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The Institution of Langar Free Community Kitchen In recent times a big divide has emerged within the Sikh

h community over the practice of langar. The whole issue over how langar should be served has now evolved into a full fledge war of opinions, and in some instances the opinions have erupted into actual physical violence. The Gurdwaras are now divided into Gurdwaras of fundamentals or moderates. The practice of langar was put into place to remove this entire social divide amongst people. One must ask the question as to why all the difference in opinions have come to be. The tradition of langar is not something new so why are some of these questions even coming up? It seems some of our so called leaders are manipulating the religion and its practices to suit theyre own personal likings. The institution of Langar in Sikhism is commonly known as Guru-Ka-Langar which means langar of the Guru, langar in the name of the Guru or langar attached a to Gurdwara. Langar is a Persian word meaning: 'an alms house', 'an asylum for the poor and the destitute', 'a public kitchen kept by a great man for his followers and dependents, the holy men and the needy.' Guru-Ka-Langar conveys more the last meaning then other meanings as it was 'run by the Guru' and is being 'run in the name of the Guru'. The word langar has also been traced by scholars found referenced in Sanskrit analgrh, meaning 'the cooking place'. Guru-ka-langar is an ancient Aryan institution which was revived by the Sikh Gurus and was used by the Gurus as powerful lever for equalitarian uplift of the people, by demolishing caste barriers economic apartheid, and ethnicity discrimination. The Sikh practice of Guru Ka Langar was strengthened by Guru Amar Das Ji, the third Sikh Guru. Even Emperor Akbar, is said to have sat equally on the floor among the common people and had to take langar before he could meet Guru Amar Das Ji. Langar or Free Community Kitchen was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar also aimed to express the ethics of sharing and oneness of all humankind which is unique to the Sikh faith. The Sikh Gurdwaras are the only place where langar is served 24hrs a day. The Sikh Gurdwaras are not only places of worship but also a training centre of service. Services as sweeping the premises, serving drinking water to the thirsty and serving food to the hungry have always formed an integral part of the functions in a Sikh shrine. Of these, langar is perhaps the most important. A Sikh Gurdwara without a Free Community Kitchen is inconceivable and the largest langar is at the Sri Darbar Sahib, (Golden Temple) Amritsar, the centre for divinity and spirituality for the Sikhs. The Sikh langar is an area within or attached to every Gurdwara. In its very inception, a protest against the inequities of the caste system Guru Nanak had started a crusade against the tyrannies of the high born over the people of humble origin. The Guru's langar was an institution which was applied in this holy campaign. A step which was a very practical approach to root out the evil that was eating into the very vitals of the Indian people, the free kitchen became an establishment of equality and fraternity, among the followers of the Guru. Through studying the ideals of Sikhism, one would be simply impressed by a really unique feature: the secularization of service. This ideal is most vividly practiced in the Guru's free kitchen, which is open to all. Those who practice

other faiths are as freely allowed to partake and help in the running of the kitchen as followers of the Sikh faith themselves. No distinction is made between man and woman, between the Sikhs and the non-Sikhs, between the high caste and the low caste, in the seating or serving of food in the Guru's kitchen. 'Men of God, wherever they are, of whatever race or creed, belong to one community, the community of man, free from the chains of birth, creed and race.' The Sikh Gurus taught their followers to regard everyone as their own brother. We are members of one family. All the Gurus showed in actual life how this percept of the 'Brotherhood of Man' was to be lived out. The free kitchen demonstrates exactly the same love and active sympathy for the downtrodden the fallen, and teaches us to share our earnings with the needy and the poor these are just some of the factors of a true religion. The free kitchen is an institution where these noble ideals can be practiced. In a langar a mingling of all classes is provided and in dining together realization of the truth 'all food is gift of God and that prejudices about it are entirely invalid' Langar, in short, helps in teaching service, spreading equality, removing untouched ability and such other evils and prejudices from the social and racial distinctions. The institution of langar is as old as Sikhism. It was started by Guru Nanak and carried on by his successors. Guru Nanak declared that every Sikh-house should be Sach-Dharmsal (a place of open hearted charity, truth and devotion). In the words of Bhai Gurdas, 'Wherever the holy feet of Guru Nanak touched, Dharamsals were erected', which were at once the houses of charity as well as devotion. In a way the kitchen in every Sikh's house is a Guru-kalangar, as he is enjoined to share his food with others. It was no utopian thought due to the ideals of modern socialism or the so called democracy of labor, the Guru instilled the democracy of soul, so gloriously in the temple of the human heart. The practice of Guru-Ka-Langar revived by Guru Nanak brings people and the Guru together as one home and one family. The question the common person has to ask is are we going to let a handful of corrupt leaders pollute the magnificent religion? Until the common man does not unite and come together the Sikh religion will be divided into even more fractions and eventually the true meaning of Sikhism will be lost, and we will be left with a question within us Are we really a true Sikh? Written By: Parvinder Singh Sangha Aldergrove, BC