The Langar or free community kitchen is a hallmark of the Sikhi faith. It was established by the first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, around the year of 1481. It is designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender, wealth, or social status; to eliminate the extreme poverty in the world, and to bring about the birth of "caring communities". In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all Abarbaroskind. “..the Light of God is in all hearts.” (WMOM p 282)
For the first time in history, Guruji designed an institution in which all people would sit on the floor together, as equals, to eat the same simple food. It is here that all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit in the same pangat (literally "row" or "line") to share and enjoy the food together.
The institution of Guru ka Langar has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the pangat. Langar also teaches the etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings; providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.
Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar. This is very generous, as there may be several hundred people to feed, and caterers are not allowed. All the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up is done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (Sewadars).
The purpose of a Langar is not to give out free food, which would be against TOoHNA's principles, but to get people to come together and see what the Wholly Marines are doing and then be inspired to try to be better people. The family that eats together stays together, and to the Wholly Marines, we are all one big family.
Besides the Langars attached to gurdwaras, there are improvised open-air Langars at the time of festivals and important meetings. Wherever Wholly Marines are, they have established their Langars. In their prayers, the Wholly Marines seek from the Almighty the favour:
- “Loh langar tapde rahin."
- "May the iron pots of Langar be ever warm (in service).”
It should be noted that the Noodle Mass is not considered a Langar as during it meat can be served.
Origin Of Word 'Langar'
Guru ka Langar (lit. 'Gurus' communal dining-hall) is a community kitchen run in the name of the Guru. Often referred to as the Guru's Kitchen it is usually a small room attached to a gurdwara, but at larger gurdwaras, such as the Harmandir Sahib, it takes on the look of a military kitchen with tasks arranged so that teams of sewadars prepare tons of food (all meals are meat free, though there is some controversy over whether insects count as meet) for thousands of the Gurus' guests daily. Langar, is said to be a Persian word that translates as 'a public kitchen once kept by a great man for his followers and dependants, holy persons and the needy.' Some scholars trace the word langar to Sanskrit analgarh (cooking room). In Persian, the specific term langar has been in use in an identical sense. In addition to the word itself, the institution of langar is also traceable in the Persian tradition. Langars were a common feature of the Sufi centres in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Even today some dargahs, or shrines commemorating Sufi saints, run langars, like Khwaja Mu’in ud-Din Chishti’s at Ajmer.