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Concept Of Langar In Sikhi

Discussion in 'New to Sikhism' started by Harkiran Kaur, Sep 11, 2016.

  1. Harkiran Kaur

    Harkiran Kaur Canada
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    One thing Sikhs are known for around the world, is langar. Anyone, regardless of caste, colour, creed, religion, gender, rich/poor, even religion, are welcomed to partake in sharing a meal as equals.

    The institution of the langar, or free kitchen, is believed to have been started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th-century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. "...the Light of God is in all hearts." - Wikipedia (Sikhism)

    Sikhs also put high importance in the concept of seva - or selfless service to others - and this is a practical way to do that.

    langar.png

    For the first time in history, Guruji designed an institution in which 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. The meals are always vegetarian, so that anyone can eat it (for example some might have restrictions on meat cooked certain ways, etc. so this way it remains truly open to anyone... whether they follow Sikhi or not!)

    The institution of Guru ka Langar has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of everyone: men, women, and even children in a task of service for mankind.

    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. At many Gurdwaras you will see men and women sitting separately, though this is not necessary, and is actually discouraged given the meaning behind langar is equality and togetherness.

    Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. (but varies depending on the size of the Gurdwara and whether they are open every day. Some Gurdwaras exist in small communities, and so only are open on one day a week, usually Sundays in the West)

    Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar. 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 (called Sewadars). - Sikhiwikki

    The largest scale example of langar, is in Amritsar India at Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) where up to 80,000-100,000 meals are served DAILY! That takes a LOT of volunteers to help prepare the ingredients (anything from peeling and cutting onions, to peeling potatoes etc, cook the food in huge vats, hand out the food trays and utensil and cups, to serve the food in shifts (roughly every 20 mins the entire langar hall fills up with a new group of prople to feed!), and that's a LOT of dishes to do! And keep in mind ALL of the food ingredients are purchased entirely from donations!! That its possible to keep up that pace day after day, is an amazing feat! And if you ever get the chance to experience it, don't pass up on the opportunity! There is also chai (tea) served several times a day there as well in a separate area!

    If you are new to Sikhi, be sure to stay for langar when you first visit your local Gurdwara. Its the best way to become acquainted with Sikhs who can teach you a lot about Sikhi, and make new friends and connections!

    Here is a video to give you an idea of langar at Harmandir Sahib:
     
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  3. notanotherloginplease

    notanotherloginplease India
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    nice post Harkiran Kaur Ji, But I disagree with below
    Meals are always vegetarian because they are simply nutritious and does not involve any killing, showing compassion for all living beings.

    If our Gurus were this much considerate they could have banned used of potatoes etc. due to Jain brothers/sisters among us, could have also allowed to establish idols in gurudwara so that it remain truly open to anyone whether they follow Sikhi or not! It shows that our gurus does not support non-vegetarianism.
     
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  4. sukhsingh

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    I think you misunderstand the concept.. @Harkiran Kaur and you are correct in that serving vegetarian food was to be hospitable and welcoming but also compassionate.. Food in a gurdwara is traditionally 'vaishno' which is congruent with Jain dietary habits..And foods considered as stimulants/ sedatives are avoided.. I'm not sure if potatoes fall into either category but garlic for instance is not used langar for that reason

    However sikhi has always been about balance and principles.. It rejects idolatry but is not iconoclastic..
     
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    Harkiran Kaur

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    Actually meat eating is not against Sikhi. Guru Nanak Dev Ji said that who is to say what is meat and what is green vegetables, and what leads to sin? The fools argue over flesh but know nothing of spirituality. (Paraphrased)

    If langar was a demonstration of compassion then Sikhs would be disallowed meat. (And pls don’t get into sects as I know some sects disallow it). But Gurbani and Sikh Rehet Maryada do not. And if compassion was the reason then milk and milk products would also be disallowed in Langar. We all know a cow lactates only because she recently gave birth. That baby is taken away almost right away and sold to the veal industry. Even in old times, the baby males especially were not useful. They invariably ended up as meat so consuming dairy at langar but turning a blind eye to the suffering of baby calves and their distraught Mothers, is hypocrisy... which Guru Nanak warned us about.

    The main concept of langar is to put everyone on the same level as equals and break bread together. That would be impossible if say a Muslim was at langar but the meat were not Halal. Or a Jewish person etc. Meat eaters can all eat vegetables however.

     
  6. Balbir27

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    Ek Oankar (never forget this)

    Harkiran Kaur has presented her topic well but the type of food question has inevitably crept into the discussions. Perhaps I may add a view of the same subject from another angle. Apologies for repeating some things.

    Meaning of langar

    Langar, commonly, refers to food which is served by a Sikh Gurudawara at its location or, exceptionally, elsewhere (e.g. disasters).

    The contents of a langar can vary from a simple meal (roti and dal), to Khichdhi (typically served where facilities are limited e.g. Hemkund Sahib) and to more elaborate offerings. Water, tea, curds and sweet dishes are also provided. Some places in the US even provide Pizzas.

    Small portions of the prepared food are placed in dishes and an ardas is done followed by pulling a steel kirpan through each dish to complete the blessing. The food then may be mixed back with it’s origins.

    The langar food should not be wasted and one should only take what one needs, and no more.

    Historical facts

    Guru Nanak’s “Sacha Sauda” story is well known. In essence when his father gave him some money to go to town and buy goods for the purpose of setting up a profitable business, Guru Nanak spent all the money to feed and clothe a group of hungry and naked holy men that he came across in a forest. Although his father was pretty cross when he learnt how Guru Nanak had spent all the money, Guru Nanak himself felt that he had conducted “true” business, i.e. “Sacha Sauda”.

    The 2nd Guru’s wife, Mata Khivi, carried on with this concept. She organised and provided food for the many people who gathered at the Guru’s court, many of whom would have had to travel long distances.

    Gur Amar Das (the 3rd Guru), was the 62 year old man who served Guru Angad by daily fetching water for bathing from the Beas River, 5 Km away, just after midnight, whatever the weather. As the 3rd Guru, he formalised the tradition whereby all comers to the Guru’s Dera would be provided free food. However high or low one may be in society, all were welcome and all had to sit together to receive the food. Thus the Guru’s Kitchen was established. Guru Amar Das also established the “Pehle Langar phir Sangat” rule (first have Langar then have an audience). Even Emperor Akbar, who came to visit him, was first required to have Langar (seated on the floor with common men) before he could have an audience with the Guru.

    What is served in Langar?

    Guru Amar Das himself had coarse lentils with boiled rice whilst the Sangat was provided with a much better choice, variety and flavour. The Guru also introduced “Karah Parshad” in the Langar.

    The Langar food is not made to cater for the likes or dislikes of certain sects. No one is forced to partake of langar if they personally object to potatoes, spices, garlic etc. Everyone is welcome and one eats what is provided, for it is blessed in the Guru’s House. The eating or not eating of certain foods does not make one better spiritually (refer to Guru Nanak's Bani). It is simply nourishment. Of course some have intolerances to wheat or have other medical conditions whereby certain foods are contraindicated. It is for that person to make a personal choice. There is no Gurudawara that I know of that will provide, say a gluten free langar or make a langar to order. Some Gurudawaras are providing tea without sugar but with the option of adding sugar to one's liking in recognition of the increasing incidence of Diabetes among Asian people.

    Whilst traditionally, Langar food has been vegetarian, there are some Gurudawaras or sects today who serve meat at certain festivals. Whilst this practice remains a point of controversy, it is nevertheless existent. It is recorded that the Nihangs and Hazuri Sikhs follow the tradition of slaughtering a goat (traditionally) by the “Jhatka” method (One blow by a sword to severe the head to cause the least distress and pain to the animal). Although not directly related to the menu for a Langar, it would be incomplete not to include what the SGPC of Amritsar sets out in its Rehat Maryada -that a Sikh may not eat meat prepared in the Muslim “Kutha” manner (i.e. a small cut to a vein in the neck and then leaving the animal to slowly bleed to death in pain and distress). So “Jhatka” meat is acceptable in general but controversial for the purpose of Langar.

    Note: Guru Nanak himself has referred to the subject of meat in numerous places in the SGGS, but let us leave that area for another time and place, for the discussion issue here is confined only to Langar.

    Sat Sri Akal
     
  7. notanotherloginplease

    notanotherloginplease India
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    One misinterpreted shabad cannot stand for the whole philosophy of Gurus. I dont want to go there to explain this shabad and present some other shabads which are not in favour of killing for food.

    --Langar is a demonstration for equality and compassion.
    --Gurbani and sikh rehat maryada? Well gurbani at many places state that its not good for a sikh to indulge into killing for food. Sikh rehat maryada, ha ha.. it was made by few people(politicians) to stop future generations from using their own mind, So I do not believe in it,so do many other sikhs.
    -- As far as milk is concerned , The calf is not taken away , they are given a share of the milk and then something else to eat. In the past ,They were not sold but Utilized in fields, commercialization have ruined it. Calves were not sold for meat, they were kept as part of family, kids played with them, adults used them in fields.
    You said that " They invariably ended up as meat so consuming dairy at langar but turning a blind eye to the suffering of baby calves and their distraught Mothers, is hypocrisy... which Guru Nanak warned us about." I agree with you here, so we should also take a stand against that cruelity too.. Kirpaan is not worn by sikhs to save their own wives but all the helpless which include young calves too and pigs and chickens.


    I agree with the main concept of equality. But do you think our Gurus even cared for Halal or Jhatka? Whatever is right , they said it right, whatever is wrong they said it wrong. So if they approed vegetarianism at langar and disprove non vegetarianism why are we making false excuses that they did it for muslims or jewish or anyone else. This is hypocrisy.

    Please dont be offended by my straight responses Harkiran Ji. I am not a very literate person but I cannot agree on something which does not satisfy my intellect.
     
  8. OP
    Harkiran Kaur

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    Actually I am sure I know the other gurbani tuks you are speaking about... perhaps the one stating those who consume wine and fish will go to hell (again paraphrased). Many take it to mean meat is not allowed but it’s actually a deep metaphor speaking against overindulgence and meaningless ritual. It’s not saying not to eat meat.

    For example many thing jewelry is not allowed at all because in several passages it says ‘let naam be your jewelry’ but one can easily see the metaphor in it (and that it is not saying jewelry is disallowed) when you see similar passages saying let naam be your clothing (should we go naked?) or let naam be your sustenance (should we not eat at all?) no it’s onviously using metaphor.

    Same in the case of meat. Nowhere does it say that eating meat is bad. On the contrary that shabad I paraphrased above pretty much says outright that Guru Nanak Dev Ji was not concerned about whether someone eats meat or not, but rather saying that because they are more spiritual or better than others because they are vegetarian is wrong. Spirituality has nothing to do with being veg or non veg. The hipocrisy he spoke of in that shabad is one proudly exclaiming they are vegetarian (and thus trying to impress to others how spiritual they are) by knowing noting about spirituality.

    The Sikh Rehet Maryada was formed referring to SGGSJ, and all the historical rehetnamas and collaboration by many Sikhs over literally years. If you don’t believe in SRM then you don’t believe in Khalsa?? I take it you are not Amritdhari then because if you won’t follow the RM given to you through Panj Pyaras you can’t be Khalsa.

    No offence taken. But I do not share your views.

     
  9. Original

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    Good morning All

    May I, in passing make few general comments on the subject of 'eating meat'.

    Indians, [Indus Valley Civilisation] on the whole were non meat eaters. They were and still are to a rather sizeable population , vegetarians. It was around the 13th century when northern India, succumbing to Muslem rule, attracted the idea of eating meat. Ideologically speaking, eating meat goes against Indian ideals, that is, everything n everyone has a soul [atma] and Atma is part of Parmatma [god] therefore, it's wrong to kill for consumption. This argument is supported today, in that, non human animals have neurological substrates that partially generate consciousness, meaning, animals are conscious beings.

    However, the idea Sikhs eating meat came into the arena around Gur Hargobind Rai's time, before that it was unheard of. Guru Nanak's literature condemned the so called "authorities" [brahmans] of the day who "butchered" and ate meat on the one hand and on the other, went on to preach how glorious was god's creation. This exposure of hypocrisy and bigotry of the ruling few was frowned upon by the commoner Indian, hence the reason Nanak singled them out. And it were these commoner Indians that gave birth to the modern Sikh.

    After the martyrdom of his father, Gur Hargobind instituted the concept "Miri Piri" and Sikh thought n practice took a turn, notwithstanding, traditionally held wider belief systems. This meant some went on to hunt and eat meat. So yes, Harkiran Kaur is right in pointing out the necessary evil [killing for consumption] with which the Khalsa, without choice had to eat anything and everything in order to survive during guerrilla warfare. Otherwise, eating meat is paradoxically inapplicable within Spiritual Sikhi.

    Much obliged and a good day !
     
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    #8 Original, Nov 9, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
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