For any child who has grown up in India, irrespective of religion, langar has been a part of life. Whenever someone talks about visiting the gurudwara, it is an unsaid thing that they will also be opting to sit down and eat langar.
Langar, a community kitchen that you’ll find at all gurudwaras, is a concept that might come from the Sikh faith but it aims at feeding any person who visits the gurudwara, irrespective of their social status, caste, region or religion. I mean, think about it: where else will you find people from all across India, belonging to different religions, genders and financial classes sitting together in a line and enjoying a simple meal? In fact, when it was started by Guru Nanak Dev ji, that was the very point of it: to serve everyone with simple but nutritious food.
There’s a really interesting story behind the origin of Langar. When Guru Nanak Dev ji was a young boy, his father who was a trader by profession, wanted to teach him the nitty-gritties of running a business. He gave Guru Nanak Dev ji some money and sent him out to do ‘sacha sauda’, or good trade. On his way, Guru Nanak Dev ji came across poor people who had not eaten for days. They came to him for help and that was the moment Guru Nanak Dev ji got an idea. He went and bought groceries to feed the poor. For him, this was the ‘sacha sauda’ or good trade that he was out to do. He got to cooking and fed the people with simple, healthy food.
When he returned home, he had no profit to show to his father. When his angry father asked him about what he did with all the money, Guru Nanak Dev ji told him that the only profit is serving others without the intention of gaining something for yourself. With this selfless thought, the langar soon became a tradition within Sikhism.
Langar was turned into a more organised process by his successors. In fact, many accounts mention that when Akbar went to meet the third guru, Guru Amar Das ji, he also sat for langar with common people.
There’s one more reason behind the idea of starting langar. At a time when the caste system and class divide was so prevalent in India, the langar was an initiative to bring about equality. It is a sentiment that continues to this day, actually. You’d be surprised to know that the volunteers run most of it, from cooking to serving. These are all strangers but the feeling of community that comes with being a part of the langar makes them work together to make sure all the things run smoothly.
The fresh food which tastes exceptionally great even though it’s simple, the people from different communities working together and the feeling of equality is what you find at a langar and honestly, it is exactly what shows the real picture of India: people from different communities, all sitting together and celebrating the diversity.