Sardari, sabar & shukar in Sikhi – A story

“Strange people! They prepare the food and offer it to anyone and everyone, including enemies!"

By Dya Singh | OPINION |

Sabar and Shukar collectively means very simply – gratitude for one’s lot, and Sardari – to be a King!

I heard this story in Punjabi from a speaker in a gurdwara in Punjab. I was so impressed by its import that I was attempting to tell the gist of it to my grandchildren in English. My daughters asked me to write it down in English for those who might not get the full gist of it. These are the instances when I wish all Sikh youngsters knew at least simple basic passable Punjabi! I myself am to blame. Like most diaspora Sikh parents for this ‘kemi’ (deficiency), now in our younger generations especially overseas from India, though thankfully, noble attempts are being made to remedy this in many quarters globally.

Unfortunately, there are young Sikh parents, also mainly overseas-born, who feel that there is no need for Punjabi because it is not a language useful for ‘economic’ reasons. Some things just cannot be translated with their full import, especially into English. But we shall keep trying to encourage Punjabi and also attempting to translate to English as much as possible. There is a saying – ‘If you want to destroy a race, strangle their language’. We are doing that ourselves! We should keep Punjabi alive. It is our collective responsibility.

This story is set in the mid-18th century in the north-east of the vast Indian subcontinent – today’s Punjab up to Delhi and covering Pakistan, Baluchistan and Afghanistan. It is that period when Sikhs virtually lived on horseback – just after the passing on of Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1708) up to the Khalsa Raj of Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1799)

Ehmedh Shah Abdali, the marauder from the north-east, Afghanistan, arrives in Lahore on his way back. He was on his way back after one of his marauding and looting trips into north-east India and after many skirmishes with the elusive Sikhs who kept relieving him of his loot and slaves.

All of modern-day Pakistan and north India was under Muslim rule in this period. He asks a question of his host the Subedar (Administrator) of Lahore: Who are these warriors who keep robbing me? After all he did not consider himself a thief! The Subedar answers – these are SIKHS.

“Who is their leader?” He asks. “I beat the Marathas in Panipat just once and they have never been able to raise their heads again. But who are these Sikhs and who is their leader? Whenever I return after gathering bounty and slaves up to Delhi, they attack me with ferocity. Sometimes I hear Charhat Singh. Sometimes Baghel Singh. Sometimes Karam Singh. Sometimes Jassa Singh. And others. Some of them or others of the same mob relieve me of a great amount of my bounty!”

The Subedar answers: “Shahenshah khud hi ko bhaakhat. Kaan na kahoo kiye raakhat. They are not afraid of any earthly king and yet, all of them are Kings. There is no lesser one amongst them. Each of them takes on the responsibility of a leader in battle, because all of them consider themselves kings.”

“Where do they stay?” asks Abdali.

“In the jungles. Virtually on horseback. Ever ready.”

“Who is their Guru?”

The Subedar answers: “Their Guru? I can only tell you this. Murshidh inka velibheyo hai. Inko aape hayaat diyo hai. Their Guru has given them such an ‘amrit’, that we are tired of trying to eliminate them, but they are undefeatable They cannot be wiped out.”

“What do they eat?” he asks again.

Subedar: I do not know what they eat, but I can tell you how they eat. They prepare food called ‘langgar’ wherever they rest for a couple of days because they are mostly on the move. Then they sound the war drum and announce loudly, “Bhookha dait avaza koyi. Ao degh tyar Gur hoyi.” (We wish to announce that Guru Ka Langgar is ready and if anyone is hungry, come and eat!)

Ehmadh Shah Abdali was bemused. “Strange people! They prepare the food and offer it to anyone and everyone, including enemies! They are fugitives on the run, yet when they have food they announce that to everyone to come and eat!”

“Yes,” says the Subedar, “and even enemies are welcome!”

“And what if the enemy comes?” Abdali asks.

“Yes, they sometimes do,” says Subedar.

“What if the enemy is hungry and actually takes them up on their offer and eats all their food, leaving them nothing?” asks Abdali jokingly.

The answer, as written in the Sikh historical ‘Panth Parkash’ is symbolic of the character of a true Sikh. “They then eat whatever, if anything, is left over, or do not eat at all as it is all eaten already, yet they do an Ardaas thanking Waheguru that at least their enemy has eaten.”

“Bache to dana aap khale hain, neheen to langgar mast fateh hain”.

Not only in peacetime but also in war, a Sikh will ‘vand ke shako’ – share the food with others, even enemies. This is the ‘sabar and shukar’ – gratitude of one’s lot, that Sikh practices.

Hence, the eternal legend of ‘langgar’ of the Sikhs globally today.

Malaysian-born Dya Singh, who now resides in Australia, is an accomplished musician and a roving Sikh preacher. The Dya Singh World Music Group performs full-scale concerts on ‘music for the soul’ based on North Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music with hymns from mainly the Sikh, Hindu and Sufi ‘faiths’. He is also the author of SIKH-ING: Success and Happiness. He can be contacted at

* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.



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