever steps we as individuals can take on this road to transformation.

    Let us make the Gurdwaras once again a model that anchors the community, revives our physical, mental and spiritual bodies, and caters to the needy with eco-friendly, nutritious, simple meals.
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  3. harbansj24

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    Feb 19, 2007
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    It appears that the situation in North America is better than in India. From what has been posted, atleast the families cook the Langar themselves.

    Here in India Labour being cheap, it is convenient to outsource making of Langar. Even in Darbar Sahib, one sees paid labour being employed for langar which was unheard of just a few years back.

    However in all Historic Gurudwaras, the needy are allowed to take Langar but in Singh Sabha Gurdwaras, they are just driven away because the Sangat does not feel comfortable sitting with them!
    • Like Like x 3
  4. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jul 4, 2004
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    SINGH SABHA GURDWARAS..driving away sangats..not feeling comfortable with the greeb and needy ??
    IMHO..its the SANT BABA DERAS..and those Gurdwars that their CHELAS/trained Granthis etc. etc.that do all this driving away, even BEATING them on their heads as can be seen in manu Utube Videos uploaded on the Internet. Its the Various BABAS that discriminate among jatts and shudras..chase the poor mazhbis away to other doors..pour langgar into theri plates from afar as if they are Lepers...
    ALL this SUCH-BHITT thingy from Brahminism has crept into Guru Ka Langgar..the AKJ Jathas even chase away other GURSIKHS..thye wont take karrah parshad or langgar not prepared by their Jatha members I had a visit recently from their Jatha..they told me dont bother with any chah pannee because we dont drink from non jatha people..not even Gursikhs like you who are amrtidahree and have sggs parkash at home !!
    IT was the SINGH SABHA that BEGAN out of this discrimiantion in 1920..the AKAL TAKHAT PUJAREES had REFUSED to accept ardass/parshaad from Gyani Ditt Singh a Mazhbi sikh..thus began the Biggest Movement that swept out all Mahnats, sants, babas, etc from the Historic Gurdwaras and this Movement is called SINGH SABHA...UNFORTUNATELY ALL these MISCREANTS have crept back into Gurdwarass, taken control and now discrimiante among SIKHS...in Malaysia/singapore/thailand/indonesia/australia /newzealand Gurdwars NO SUCH discrimination takles place and Most Gurdwars are SINGH SABHAS following the SGPC SRM. Several Nanaksari and other SANT deras also have gurdwaras..there they do practise all this rubbish. IMHO..its the DERA SANCHALAKS who dotn feel comfortbale..not the "sangats"...:whisling:
    • Like Like x 4
  5. seeker3k

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    May 24, 2008
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    Langer has become what we wanted it to be. I am sorry to say this. If we wanted the langar to be what Guru started then we would have done some thing about it. But chose not do any thing that prove we want it this way. It is insult to call it a “langar” I call it a party. And it is bribery to god to fix our problems. Those problems we have created by our self.

    Langar was started by Guru to feed the hungry jatrus. In those days there were no hotels or any where they can stay. It was to help those can not afford. It also meant to eliminate the class system. Every sat on floor because there were no chairs then. Every one sat on floor to eat or to do work. It looks good in theory but it did not put into precise. It could not be done. The thousand year old system just could not be finished just by eating together on the floor. It is understood that sitting on floor every one will become equal. It is not sitting on floor can make every one equal it the thought. If sitting on same lever can make every one equal then if every one is sitting on chairs then it should be same thing too. But that is not accepted. Why? How do we change the thought of public? Many societies have tried but failed. Communism is the one.

    Sikh likes to believe that they have succeeded. Who ever believe this is living in dreamland.

    I am 65 year old Jatt from Punjab now live in Canada. I have seen with my own eyes how jatt in villages treated lower class people. It is shame full. How many jatt people go and look for the bride or groom for their kid from the lower class? When ever boy or girl from jatt’s want to marry lower class the parents will not let them or they will the girl. Till now I have not seen any couple of inter-cast living happily. I am using the word lower class to write don’t mean that I believe in the class system it is just a figure of speech.

    I have my friends here in Canada, who in talking says that the mistry and chamar are police head and get good jobs and the jatts can not get good job. When I say why you usuing word as misti or chamar? Are you not promoting the class system? Most of them admit that they don’t like these people they are taking jobs from jatts.

    The biggest talk is that the lower class people have the kota system in school. These lower class people get the admission in medical school yet the jatts cant get in. Although lower class person don’t have to have passing mark. I would like to know more about this if any one care to send me the info.

    We have abused the lower class people for thousand years. Now we can not stand if the lower cast people getting higher jobs where we jatts will be working under them.

    As for the Langar. In Usa and Canada it use to be sangat sit on chairs to eat langar. Some of the fundamentalist changed it that every one should sit on floor. Because guru’s time every one sat on floor. If every one is sitting on chairs then all are equal, or not.

    In India millions of people don’t have full meal as it is provided in USA,Canada in gurdwaras. The langar should be just ob\ne dal and roti.nothing more. In western countries no one is that poor that they need food in gurudwara. In fact the langar should be elimated. The parsad is enough.Most people live close to gurudwaras they can eat at their home. The service should be cut down in time. So the people can be in gurdwara for shorter time.Learn from other religions.

    Gurus message was to make life simple not to make it complicated. What is healthy food person can read the book called new diet for America. In that the write clearly state that best diest is dal and whole wheat roti. But do your own research to and be in touch of your own body. Your body will tell you what is good for it and what is not good.

    There are people who can not eat wheat or drink milk and some nuts. Giving riti to them may not be good for them.
    • Like Like x 5
  6. faujasingh

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    Aug 18, 2009
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    Thanks for this wonderful post, I have time and again been appealing not only to our Gurudwaras but to all those people who run free food in temples. Feed us who r urban is less important. My dream is of forming a kirtani jatha which can travel atleast twice a month, go to those areas where there is need to do more seva, do kirtan for them and then have langar with them. There are a number of issues which can be addressed by us and even issues like addiction can be taken care of.

    Maybe Waheguru Sacche Paadshaah is trying and testing my patience and interest and how long i am able to pursue this idea with repeated failures.
  7. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    1947-2014 (Archived)
    SPNer Supporter

    Jun 17, 2004
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    I am thanking seeker3k ji with only one reservation. Why should gurdwara service be shortened? In the US many gurdwaras have a service from early morning to mid evening one of the seven days (usually Sunday) because this way people who must work can still attend at least an hour or two.

    And a well managed gurdwara will have something meaningful going on all during that time. There are also people (I am one of them) that like to go for 3 or 4 hours because so much is happening that is meaningful. Some gurdwaras are open 24/7 in the US and langar is prepared every day. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. It means there is always a sangat.

    The problem after reading the entire thread is more about what is happening "inside" the service and "inside heads and hearts."

    After reading the thread it almost seems worth it to create some kind of online survey to see how widespread such problems are region by region.
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  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Apr 4, 2005
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    It is not like that lower caste people don't have to get passing marks but cut off marks for them is very low.both at central and state level large numbers of jobs are reserved for
    low caste people.In many cases government keeps the post vacant for them as they are unable to find qualified lower caste person.The biggest flaw of this quota system is that
    many times hard working persons from general category are unable to get into the college or get a government job because they are not lower caste person while many lower caste people which are from wealthy families are able to get it simply because they are lower caste people even if they are less qualified than a general category person.So this system of reservation is creating more rift between communities
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