My association with religious places begins and ends with food. Every religious faith has its own way of feeding the hungry but langar – a practice common to Sufi Chisthi and Sikh traditions remains special for several reasons. People across faiths, and backgrounds are invited to sit and eat a hot piping vegetarian meal in regular intervals. The hot piping meal comes from a community run free kitchen housed in Gurudwaras. Sikh-langar, or free community kitchen draws upon earlier Sufi Chisthi practices where people across faiths could eat hot cooked meals in Dargahs. Harsh Mander in an article “From langar, with love” ( The Hindu, 12 January 2013) draws our attention to etymology of the word ‘langar’ which in Persian means a feeding centre and a resting place for travellers. He mentions of the round the clock kitchens run by Nizamuddin Auliya Chisti – a sufi saint.
‘Langar’ or any communal eating practices are particularly relevant in India as several registers of taboo prohibited people across caste groups to consume food together. Under such proscriptions, ‘langar’ as a free community kitchen challenges that social order. Though there have been reports of segregated spaces for homeless in Gurudwaras across Delhi, the spirit of ‘langar’ needs to be uphold in the right spirit. With shrinking public spaces which are accessible to all, the idea of a free community kitchen accessible to all remains special. My initiation to langar meal began in an all girls trip to Golden Temple of Amritsar and to this date I remember the fast pace and grace with which thousands of us consumed meal. The synchronised service between the kitchen staff and volunteers distributing food in the dining hall left me awestruck. A trip to Golden Temple of Amritsar will remain incomplete without an experience of langar. Closer home, Delhi, a langar at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Connaught Place runs a langar at regular intervals.
Easily accessible via Patel Chowk Metro Station on Yellow line, the Gurudwara is teaming with devotees on a Sunday afternoon. As you make your way through the entrance you will be asked to leave your shoes at the shoe counter.
A visit to Bangla Sahib as it is popularly addressed remains incomplete without the karah prasad. Walk up to the counter on the left buy your coupons starting from Rs 11 to whatever you wish to offer and walk up to the counter to offer some and relish the karah prasad. The generous dollops of ghee holds the whole wheat flour, sugar and ghee together. Check a fellow blogger’s link for the recipe.
After a tour of holy shrine, sarovar head to the langar to not only have a lovely vegetarian meal of piping hot rotis, parathas, dal, vegetable curry and lovely kheer ( rice pudding) but also to offer voluntary service at the community kitchen.
People across age groups ( from old and young ) make rotis and serve the devotees across faith who walk in queues for langar meals. As the devotees return their steel plates and another batch of people wait near the door to walk in, volunteers sweep the floor and welcome people in. Every partake of langar be it in Amritsar or here is an experience to be cherished.
If you are in Delhi or planning your next weekend halt, drop by at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib for a meal at langar, and karah prasad.
Check out the following link on karah prasad
http://a-hint-of-spice.blogspot.in/2010/03/karah-prashad.html; Accessed on 23 November 2014.
Other links and references on Langar and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
For Harsh Mander’s article please click on http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Harsh_Mander/from-langar-with-love/article4294049.ece; Accessed on 23 November 2014.
And of course, The Delhiwalla for all matters related to the city…
http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2012/02/01/city-monument-gurudwara-bangla-sahib-central-delhi/; Accessed on 23 November 2014