Langar—why sit down on the floor? It’s a free buffet?!

The Sikh Gurus instituted the unique Sikh practice of Langar to break down caste barriers. Langar is food that is cooked by the members of the community and served by members of the community, to all people at the Gurdwara. The idea is to demonstrate equality of all people, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race or sex. All Gurdwaras have a common kitchen, where Langar is cooked by volunteers and open to all. Langar is communal cooking, eating and sharing and is eaten while sitting on the ground. When Sikhism was sprouting in the South Asian subcontinent, the caste system stratified society. Higher castes would sit on stools and chairs and eat, while the lowest caste were not allowed to eat even in the same room, and usually on the floor, away from sight. The Gurus wanted Sikhs to always practice egalitarianism and communal responsibility.

Langar is also free food. It is free because members of the congregation, according to their ability, make donations to the Gurdwara. Any visitor to the Gurdwara can eat there free. But Langar has an important communal aspect to it and is not just a ‘free all-youcan- eat buffet’. Calling it a “buffet” may be insulting to this tradition because of its deep spiritual significance.

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