Humanity Hallows Issue 6 Out Now
Pick up your copy on campus or read online
By Simran Sahiba Kaur Takhi
Tragedy paves the way for human kindness and this has been evidenced in the wake of the recent Manchester attack. After the bomb at Manchester Arena, Mancunians offered accommodation to those affected, local taxi drivers provided free lifts and blood donations had to be turned down for the injured because supply began to soar past demand. In true social media fashion, the selflessness of Mancunians, in helping those affected by the attack, was heavily showcased by tweets and retweets.
One tweet, through highlighting how temples in the area were offering food and accommodation to all, brought to attention the Sikh concept of Guru Ka Langar. This post aims to expand on the practice of Langar and its importance as a humanitarian principle.
Guru Ka Langar refers to a kitchen and dining area within the Gurdwara (Sikh temple of worship) where the congregation can be served a free vegetarian meal, often consisting of lentils, vegetables and chappatis. Every Gurdwara will have this communal kitchen and dining area where anyone, regardless of their religion, colour or creed, is welcome to eat and sit alongside others.
The harmonious practice of being served free food and sitting alongside others, is inextricably tied in with the principles of Sikhism. Founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak created the concept of the three pillars which act as duties for every Sikh to fulfill. The pillars consist of naam japna (recitation of God’s name and therefore, a form of worship), kirat karo (to work hard) and vand chakko (to share resources with others who are less fortunate).
Of course, every Gurdwara’s principle of preparing and serving food on a mass scale requires a community of volunteers. To serve a congregation is where the duties of kirt karo and vand chakko intertwine. Sikh volunteers work to provide food for anyone who needs it because, on their part, this is fulfilling two of their religious duties.
“Bread and water belong to the Lord and the desire to serve is the pleasure of Sikhs”
What makes the concept of Langar so special is that one can be completely oblivious to its historical underpinnings but can still benefit from partaking in it. Anyone is welcome to eat a free meal in a safe environment. There are no chairs or tables within the Langar hall but, rather, individuals are required to sit on the floor alongside others. This serves as symbolic gesture where everyone is on the same level rather than being physically (and therefore metaphorically) elevated above anyone else by the use of chairs and tables.
Langar therefore represents a harmonious activity where those in need of food and shelter, as well as worshippers, are encouraged to benefit from the humanitarian principles so embedded in Langar.
For Sikhs to volunteer as cooks or servers, this demonstrates the fulfillment of religious duties. There are no confines in relation to who is welcome to Langar. It is an institution that embodies principles of acceptance, equality and solidarity.