Langar (Punjabi: ਲੰਗਰ) (kitchen) is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian.[1] People sit on the floor, eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.[2]

At the langar, all people eat a vegetarian meal as equals. The exception to vegetarian langar is when Nihang Sikhs serve meat[3] in some Gurdwaras, on the occasion of Holla Mohalla,[4] and call it Mahaprasad.[5]


Langar is a Persian word and came into Punjabi from it.[6][7][8][9]


Langar, as an institution, was first started by Baba Farid, a Muslim of the Chishti Sufi order.[10][11] The institution of the langar was already popular in the 12th and 13th century among Sufis of South Asia. The practiced grew and is documented in the Jawahir al-Faridi compiled in 1623 CE.[12] It was later, both the institution and term, adopted by Sikhs.[13] The langar concept was an innovative charity and symbol of equality adopted by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak around 1500 CE.[14] According to Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, a professor of Sikh Studies, community kitchens were already operating in Punjab when Guru Nanak founded Sikhism, and these were run by Muslim Sufi orders and by Hindu Gorakhnath orders.[15]


In Sikhism, the practice of the langar, or free kitchen, is believed to have been started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. The second Guru of Sikhism, Guru Angad is remembered in Sikh tradition for systematizing the institution of langar in all Sikh temple premises, where visitors from near and far, could get a free simple meal in a communal seating.[16][17] He also set rules and training method for volunteers (sevadars) who operated the kitchen, placing emphasis on treating it as a place of rest and refuge, being always polite and hospitable to all visitors.[16] Guru Amar Das also encouraged the practice of langar and made all those who visited him attend laṅgar before they could speak to him.[18]

It is unclear whether the langar in the time of Guru Nanak were vegetarian or non-vegetarian, since texts from that era are silent about the menu served. Some scholars state that Guru Amar Das, who joined Sikhism from the Vaishnavism Hindu tradition and was a disciple of Guru Nanak before he was named the third Guru, introduced the vegetarianism at langars.[19][20][21]

Contemporary developments

Langars are held in Gurdwaras outside India, some of which attract homeless population according to news reports. The Sikh volunteers feed them without any discrimination, along with the other devotees who gather.[22][23] Major Indian Gurdwaras operate langars where thousands of visitors join in for a simple vegetarian meal everyday.[citation needed]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi (1995), The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1898723134, page 148
  2. ^ Mark McWilliams (2014). Food & Material Culture: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2013. Oxford Symposium. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-909248-40-3. 
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  4. ^ "UNITED SIKHS" (PDF). unitedsikhs.org. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  5. ^ "The most special occasion of the Chhauni is the festival of Diwali which is celebrated for ten days. This is the only Sikh shrine at Amritsar where Maha Prasad (meat) is served on special occasions in Langar." The Sikh review, Volume 35, Issue 409 - Volume 36, Issue 420, Sikh Cultural Centre, 1988.
  6. ^ Kathleen Seidel, Serving Love, Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook", September 2000. Accessed 15 January 2010.
  7. ^ Sardar Harjeet Singh, Faith & Philosophy of Sikhism, p. 231 
  8. ^ Satish C. Bhatnagar, My Hindu Faith and Periscope, Volume 1, p. 245 
  9. ^ A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, p. 1130 
  10. ^ Epilogue, Vol 4, Issue 1, p. 45 
  11. ^ Baba Sheikh Farid: His Life and Teaching, p. 7 
  12. ^ Barbara D Metcalf (1984). Moral Conduct and Authority: The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam. University of California Press. pp. 336–339. ISBN 978-0-520-04660-3. 
  13. ^ R. Nivas, Transactions, Volume 4, " The word langar, and this institution has been borrowed, so to speak, from the Sufis. The khanqas of the Chisti and other Sufi saints had a langar open to the poor and the rich, though the Hindus mostly kept away from them. To make the Brahmin sit with the pariah and do away with untouch- ability, and to make the Hindus and Muslims eat from the same kitchen and destroy all social", Indian Institute of Advanced Study, p. 190 
  14. ^ Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2011). Sikhism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-85773-549-2. 
  15. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4411-1708-3. 
  16. ^ a b Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 35–37. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7. 
  17. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  18. ^ Duggal, Kartar Singh (1988). Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89389-109-1. 
  19. ^ Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). "3 Guru Amar Das". The History of Sikh Gurus. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 38. ISBN 81-8382-075-1. 
  20. ^ A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7023-139-4. "However, it is strange that nowadays in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off."
  21. ^ S.R. Bakshi; Rashmi Pathak, eds. (2007). "12". Punjab Through the Ages. 4 (1st ed.). New Delhi: Sarup and Sons. p. 241. ISBN 81-7625-738-9. 
  22. ^ "Why homeless Britons are turning to the Sikh community for food". 22 February 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via www.bbc.com. 
  23. ^ http://www.thenational.scot/news/14903892.On_the_streets_with_the_Sikh_charity_helping_to_feed_those_most_in_need/ Scotland: Sikh charity feeds those most in need]; Melbourne Sikh volunteers

External links

  • Desjardins, Michel; Desjardins, Ellen (2009). "Food that Builds Community: The Sikh Langar in Canada". Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures. Consortium Erudit. 1 (2). doi:10.7202/037851ar.