“The task is huge but don’t have any anxiety about it. We saw that at the temple. Don’t be stressed about it, come and have fun. That is the purpose.” That’s what Coordinator Prof. Jasprit Singh told the group of students as they planned the logistics of feeding 5,000 people.
The direct translation of Langar is ‘anchor’, and it’s a tradition that started in the 15th century to break the social barriers of the caste system in India and bring together people of all walks of life, and it still exists on a massive scale. A group of students in the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU) traveled to Amritsar, India this summer to see the impressive feat in action at the Golden Temple and to offer their own hard work.
Later the same week I was able to attend langar on a much smaller scale as the Sikh Student Association got together for their monthly prayer and langar. The students recited the evening prayer “Rehraas Sahib” in a circle together, then sang and played instruments in praise during “keertan” before joining together for a meal that they had prepared the night before. The intimate occasion was joyful. Community member Amarjeet Kaur compared it to my own Christian perceptions of “heaven,” saying they didn’t believe in a heaven after death because it is something you make yourself in this life through relationships and instances of community and togetherness.
For the GIEU students, the Sikh students, and others that prepare food for langar, it is a privilege to give their time to prepare food for others, not something that is acknowledged or expected.
“Just as you would give to yourself you give to your people because it is all connected,” Singh said.