AMRITSAR: To understand the essence of ‘langar’ (community kitchen), which brings people of all walks together by erasing differences, a group of 13 undergraduates from the University of Michigan, US, has come to the Golden Temple to participate in this revolutionary concept started by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. Convinced with the centuries […]
AMRITSAR: To understand the essence of ‘langar’ (community kitchen), which brings people of all walks together by erasing differences, a group of 13 undergraduates from the University of Michigan, US, has come to the Golden Temple to participate in this revolutionary concept started by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. Convinced with the centuries old tradition of cooking and serving food to people together, which helped sustain the community, these students from the US are getting involved in all aspects of ‘langar’, including cooking and cleaning utensils and visiting farmer markets and dairies that provide supplies to Golden Temple for preparing food for around 60,000 people every day.
The young Americans are difficult to spot as they mingle with other devotees to perform ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) in the ‘langar’ building as they chop vegetables, peel onions and make ‘chapattis’, squatting on the floor with their heads covered. But a closer look shows the inquisitiveness on their faces and strong conviction to know the sacred tradition that holds secrets of sustainable living.
A young undergrad Nick Rinahart from the Michigan varsity told TOI on Thursday that he had never seen so many people cooking together and serving food. “It’s so remarkable that people from different backgrounds gather at a single place and cook food. It’s just outstanding,” he remarked.
Jasprit Singh, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, University of Michigan, who had proposed to take a group of undergraduate students to Amritsar to see what lessons could be learnt from the concept of ‘langar’, said, “The students in our group will be future leaders of the world, and they will develop ideas and policies to address some of the great challenges faced by humanity. The aim of the programme is to expose them to different ways of building communities and sharing resources.”
Another US student Tina Alkherson said she had visited a gurdwara in Michigan earlier, but the scale of ‘langar’ in the Golden Temple was beyond her imagination. She said she couldn’t communicate with other persons preparing ‘langar’, but she could see in them the dedication to serve. “The people here are more generous in nature,” she said.
Prof Jasprit said the students would research on how volunteers work together to prepare meals for 60,000 people everyday, the power that draws participants who serve and were served, the role played by merchants and farmers in the ‘langar’ and ‘daswandh’ (donating 10% of earnings). “The students will also look at how do devotees gear up mentally and physically to prepare a meal without any urgency like in case of a natural disaster,” he said.
Indian-origin Radha Patel, among the 13 students from Michigan varsity, said it was surprising to see how people took out time to cook for others, which was unseen in the US. It is nice to see haves and have-nots sitting together and doing the same job. It is an amazing cultural tradition so I would love to visit again,” said Radha.
Sarah Maishall said people in Amritsar treated them like family members. “Women would come and touch me. It’s like a family but in US people are more individualistic,” Sarah said, adding that she was hopeful that the group would learn a lot from the tradition of ‘langar’.
~ By Yudhvir Rana
~ Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/