As a symbol of Equality and a move towards innovative charity programs for people belonging to all castes, creed, color, status, religion and social status, a Free Food Seva was started by the First Guru of Sikhs – Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This particularly means of serving Free Food in Gurudwaras to teach everyone a virtue of sitting and eating with the community besides providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary to all. This is mainly to initiate the idea of “The Light of God is in all Hearts”. “Langar” means “Free Food for All”. The place where it is cooked in Gurudwaras is referred to as “Communal Kitchen”.
The program of Free Vegetarian Food – “Satvik Meal” initiated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, was systematized by the Second Guru – Guru Angad Singh Ji, who took this movement to all Sikh Temple premises by establishing a communal kitchen for all. He was the one who sets some rules and training methods for all the volunteers (Sevadaars) who operates the kitchen. Then the movement was formally established by the Third Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji, who necessitates that anyone who wished to have an audience with him needs to first sit with the community and have langar. It is believed that even the Mughal King Akbar had to sit among the ordinary people and share langar in order to have an audience with the Guru.
As a Contemporary practice, Langars are held in Gurudwaras of all over the world, some of which also attract the homeless population of that area. But our Sikh Volunteers serve to all without any discrimination, along with other devotees present there. This broadly indicates the idea of a selfless-service for others in the Sadhsangat (community), the gurdwara, and the world outside. The raw materials for these communal kitchens are also arranged by the devotees or volunteers in the form of donation of cash or kind. Arguably referred to as the World Headquarter for Sikhism, Golden Temple has the World’s Biggest Communal Kitchen that operates 24×7 and serves about 100,000 people a day. From serving dal to vegetables, roti to rice and a thick South Asian rice pudding called Kheer, the place has a big cadre of volunteers working behind this cause. During our Golden Temple Walking tour, we take our guests inside this Communal Kitchen where they can actually witness the Suchi Sewa – “Pious Practice” by hundreds of volunteers.
Upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings, the institute of Guru Ka Langar has served our community in many ways. It has not only involved men and young boys but has also ensured the active participation of women and children as well in this task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the Sangat sitting in a row. The service also ensures that our future generation should remain familiar with our culture and tradition and should be bonded well with our dignified past besides stepping into the modernized future.
Besides the Langars in Gurudwaras, we get to see the practice at several Hindu Temple across the world now. Also improvised on the same lines, we get to see many open-air Langars at the time of festivals and Gurupurabs on the streets of the city, where volunteers feed needy without any discrimination. Such a community, with a perspective towards this noble cause, always seek from Almighty the favor of “Loh Langar Tapde Rahe” – (May the iron pots of Langar be ever warm in service of mankind).