The Sikh Tradition of Langar

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

"It’s an opportunity for the community to come together, to pray together, to socialize."

— Dr. Indarjit Singh, editor of the Sikh Messenger, sheds light on the importance of langar and the meaning of food within the Sikh community in this BBC interview (starts at 16:30)

While discussing the universality of food in religious traditions and its centrality to happiness of the body, the mind, and the spirit, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks cited the Sikh tradition of langar. The rabbi’s reference received a single, joyous clap from the audience during Krista’s conversation with the Dalai Lama and other religious authorities several weeks ago in Atlanta, so I thought I’d explore the idea a bit further.

A langar is a free community kitchen found within most Sikh temples. Its roots go beyond the strengthening of community through meals. It offers a beautiful practice of social liberation and oneness. Sikhism, according to The New York Times, emerged from the Hindu region of Punjab, where caste hierarchies dictate even who can sit at a table together. The Sikh religion rejected this system. Men and women, rich and poor, Sikhs and non-Sikhs all participate equally in creating food and sharing it together in the langar.

Sikh devotees eat food at a Langar in Nanded, India. (photo: Pal Pillai/AFP/Getty Images)

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