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Guru Ka Langar (Purpose/Ideal and Concept) by Hardit Singh

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Guru Ka Langar (Purpose/Ideal and Concept) by Hardit Singh

Postby admin » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:57 am

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Guru ka Langgar - purpose

The following is a good article by Brig Hardit Singh

LANGAR - IT'S IDEAL AND CONCEPT

Brig. (retd.) Hardit Singh

Langar is a Persian word, meaning a heavy iron or steel piece
specially made to keep the vessels in one place, particularly when
they approach the seashore. It's origin may be traced back to
theSanskrit word 'lag' which mens to come near. In the European
languages it is called anchor.Langar is the holdfast of boats in
water, whereas in dietetics it is the succour of the needy, the infirm
and the poor.

The institution of langar was initiated by Guru Nanak after the
completion of his four missionary tours at Kartarpur, now in Pakistan.
It's need was felt to cater for visitors and devotees who came to meet
the Guru. The kitchen came to be known as Guru-ka-langar. Rations came
from the lands which Guru Nanak himself tilled with the help of his
devotees and from nearby villages.

Guru Nanak's dictum of earning one's bread by honest means and sharing
it with others and offering one-tenth of one's income ("daswand") for
noble causes laid the foundation of the langar concept. He had further
said that a devotee should consider his body, mind and wealth as God's
trust and bounty, and as such,should have no qualms to share it with
others. Giving away ill gotten wealth for charity is of no value or
consequence. That is why Malik Bhago's food was rejected by Guru
Nanak, and he preferred to stay and dine with the poor and
lowly Bhai Lalo. Sajan, a thug, was also reprimanded for the same
reason and asked to run a langar for the travellers and the poor.

After Guru Nanak's demise, the main langar shifted to Khadur Sahib
along with Guru Angad Dev. The Guru's wife Mata Khivi, a very pious
nad noble soul, took special interest in the management, preparation
and serving of food, particularly sweet dishes laced with ghee and
milk. Mata Khivi considered the holy congregation (sangat) as her
children and fed them well.

During the time of Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, everyone was to sit
in line ("pangat") without any distinction of caste or creed, high or
low, to partake of the food, and, no one could meet the Guru without
first taking his meal in the langar. This system was introduced to
instil equality and brotherhood. Emperor Akbar had to follow the same
routine, before he could meet the Guru. He was so impressed to see the
langar management that he offered land and revenue of twelve villages,
which the Guru refused, saying that the langar should be run by
the honest earnings of the people.

When Guru Amar Das founded 22 dioceses equivalent to 22 provinces of
the Mughal empire, their heads were instructed to run langar and to
collect daswand for the public common cause.

Guru-ka-langar moved to Amritsar along with Guru Ram Das and continued
there till Guru Hargobind shifted to Kiratpur Sahib. It was enlarged
to cater to the needs of the developing town and faith. During Guru
Arjan Dev's time, the running of the langar somewhat suffered due to
opposition of Baba Prithi Chand, who was a rival claimant to the
Guruship. The situation was soon retrievd with
the efforts of Baba Budha and Bhai Gurdas. During the holy regime of
Guru Arjan Dev, two important incidents occured:

(i) Bhai Manjh, who was attracted to Sikhism from a Muslim sect,
engaged himself into serving the Guru's langar by fetching fuel wood
from the nearby jungle. Once, due to inclement weather, he fell into a
well whilst carrying wood on his head. On hearing this, the Guru
rushed to the well with necessary equipment. When the ropes were
lowered, Bhai Manjh requested the Guru to draw out the fuel wood
first, as he considered dry wood more essential than himself.
It was done, and when Bhai Manjh was drawn out, the Guru embraced him
in his wet clothes. "Manjh is the Guru's beloved. Whosoever keeps his
company shall be redeemed."

(ii) An unknown Sikh deeply involved in meditation used to come out
from his quarter once a day for his meal from the langar. The Guru
heard of it and advised him that his meditation will not fructify so
long as he eats free from the langar. He, thereupon, started bringing
one bundle of wood for the kitchen. The Guru again advised him that
since he ate his food in return for the wages of his service, his
credit was nullified. The Sikh then brought two bundles, one
for the kitchen and the other he sold to buy provision for his food.
The Guru was pleased with it, and said that a devotee should not crave
for the langar's food, which is essentially meant for the needy. Only
those who earn their living and share it with others, can reap the
benefit of their prayers.

Of Guru Hargobind's time two incidents are worth mentioning:

(i) Bhai Gharia was sent to Kashmir to establish a dioceses and for
collection of daswand from the local Sikhs. He collected a few
thousand rupees, but utilised it to alleviate distress of the poor
during a famine. On his return to Amritsar the Guru appreciated his
action.

(ii) A Sikh, who was carrying honey for the Guru refused to part with
it when asked by a hungry person. The Guru did not accept the honey,
questioning the Sikh as to why it was not given to the person when he
needed it most. The Sikh was puzzled. The Guru then explained that a
"poor man's mouth is the Guru's coffer." The name of the poor but
enlightened soul was Bhai Kutoo.

During Guru Gobind Singh's time at Anandpur Sahib, many Sikhs started
langars in their own houses in addition to the Guru's langar. Once
Guru Gobind Singh, in the garb of a poor Sikh, visited these private
langars to see their service. Wherever he went, food was not served
under such pleas as food not being ready, or it was not meal time, or
all the diners had not arrived, or that the prayers had not been said.
At Bhai Nand Lal's house, however, the Guru was courteously
received and the food was offered in its preparational stage, i.e.,
kneaded flour ("atta"), half boiled dal with a humble request that if
the guest could wait a little longer, a proper meal would be served.
At this, the Guru removed his garb and blessed Bhai Nand Lal for
maintaining true sanctity and spirit of langar.

Langar was also called "deg" by Guru Gobind Singh. He had ordained
that both "deg" and "teg" (sword for the protection of righteousness)
are the two sides of the same coin and, as such, are equally
important. During the Sikh confederacy ("misl") period 1716-1799 CE,
and even in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's time, "Deg Teg Fateh"- victory to
langar and sword became their national slogan. Even in the
hardest time when the Sikhs lived in jungles under privation and
persecution, it is on record that the Sikhs welcomed their enemies for
meals and escorted them out safely during active hostilities.

Recently, a very senior non-Sikh officer of Himachal Pradesh stated
his desire to improve the road from Rajghat to Baru Sahib Gurdwara
from a sense of gratitude to a Sikh, whom he had met in his childhood.
He said he belongs to a remote village in Kangra district. About 45
years ago, his elder sister had to appear for matriculation
examination at Mandi. Since there was no mode of transportation
available in those days, they went on foot and reached Rawalsar,
about twenty-five kilometers short of Mandi late at night. They were
tired and hungry and looked for shelter. They knocked at the door of
the local Shiv Mandir and next at the Buddhist Temple, but no one
cared for them. On hearing that there was also a small Gurdwara in the
vicinity, they went there almost near midnight and knocked at the
granthi's house. The granthi received them with open arms, gave them
hot water for wash, fed them with a hot meal and provided beds
for the night's rest. He did not allow them to go the next morning
without a meal and cooked food for them for the rest of the day, and a
request to stay in the gurdwara on their return journey as well.

The officer stated that as a child from a remote village, he had no
idea about the Sikh religion. The meeting with the granthi at Rawalsar
was his first encounter with a Sikh, and at the treatment he received
made on his impressionable mind a lasting imprint that Sikhism is a
human caring and altruistic faith that embraces all humanity and is an
un-failing succour of the needy and the neglected. That impression
motivated him 45 years later to do all he could to improve the road to
Baru Sahib Gurdwara, which also runs a langar for visitors, travellers
and the destitute. There cannot be a better example
than this incident to demonstrate the ideal and concept of the Guru's
langar.

The institution of langar in Sikhism includes free boarding, lodging
and, where possible, first aid as well. It's main purpose is to
provide succour to the unprivileged section of humanity, irrespective
of caste, creed or colour distinction. It's main theme and features are:

(i) Distribution of food is the highest meritorious action. It
embraces the dictum sarbat-da-bhalla, or well being of the entire
humanity.

(ii) Implementation of Guru's commandment of earning's one bread by
honest means and sharing it with others.

(iii) Inculcation of community service to curtain egoism, which is the
main barrier for good human relationship and God-realization.

(iv) Eradication of distinction between the poor and the rich, high
and low, and religious prejudices, when everyone eats the same food,
squatting in one line.

Sikhs consider the Guru's langar as sacred and its food a sacrament.
Community service in the langar and contribution towards the running
is considered virtuous and of spiritual value. He does not crave or
keep an eye on the langar's food for his sustenance, but it is taken
as a prasad in thankfulness of the Guru's grace. According to Bhai
Gurdas, the apostle of Sikhism, craving for langar food by other than
the needy, is like consuming poisoned sugar.




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