शनिवार, जनवरी 18, 2020

Socio Economic aspect of Community Kitchen in Sikh Social Life

Guru Nanak (1469-1539 AD) laid the foundation of Sikhism during the fifteenth century. Nanak announced his mission ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim`. To Nanak, truth was god, the True Creator. He created institutions through which his followers could practise what he preached. Sikhism is based on the principles of Guru’s philosophy. “Sikhism is the advice given in the philosophy of the Guru”

Where can one find the philosophy of the Guru? It is found in the Word of the Guru. In the Gurbani word is the Guru and the philosophy of the Guru Nanak.  “Word is Guru, Consciousness and intention toward it make one its disciple”

It contains hymns to the glory of God written the Gurus and by various Hindu and Muslim Saints subscribing to the same line of thinking as the Sikh Gurus. The Guru Granth Sahib contains the utterance first five Guru and Guru Teg Bahadur Ji and some of Bhatt and Saints who revolted against the ancient mythology and rituals.  “The Granth is the Enlightener. The noble people discuss the characteristics of the Almighty and the philosophy in the congregation”

The Sikh (The word Sikh is Punjabi from of Sanskrit word Shiksha, which means a learner or a disciple) Gurus initiated the institution of Gurdwara. A building where the Congregation of the follower is held in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib is in general called Gurdwara. Gurdwara system became a great institute where the Sikhs can get together to deliberate on the Sikhism philosophy, future of Sikhism, Social work, scope of social interactions and interventions and their life problems. It is a place where they eat together without any discrimination of caste, creed, colour, sex, social status, etc. in a Langar hall.  Sikhism gave us a unique philosophy that is scientifically and logically very sounds having universal acceptability.   In that chaotic condition of society, Guru Nanak and his nine successors in Guruship worked to redefine the religious and social values of humankind. Freedom from economic oppression and uplift of the economically disadvantaged was their main thrust. Gurdwara performed as one of the platforms for the social uplift of mass.

Sikhism is one of the youngest religion in the world. A majority of its followers live in the northern part of India in Punjab and Delhi. It would be appropriate to broadly review the basic principles of Sikhism, the teachings of its Gurus and its economic philosophy. The basic requirements of any individual are food, clothing, shelter and adequate supply of money for ancillary activities like education. Sikhs believe that God, the Creator of this world, has supplied all this in plenty for all the creation in the world. The History of the Sikh Panth is truly a saga of sacrifice for the great cause of the Brotherhood of Humanity. It is a galaxy of heroes, each more inspiring than the other.  
Community Kitchen (Langar)

Langar in Gurdwara is a community kitchen. Basically, Langar means to provide food to all devotees and pilgrims. Subsequently, the Langar took on an institution form and became a part of the Sikh Gurdwara. Every Sikh is expected to contribute to it either by donating foodstuff or by participating in the cooking and distribution of the food. The community has pay for the expenses, bring provisions or personally contribute labour of love, by cleaning utensils, fetching water or fuel, or taking a hand in cooking and distributing food. Langar is one of the corners of the Sikhism and a symbol of equity and equality.

Langar is a Persian word, which means a public kitchen established by a noble person for their followers and dependents. Meaning of Langar is an asylum for the poor and the destitute or a house or monastery of the Sufi Dervishes.

In India, Guru Nanak Dev Ji started Langar. The Guru desired that every Sikh should share his food with others, Nanak called it Wand Chhakna”  and their kitchen should be open to all. Guru Nanak set up a Gurdwara of bread at Kartar Pur Where people brought corn and fuel and worked together to prepare an everyday meal for the whole community. Nanak took practical steps to break the vicious hold of caste by starting free community kitchens – Guru Ka Langar - in all centres and persuading his followers, irrespective of their castes, to eat together. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. "The Light of God is in all hearts."

Guru Angad extended the Langar and personally served in it. Langar in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is. “The Langar- the kitchen of the Guru’s Sabd has been opened, and its supplies never run short. Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru’s wife, is a noblewoman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all. She distributes the bounty of the Guru’s Langar; the kheer – the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia. The faces of the Guru’s Sikhs are radiant and bright; the self-willed Manmunkhs are pale, like straw. The master gave his approval when Angad exerted himself heroically. Such is the husband of mother Khivi; he sustains the world.”

Guru Amar Das turned it into an institution and ordered that all who came to see him must first sit in a row in the community kitchen, then seek the company of the Guru. Pahle Pangat, Pacche Sangat”   Food first, congregation next. The Guru included a common mode of worship and a common social institute by laying the foundation of Sangat and Pangat. Sangat means “association”, it is getting together of noble and good people. Sangat constitutes a unit of the Sikh religious organization. Pangat literally means the same row. It stands for people sitting and eating together in the same row in Guru- ka-Langar.

Sikh institutions are organizations and practices established by Sikh Guru and later by Sikh Sangat to promote the Sikh way of life. From the time of Guru Nanak, Sangat and Pangat have gone together, for the Sikhs, both in percept as well as in practice.  Wherever there was a Sangat there also was a Langar, as these Sangat were’ not merely places of worship but also wayside refectories, which gave food and shelter to indigent wayfarers. Apart from promoting social equality, the Langar eliminated taboos about chauka - the preparation of food in a special enclosure etc. Guru Gobind Singh Ji says ‘the kitchen and the Sword prevail in the World’. Deg to feed the poor and the stranger, regardless of caste and religion, It Symbolically Stands for the Free Kitchen.  “Teg” the Sword, to destroy the oppressor of humanity and protect the oppressed, represents dignity and power.  “A poor man’s mouth is the Guru’s treasure chest’ is a common belief among the Sikhs”.

When a devotee comes to Gurdwara he has to touch their forehead to the floor before Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There is a box in front of the canopy where worshipers can place their offerings- of money or food for the Langar, now they have a receipt for Langar and another box in the front of Langar hall also. All the major places of worship maintain a free kitchen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, where any person irrespective of his religion, colour or creed is welcome to eat.

Social Aspect

Religion is one of the primary institutions of human society. Emile Durkheim’s view, it was through religion that men first became able to think about society. If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.

In Sikhism, the socio-economic universe is declared to be the proper moral universe and consequently. We would be interested to discover the nature of social relationship held by it as desirable.  The concept of Community service is very strong “among” the Sikh devout who irrespective of their status or station in life considers it their proud privilege and service to God to volunteer time for the various services organized by Gurdwara. The Sikh Gurus incessantly worked for social regeneration of society, making Sikhism a religion on social action aimed at the well-being of humanity without any distinction of caste and class, language and creed, community and country.

Sikh Gurus wanted to restructure society on a sound basis. They gave new ideas and provided new interpretation to the exiting tenets so as to bring a total change in outlook on life.  Religious values provide springs of inspiration and action but these typical values became functional when institutionalised. Religious ideas and religious institutions both also have a bearing on economic development.  Nanak says, “If you have virtues expose them and use them. If your friends also have virtues, then share with them. One should share virtue and discord evil characteristics.”

The Sikh Gurdwara is not only places of worship but also the training centre of service. The crowd reflected the secular democracy of faith. Gurdwara is a shelter to the shelterless, providing food for the hungry, and a signpost of the Sikh Gurus who preached the oneness of the human race and equality of all men. Such service as sweeping the precincts, serving drinking water to the thirsty, fanning the congregation in hot weather and serving food to the hungry has always formed an integral part of the factions in a Sikh Gurdwara. Of these, Langar is perhaps the most important. A Sikh Gurdwara without a free kitchen is inconceivable. “Dānā pānī guru kā, tehal sevā sikhān dī”

Food and Drink are the gifts of the Guru, Service and devotion contributed by his servitors. The exploitation of man by man is regarded as the very negation of godliness. It set up the institutions of holy congregation ‘sangat’ and community kitchen ‘Langar’ to eliminate all social distinctions and moulded a collectively called the Sikh Panth. In term of Social Equality, Guru Gobind Singh says, Realise that the human race is one. Guru Sahib did not confine only in preaching equality, but put it in practice also, for continuity of that purpose, he introduced three institutions, a congregation without any discrimination, to dine while sitting in row in Langar, Common bathing tank, in those days low caste people were not permitted to take water from common source. Ram Das say, “Ram das sarover nahate, uttre sab pap kamate”.

The successive Gurus strengthened and consolidated the institutions and through them sought to promote a feeling of togetherness in the growing community. An intimate concern to earn his livelihood through honest means, to share his earnings with others, and to always remember his Creator, Nanak given three basic commandments to do honest labour, to distribute among fellow beings and always remember God in memory.

The installation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the Sikh Scripture and finally as the Guru, the system of dioceses and pastors the system of the contribution of one-tenth of one’s income for community’s well-being, the baptism by the sword, the installations of sangat and Langar. The concept of dasvandh was implicit in Guru Nanak’s own line, “He alone, O Nanak, knoweth the way who eats out of what he earneth by his honest labour and yet shareth part of it with others Duswandh, a majority of Sikhs consider it their duty to donate up to 10 per cent of their income to the house of God. All these funds are used for the uplift of the poor and the needy in the manner stated above thus alleviating their sufferings, reducing their poverty and helping them in time of need

Guru Nanak Dev says “Nanak is found among the lowest caste, what he has to do with the high and mighty? Wherever the lowliest are looked after, there lies the grace of Almighty God. Thus he declared all human beings are one and the same. No person is high or low because of his or her birth, caste, religion or race”. Guru Nanak Dev, what are you proud of your religion? For a test, consume poison and show, how it can save you from death? The sovereignty of God is known to be true throughout all the ages. He, who obeys the Lord’s will, becomes noble in his court. Social equality has been examined in this context from four aspects, Relations among economic classes, Status of women in society, Universal brotherhood, Sprit of Service.

Service in Sikhism is imperative for social life. Service to the Society is the most excellent and sublime penance of penances. In the former case, it is normally focused on the Gurdwara and involves cash donations, contributions of food to the Langar, or such unpaid duties as reading the scripture, cleaning the premises, polishing the shoes of worshippers, or helping in the Langar. It is a means to acquiring the highest merit. The Sikh often prays to god for a chance to render service.  According to Guru Amar Das, He who is turned towards the Guru finds repose and joy in Service. It is largely due to their pervasive influence, that people in Punjab are much less caste conscious than those in other parts of the country; the spirit of selfless service, of ‘Karseva’ is still strong among them, and who can deny the glowing sacrifices they made in the cause of India’s freedom?

Sikh faith is karseva under which free labour and Sangat provides resources for the building and maintenance of Gurdwara and other structures of public utility. It is an important adjunct of the Gurdwara system. Sikh is in a community who is deeply committed to their faith.

Three varieties of service are sanctioned in the Sikh lore, Tan- that rendered through the corporal instrument, Man- that through the mental apparatus, Dhan- that through the material. Seva is a sacred duty and can be done anywhere for anyone. An important form of Seva is Langar. The spirit of service “Seva Bhav” can be seen anywhere in world apart from Gurdwara. Gurdwara also offers an excellent offer of social equality in Langar hall. Therefore, we can say that Langar in India serves the purpose of social equality and good example of spirit of service.

Economic aspect

For assessing the role of the religious factor in socio-economic development in Sikh religion we have to examine various factors. Religious ideas influence the development of economic spirit and the ethos of an economic system.  As Alfred Marshall, the noted Cambridge economist, observed, “The two great forming agencies of the world’s history have been religious and the economic. Religion and economics both answer similar questions. Religion gives us ideals. Economics describes reality.

We have to find a way to structure economic incentives that support and encourage ideal social behaviour and to devise a common ground in social behaviour, which governs both economic and religious activities. Guru Nanak advises the Sikhs to share a portion of their truthful earnings, the material wealth and other income. It gives rise to a new system of pooling such contributions at a central place for spending on preaching of Sikhism and on the collective welfare of the Sikhs at large and the needy Sikhs in particular. The funds, thus collected, are not for personal use by the persons controlling the Sikh institutes but for the spread of Sikhism.

Nanak says, “The one, who earns with his sweat of brow and shares some of his earning with others, has recognized the path of life.” Ideally religion aims at the maximum benefit of the maximum number of persons. We also know that corporate capitalism or state monopoly is responses to imperfect economic conditions. It is, therefore, necessary to review and redefine some of the religious principles for the benefit of society as a whole especially the underprivileged.

 Religious economics has, of necessity, to be welfare economics. Sikhism is no exception to this general rule. It has tried to evolve a set of principles that are practically acceptable to a vast majority of its followers and can be implemented without undue harm to the participants. One has to work to earn money for their basic necessities and in today's world; an equitable distribution of wealth just does not exist.  A Sikh should never be attached to his worldly possessions. It would be in the interest of mankind to donate a part of one's surplus wealth for the welfare of the needy. Economics translates this ideal into the format of progressive tax structure. A Sikh contributes by donating part of his/her income to a just cause.

 A Sikh is a resourceful person and a worker par excellence with abounding love and zest for life. He believes he is that his religion has made him be. Basically, he is not insular and is looking outward to a world bigger than his own. He is neither complacent nor content and is known for his dynamism and enterprise.  Wealth is also a determinant of social classes besides the caste system. Sikh religion rejects distinction based on ownership of economic resources. According to Guru Nanak, One lives not ever in the world: Neither king nor beggars would remain they all come and go.  Sikhism believes in voluntary religious regulation of economy as distinguished from government regulated or capitalistic economy. It adopts a pragmatic and realistic approach of subordination of economic activity to the spiritual and religious values.


The present paper is mainly concerned with the analysis of socio-economic implications of the religious precepts of Sikhism. The Sikh Gurus led lives which served as the beacon light to their followers to become active agents in promoting human welfare, including economic. They thus facilitated full utilization of resources – human and material – and promoted all-round development. Sangat promoted the constructive genius in man by helping him to realize his fullest potential and progress in different walks of life. Gurdwara stands for the total orientation of life of the individual and Sikh society to a creative and meaningful existence.  If this institution of Langar has been extended to all the Hindu temples and mosques in India on the patterns of Sikh Langar, there would not have been any hunger, untouchable problem today. The Langar system stands for brotherhood, equity, equality, and humility.

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