SEWA (Service):- Sewa is another cardinal principle of Sikhism. Sewa is a unique institution of Sikhism. In Sikhism "Sewa" is not ordinary un-paid service. It is voluntary, selfless, humble, without motive, without hope for reward or compensation. Sewa can be done in any form: through money, body, mind etc. Sewa can be done by cooking food or by washing dishes in Langar (the sacred Sikh kitchen); by sweeping and cleaning floors in Gurdwara; by helping the poor and the needy in the street; by imparting knowledge; by participating in national struggle; by doing any humanitarian action and so on. It is a part of a Sikh's being to do some Sewa as a daily routine. Sewa in a Gurdwara is generally believed to be more sacramental.

Sewa teaches a Sikh to be humble, tolerant, generous. It brings an end to ego. It gives a Sikh a feeling of being a useful part of humanity. But, on the other hand, if a Sikh performs Sewa just for the show or for hypocrisy, one's Sewa is not accepted by Waheguru (the Almighty) and such a person becomes guilty of the sin (like an impostor). A Sikh, while doing Sewa, can not distinguish between one and another.

LANGAR (the sacred Sikh kitchen):- Langar, in Sikhism, has pivotal place. This institution was started by Guru Nanak Sahib during his stay at Kartarpur. (It was here that Sikhism was well known as an institution). Like Sewa, Langar, in Sikhism, is a unique institution. It is an extension of the Sikh institution of Vand Chhakana (sharing with others), Sewa, Sangat (social cohesion) and social equality. In Langar one learns the practice of the lesson of love for community life and learns to eliminate every type of social distinction. (It, however, does not mean that one has to discard distinction only with in the Langar hall; one has too adopt it as a principle of one's life). Any one and every one can take meals and do service in Langar, in any Gurdwara (but one has to obey protocol). Langar, though it is free for every one, is not "free kitchen." It is sacred kitchen blessed by Waheguru. Every visitor to a Gurdwara is expected to dine in Langar (usually before joining the congregation). As far as preparation of food in the Langar is concerned, a Sikh should make endeavour to prepare food better than in one's own house. Distribution of Langar is alike for every one and any distinction, if made, obliterates the very concept behind it.

Sangat and Pangat:- Joining Sangat is a must for a Sikh because Guru manifests himself in the Sangat. A Sikh should attentively attend congregation for the possible longest duration of time. One must join Langar in the Langar-hall to share sacred food. Langar is served in Pangat (literally row) in the Langar-hall. Pangat does not simply mean sitting in a row; it means sitting equally at par with each other without any type of distinction. No special meals, seats or sections (in langar-hall or any other part of Gurdwara) can be reserved for any one whosoever he/she may be. The concept of Pangat (row) is to bring an end to hierarchy of caste, creed, colour, sex, status and all the other differences. Joining the Sangat and Pangat is a very important part of a Sikh's being.

The Sikh Red-Cross:- An anecdote from the times of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib explains one aspect of Sikh concept of Sewa and humanism. During the invasion of Anandpur Sahib by the Hindu and Mogul forces, Bhai Ghanaiya Singh, the Commander of the Sikh Red-Cross, used to help the wounded soldiers (even if they belonged to the army of the invaders). This was the command of Guru Sahib that a Sikh can not make discrimination while helping the needy and the helpless. This happened as remote as in the first decade of the eighteenth century. This was a step further than the modern "International Red-Cross," which, as a non-aligned body, looks after the soldiers/civilians wounded/killed during war or riots or natural calamity. The Sikh Red-Cross was not a non-aligned body but it still provided alike facilities to every wounded soldier, without any distinction. The Sikh Red-Cross is the prototype of the International Red-Cross. (Had Bhai Ghanaiya Singh being a "white man" he would have been a hero of the world history).

Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer

For comprehensive information read books:
The Sikh Culture
The Sikh reference Book (Sikh Encyclopedia)

Both by this author

© Copyright Dilgeer 2002 All Rights Reserved