Jul 30, 2014

Gurdwaras and Langars

A Gurdwara is a place of congregational worship for Sikhs, though people of all faiths are welcome to worship in a Gurdwara. The first Gurdwara was built in 1521 by Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

The term Gurdwara means ‘the gateway to the Guru.’ In contemporary Gurdwaras, the Guru doesn’t refer to a person but to the holy text of Sikhism, called the Guru Granth Sahib. All Gurdwaras have a hall of worship, called the Darbar Sahib, where the Guru Granth Sahib is put on display.
People visit Gurdwaras to worship their God and learn spiritual wisdom, faith and customs. Gurdwaras also host religious ceremonies and act as a community centre by offering shelter and companionship to people in need.

Gurdwaras provide free food to the community which is prepared and served in a room known as the Langar. The food is prepared, cooked and eaten communally and is offered to people of all races, religions, classes and backgrounds.
Food and equipment is supplied to the Gurdwara and Langar through voluntary donations. When people visit the Gurdwara they bring either food, money or both, which they will place in front of the holy text. If a person does not have food or money to offer it is common for them to offer flowers instead. The money is used to maintain the Gurdwara and the Langar, while any food is used for communal meals. Sikhs see this process as sharing God’s gift as opposed to giving to charity. 

Though Sikhs are not strictly vegetarian, all food served in the Langar is meat-free so that people from all religions and dietary restrictions are able to eat. Meals typically include dal (lentils), breads such as chapatis, soups, vegetables and rice. As well as meat, eggs and fish are also excluded from the meals.

Meals served from the Langar is said to unite people by encouraging two concepts: Pangat and Sangat, both of which are Sikh terms. Pangat is used to describe a congregation of people sitting together regardless of their individual social status. Similarly, Sangat is used to describe people who meet together in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. When eating meals from the Langar,diners - regardless of class, religion or background - sit next to one another on the floor in an aim toexpel any distinctions between social classes. 
Sikhs believe that food from the Langar feeds the body and nourishes the soul. Those offering the meals are encouraging ‘Seva,’ which means a selfless service committed without compensation. Volunteers are responsible for preparing, cooking and serving the food, as well as clearing up following the meals.

After a ceremony in a Gurdwara, food is provided to the worshipers. This would typically include a substantial mean from the Langer followed by Parshad, a sweet vegetarian pudding made from sugar, wheat flour and clarified butter. 

For the Sikh religion, and many others, the act of eating food is a way of bringing people together. In the western world people also love dining with friends and family, enjoying both great food and great company. If you’re heading to London soon, why not consider booking a table at a top fine-dining restaurant? There, you will be able to enjoy fantastic food in a unique atmosphere.
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