Langar and the Sikh faith
Jaswant Singh Sachdev
In 2005, Dr. Paul Eppinger, the first Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Movement, envisioned ‘Experience Interfaith’ with ‘Langar’ or free community dinner provided by the Sikh Community to all attendees as its central focus. Over time it has become a successful annual event and has provided people opportunities to better understand one another’s faiths.
After round table dialogue with people of different faiths in small groups emphasizing civility, equality, and respect for all in our daily practice of the golden rule, the Sikh members serve ‘Langer’ or free community dinner.
A freshly cooked vegetarian menu for the Langar is delivered on-site, free of charge, by different Sikh-owned Indian Restaurants. The participants partaking food are requested to sit on the floor touching one another on the runners spread parallel, to fulfill the concept of equality and negate rampant ‘untouchability’ — due to the caste system —still prevalent in certain parts of the world. Tables and chairs are available for those unable to sit on the floor. The meals are brought to everyone by Sikh volunteers who consider it a privilege and religious duty to serve. Traditionally, the Langar meals are always served following any Sikh religious get-together or service in Gurdwaras. It is always open to all, regardless of faith, race, or social status or whether anyone has joined the service or not.
When Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith was 18 years old, his father gave him a small amount of money to start up a business. Instead, young Nanak went around and spent that money on serving meals to a group of hungry ascetics. When questioned, he responded, ‘What could be a better business, Father, than serving the needy?’ Thus began the institution of serving selflessly, a convention that continued through the nine successive Sikh Guruships.
Langar is one of the main fundamental essentials of Sikh service besides a continuous reflection upon ‘Power that Be’ as well as earning livelihood by honest work.
Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev is a retired neurologist and author.