Langar and the Sikh faith” Published in AzCentral

Langar and the Sikh faith

In 2005, Dr. Paul Eppinger, the founding Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Movement envisioned ‘Experience Interfaith’ with ‘langar,’ a free community dinner provided by the Sikh community to all attendees as its central focus. A Faith Fair kicks off the event and has become a fun way to learn basic beliefs of various faith traditions. Then small groups gather to have a moderated discussion, emphasizing civility, equality, and respect for all in our daily practice of the Golden Rule. Over time it has become one of Arizona Interfaith’s successful annual events and has given the opportunity to better understand one another’s faiths.

Then, the Sikh members serve langar, which consists of freshly cooked items of hot vegetarian menu that are delivered on-site, free of charge, by different Sikh-owned Indian restaurants. The participants partaking in food are requested to sit on the floor touching one another on the runners spread parallel, to fulfill the concept of equality and negate ‘untouchability,’ (a term in 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 served to everyone by Sikh volunteers who consider it a privilege and religious duty to serve. Traditionally, the langar is always served following any Sikh religious get-together or service in gurdwaras. It is always open to all, irrespective of faith, color, or social status or whether anyone has joined the service or not.

When Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith was 18 years of age circa 1490, his father gave him a small amount of money for the startup of a business. Instead, young Nanak went around and spent that money in serving meals to a group of hungry ascetics. When questio ned, 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 Gurus. When Emperor Akbar of India came to visit Guru Amardas, the third Sikh Guru, the emperor was asked to partake in langar, first sitting with commoners before visitation with the Guru.

The Khalsa Aids, an international Sikh non-profit organization, is always in headlines arriving first to serve food and other necessities at times of natural disaster such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest, wars and influx of refugees wherever in the world it is needed. In addition to earning livelihood by honest work, the langar continues to be one of the fundamental essentials of Sikh.

Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev is a board-certified neurologist in Phoenix, licensed to practice medicine in Arizona and California. Prior to retirement he was affiliated with Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. He received his education and training in India and the United States: internship in internal medicine in New York-Presbyterian/Queens and residency in neurology at New York Medical College at St Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center. He represents the Sikh community in the Interfaith Council of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.

Everyone is welcome to Experience Interfaith and the free langar dinner hosted by the Arizona Interfaith Movement and the Sikh community. Join us on September 28, 2023, at 5 pm at the Courtyard and Langar Hall of the Sikh Guru Nanak Dwara at 2302 N. 9th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Please REGISTER by September 21st, so we have enough food / materials. Here’s the link:

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