Friday, September 30, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Langar - Parshad and Food

Parshad Instructions

*If this discipline (cleanliness, purity, not taking or eating a portion out of it) is not observed, Parshad is rendered unfit for offering to the Guru and God, and for distribution to the Sangat.
* Parshad should not be tasted at any stage of its preparation and afterwards.
* No portion of Parshad assigned to God and Guru, should be taken out for any other purpose until it has been offered to Guru Granth Sahib, and distributed after Ardas - invocation, Hukam, and Kirpan Bhaet (Kirpan passed through it).
* Before distribution, Parshad should be cooled down to a comfortable level. Too hot Parshad is not offered to Guru Granth Sahib. If hot, it hurts the hands to serve, or to receive it on hands.

Food Instructions

Discipline for preparing Langar – Parshad, or food
* Take bath and enter the kitchen (cooking area) with clean clothes, and freshly washed hands using soap and water.
* No one in the kitchen should gossip, or go there for this purpose.
* Avoid creating unnecessary rush in the kitchen. Only those should be there who are cooking or serving.
* Do not eat or snack, while cooking.
*The mind should be occupied by Gurbani – Scriptures, Shabads – Holy Hymns, or with the Name of God (Waheguru, Waheguru, Satte-Naamu Waheguru etc.).
* No portion of Parshad, or Langar assigned to the Guru, should be taken out for any purpose before offering it to the Guru and God, Ardas, Hukam, and passing Kirpan through every preparation.
* No one should eat inside the Langar - kitchen. Keep in the mind that when preparing Langar, you are doing so for the Guru and God.
* The Langar-containers, or service-pots are not touched with unclean hands, and preparations are kept covered. Touch things after washing hands with soap and water.

Langar - Ardas, Kirpan-Bhaet

It is invocation and passing Kirpan (small curved sword) through Parshad and all cooked items of food for Langar. According to the Sikh way, passing Kirpan through them signifies their purification and acceptance by God and the Guru. It turns it into the holy food.
Before serving Langar (food), Ardas is said. Usually, the prepared food is offered to (placed before) Guru Granth Sahib, and is removed from there after Ardas and passing Kirpan through every item, may be except water: a natural commodity.
Not for Parshad, but only for Langar, Ardas can be said in the kitchen, and Kirpan passed through all items. After this, all items are returned to their main containers, and service is started even before the end of prayer session. Langar service may continue in the Langar hall independent of the service in the prayer hall.
Also see Kirpn Bhaet in index.

Langar - Grace – Prayer

A short prayer – grace, should be said before and after taking food. A few suitable quotes from Gurbani are recited. In the Gurdwara Langar, this tradition should be practiced.

Langar - Tasting

During its preparation or afterwards, Langar should not be tasted, not even for assessing its salt, spices and sugar etc. The preparations should have very mild chili or pepper, so that everyone can comfortably tolerate them. Be careful even if this is green chili. More of such things can be added later by the person eating the food, according to his or her taste.
Salt, pepper, chili, condiments, sugar, should also be served, like pickles or onions. After eating has commenced, salt etc., can be adjusted after asking those who are eating, or if they themselves inform about it. Mostly, the served food is accepted as it is.
Same way, Parshad is not tasted or used for any other purpose before Ardas, and Kirpan-Bhaet.

Langar - Sitting Arrangements

At some places, low chairs or other seats are provided, particularly for use by the handicapped. In some Gurdwaras, tables and may be chairs too, are there for anyone wishing to use them. The main idea of Langar is to sit at one level (floor) without any discrimination, and to eat with others. It is an effort to promote equality, and a step to eradicate ego.

Langar Service – Instructions

* Everyone serving in Langar will himself or herself eat after the Sangat has finished eating.
* It is practical to spread plastic sheets on the floor in front of Pangat – rows, to place utensils or plastic-ware on them. This will protect the carpet and floor.
* Nothing should be served with bare hands. Use service spoons, spatulas or ladles. The use of latex or plastic gloves may be considered.
* The glasses for water, tea etc. should be held close to their bottoms, and not at their tops (rims). Fingers should not go inside the glasses.
* Service is given with a smile, without prejudice, and all are treated equally. Equal quantities are served to everyone. Service should be prompt, careful, without ignoring anyone or any item.
* In Sangat, no one should be served a different food unless there is a sound reason for it e.g. some health problem. You cannot serve butter to one and not to the other.
* The choice of selection for eating out of the served food is an individual matter. One may not like to take rice and another may not prefer a Chapatee (Roti, a flat bread). Some may like to eat condiments and onions, and others may not. Do not serve anything not acceptable to the person who is eating. Take only that thing which you will eat, and in quantity that you will finish.
* Give only the amount that is asked for, or only a reasonable quantity. Serve carefully that the given portion gets finished, and nothing is left over. Serve food to children in the right proportion. Their parents should also take care of this.
* Do not talk while serving Langar. It is ideal to keep mouth covered with cloth.
* Do not nibble or eat anything while serving the food.
* When serving, do not hold service bowls, jugs, breads, glasses etc. against your body.
* When serving, put only that much portion that does not flow over to other compartments of the plate, if such plates are used.

Langar - Absentees

It is best if a prospective absentee informs before hand of his or her missing the Gurdwara session. This will bring economy in preparing the food and Parshad.

Langar - Ideal Service

Langar is supposed not to be closed, and the food has to be provided to the visitor at all hours of the day and night. But it may not be possible at every Gurdwara, especially in the overseas countries where a resident Sewadar – a volunteer e.g. the caretaker may not be available at all hours. At such places, leftover Langar is distributed for taking home and nothing is kept for any off time need.

Langar - Sound System

Sound System in Langar
For the benefit of Sewadars (workers) and Sangat, Langar should have extension of the prayer hall sound system.

Langar - One Dollar Lunch

It should never come to the mind of anyone that Langar is “one dollar lunch” i.e. you offer one dollar to the Holy Book and become entitled to take the community lunch. It is not just a “lunch,” but is the sanctified food. You offered a dollar or so to the Holy Book to honor it, and this thing ended there. Leaving aside some special circumstances, you justify taking Langar after attending the Gurdwara proceedings – service to God, you may have offered a dollar or two to the Holy Book or not.
Langar is free and nobody is charged for it. If someone thinks he or she has paid, such remarks are derogatory to the holy food - a gift from God and the Guru, and selfless service by the others. The people take it with humility and eat it with reverence. Some get one or two Chapatis (Roti - flat-bread) with some Daal (cooked cereal), vegetable, and take these home as Parshad for the family. Devotees may put some money into a Golak - moneybox there, as a gratitude to the Lord for the food partaken, and not as its price.

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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