When all the forces including the army, government, social media and public are working together to help the victims of Jammu and Kashmir flood, considered to be the worst in 100 years, Guru ka Langar in Amritsar has created a record of sorts when food for 1,00,000 flood victims was airlifted to be distributed to them. Read to know more on how they achieved the amazing feat.
The Guru ka langar, which runs continuously round the clock at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, has risen to the occasion to help the flood victims of Jammu and Kashmir by preparing langar (food prepared in the free kitchen) and supplying it to the victims in their time of need. Last week, perhaps a record of sorts was created when food for more than 1,00,000 victims stranded in different places across the affected state was airlifted from Amritsar to be distributed to them. 50,000 individual aluminium-foil wrapped packets containing four desi ghee paranthas, dry potato vegetable and pickle, that can serve 100,000 people, were sent to J&K through an Air Force plane. Earlier a private airplane was helping them with the transport of food.
The idea of langar or providing food to all and sundry is perhaps the most vibrant tradition ensuring that nobody goes hungry when one has come to the haloed sanctum sanctorum of the gurudwara. Initiated by Guru Nanak Dev, it became an established tradition of the Sikh community by the third Guru Shir Amar Dasji at Goindwal. As a matter of fact, the langar that runs continuously, 24×7, is equipped to provide food to more than 70,000 people on a daily basis and this could have been the reason why the SOS message was sent to it to help out the needy who have been caught in the fury of the flood. When the demand rises, the Guru ka langar is able to serve food to more than one lakh devotees as well.
Guru ka langars are perhaps one of the rare community kitchens where women are accorded a place of importance, as the kitchens of festivities in most other communities and religions are still dominated by their male counterparts. One is reminded of an incident that happened when a group of women from Uttar Pradesh had visited Gurudwara Manji Sahib near Ludhiana. They did not have an occasion to associate with community kitchens in their native places, and that day at the gurudwara suddenly the devotees’ footfall had increased. The granthi asked this writer to request the ladies to do some Kar seva. The ladies were thrilled and continued to do it for 2 hours, till they had to be weaned away.
A tradition that was started by Guru Nanak Dev does ensure that nobody goes hungry, in sync with the tradition invoked through the lines साईं इतना दीजिए जामे कुटुम समाय मैं भी भूखा न रहूँ साधु न भूखा जाये. To carry forward this philosophy, a tradition continues in Sikhism whereby each household, whether in the rural or urban area, ensures that the supply line at the gurudwaras never goes dry. It is on account of this advocacy that one can always be assured of food whenever one has stepped into the portals of a gurudwara. And this is why, regarding the requirement of more food for the victims, Darbar Sahib manager Partap Singh said, “We have no problem of resources and the sangat (devotees) is helping us in a big way.”
May this tradition of community service continue to define and give a meaning to our existence. Guru ka langar, by this initiative, has reaffirmed that in times of crisis it is humanity that rises to the occasion, relegating all religious and other differences to the back burner.
All photographs: Nalin Rai