What is the “Guru Ka Langar”?
The institution of “free kitchen” or the “temple of bread”, as Puran Singh called it, was started by Guru Nanak. He desired that every Sikh should share his food with others – Wand Chhakna – and that his kitchen should be open to all. Subsequently the Langar took on an institution form and became a part of the Sikh temple. This community kitchen is meant to provide food to all devotees and pilgrims. Every Sikh is expected to contribute to it either by donating food stuff or by participating in the cooking and distribution of the food.
Guru Nanak set up a temple of bread at Kartarpur where people brought corn and fuel, and worked together to prepare a common meal for the whole community. Guru Angad extended the Langar and personally served in it. Guru Amardas turned it into an institution and ordered that all who came to see him must first eat in Langar: food first, congregation next – pahley pangat, peechay sangat. Even the Emperor Akbar and the Raja of Haripur had to sit on the floor with the common people and take a meal with them. Apart from promoting social equality, the Langar eliminated taboos about chauka – the preparation of food in a special enclosures etc. The scope of “Langar” was widened by Guru Ramdas who ordered that water and meals be also served to travellers and squatters. Guru Arjan and his wife personally served water to the Sangat. They even massaged the weary travellers and fanned them to sleep.
Many of the Sikhs started their own Langars at Anadpur. One day, Guru Gobind Singh went out incognito on an inspection of Langars. He found out that Bhai Nand Lal Singh maintained the Langar well, while others were indifferent to the needs of poor Sikhs. He warned them and remarked, “The mouths of the poor are Guru’s receptacles of gifts.”
According to Prof. Puran Singh, “What is a home but a hospitable feasting of children with bread, love and faith?” What is spiritual life in a temple of flesh without a full meal first? The very first temple made by Guru Nanak therefore, was the Temple of Bread or Guru’s Langar.