LANGAR SANGAT & PANGAT The SIKH RED CROSS
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
The Sikh Culture
The Sikh reference Book (Sikh Encyclopedia)
Both by this author