By Parvitar Singh | OPINION |
The concept of langgar, also translated as the concept of free kitchen, was founded by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Baba Nanak) around 1500 where anyone regardless of background can have access to a warm, hearty vegetarian meal.
The humble beginnings of langgar started with Guru Nanak feeding hungry holy men who hadn’t eaten for days as well as providing them with clothes all as a mark of service.
The concept of langgar isn’t just the act of providing free food to those in need, but it elaborates the deeper values of equality, humility, selflessness and mercy. The concept of langgar has since grown with its continuation carried out by the 9 Gurus that followed, as well as beyond where langgar can be found in any Gurdwara around the globe. Open to all, without prejudice or judgement.
Over the years we have seen langgar evolve. From its availability in Gurdwaras to further outreach done by various organisations and institutions to provide food, as well as aid to those who are disadvantaged, disabled, disaster or war stricken. No matter how difficult the terrain or the volatility of the region, Sikhs saw it to be there and render assistance to those in need.
LANGAR BECOMING A SIKH IDENTITY
The wings of langgar have reached so far out, that anyone who spots a Sikh or a Sikh institution can very confidently know that should they be in trouble or difficulty, they can always count on Sikhs to come to their aid.
This is due to the neutrality Sikhs have always showcased which stems from religious values of recognising humanity as one brotherhood. More importantly, walking on the values of Guru Nanak Dev Ji where he describes God as “Nirbhau” and “Nirvair” – translating as without fear and without hate, respectively.
It is imperative that when it comes to service towards humanity, Sikhs remain impartial while rendering aid and do so without discrimination. They should also take note to not entangle themselves in political leanings or agendas, which could risk biasness and alter the unprejudiced image of selfless service or as we call it sewa.
In recent crisis like Covid-19, we have seen and still do see various Sikh organisations and Gurdwaras cooking up meals, providing clothes, resources as well as financial aid to anyone who needs it. These are one of the many examples of Sikhs rising up to the occasion when crisis hits.
CONTINUING, SUSTAINING & RELEVANCE
With langgar being a formidable ground for Sikhs to reach out to the masses within their local settings as well as globally, community effort is important to allow both the continuing and sustaining of langgar efforts as well as aid in other forms.
Community support is crucial to ensure that there is constant financial and volunteer support, as well as the grooming of the next generation of innovative, trustworthy and compassionate individuals and leaders to broaden the outreach to diversify the sort of aid the community can render.
The Sikh community should also remain rooted to the primary mode of service – langgar. As this has given the community its branding over the last 600 years and keeps us grounded to always remember to stick to fundamentals of service towards humanity.
Alongside, it will be good for us to continue to look into other aspects of sewa needed on a communal, societal, national and even a global level as there are many talented individuals from diverse backgrounds who can provide their expertise. This will keep the Sikh community relevant and up to date in its efforts, as well as empower a whole new pool of individuals to step up and do their part in serving.
The Sikh community, by and large, has come a very long way in always rising to the occasion whenever needed. However, it will be good for various organisations to collaborate so as to deconflict and prevent overlapping of efforts so as not to overstretch resources. It will also be good for them to work together to increase efficiency and efficacy in community efforts.
Sikhi is, and will always remain, a relevant faith. Our scriptures and teachings amplify how we can live in a constantly evolving world and yet remain rooted, relevant and of service to people. Let us always stick to basics, take guidance from our scriptures and continue to serve humanity with true faith and kindness.
Khalsa Dharmak Sabha provides take-away langgar (Asia Samachar, 28 March 2020)
A Sikh tradition helps feed the hungry in Los Angeles, no strings attached (Asia Samachar, 23 June 2020)
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