Sunday 26 July 2015

The Langar in Sis Ganj Gurudwara, Delhi

Langar is a Sikh tradition that probably has roots in the Sufi tradition of sharing.

Langar at Sis Ganj Gurudwara, Delhi

Big and historic Gurudwaras in Delhi like Sis Ganj, Rakab Ganj, Bangla Sahib, Damdama Sahib and some others have reserved a separate hall for the community kitchen where food is served round the clock to devotees. This too is a sacred space. Till some decades ago Langar was served on leaves stitched together and people would take a small part of it home for the family members but now there are steel plates and spoons. Everything from pealing, cooking, serving and dish-washing is done by volunteers. 

The kitchen in Sis Ganj Gurudwara

No one is turned away from the Langar. It always amazes me that the Langar is so well organised when everything else in India is so chaotic. The sangat (congregation of the faithful) sits in a pangat (line) and they partake in the Langar which comprises of chapatti (Indian bread), rice, daal (lentil) and a vegetable. Hundreds of kilos of lentils and vegetables are cooked in super-size vessels. Food is cooked in Desi Ghee (clarified butter) and the kitchen is there for devotees and tourists to inspect. There are no signs outside the kitchen saying ‘No Entry’ or ‘Entry Restricted’. The Indian bread, Chapati or Roti, has always been made by hand, again by volunteers, but now there is also a huge machine in the kitchen of the Sis Ganj Gurudwara that makes/bakes the chapatis. One can easily make out the difference between hand-made and machine-made rotis. The food is fresh and vegetarian. It is simple and delicious. In fact, it is in bad taste to pick faults with the Langar because it is sacred. For the same reason one should not waste it. Eat it, or take it home for your family. 

The day I visited Sis Ganj Gurudwara in Old Delhi, pumpkin was being peeled and chopped for the evening Langar.

Pumpkins under preparation for the Langar at Sis Ganj Gurudwara

What is the intention behind the tradition of Langar? The idea is not to feed the poor. The idea is that all are equal and to prove this the rich and the poor, so-called low castes and high castes, men and women, children, sit together in a common space and eat the same food. Has the Sikh project of equality succeeded? That is another question. Equality is, all said and done, a utopian concept. Theoretically it sounds good, but in praxis it fails to materialize. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution could not create equal and just societies. But what is the harm in imagining for half an hour that we are all equal?


Nisha said...

I have eaten several times in langars but didn't know this side of it.

Thanks for sharing it.

Anil Yadav said...

I am glad that I have increased your awareness in this aspect Nisha!

Vikrant Srivastava said...

Thanks for bringing such great insight Sir. We have eaten many times there but was never aware about this fact.

Anil Yadav said...

Thanks Vikrant! Next time when you go there you know the concept behind the Langar.

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