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Langar Etiquette -- What Is The Best Practice


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ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ

I have a query about langar etiquettes.

When sevadars are going around the langar hall asking if anyone requires an additional serving, I have noticed that some people receive the parshada (chapati) with a single hand while chatting away with their neighbors. Incidently this is more common with the sangat who are having their langar on chairs and tables (even though they are not physically challanged in any way) --- sometimes I have a feeeling they are treating the langar as a meal in a restaurant and the sevadars as waiters. To be fair though, most of the sangat is respectful and is concious that they are having langar.

But if my understanding is correct, langar is equivalent to the parshad we receive in the main hall in terms of its importance. So aren't we supposed to receive langar with the same respect we receive parshad with? I always receive and additional parshadas with both hands.

Am I correct in understanding the practice I have mentioned earlier by some sangat is to be discourage and, hopefully, corrected?

Warm regards.

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Thats true, some do take parshada with one hand. But sometimes when there's elders who do that, you feel they gonna look at you like this -> :o and proabably thinking, 'tu kal jamia see, tu kaun hunda'. lol

so if anyone one knows how to humbly ask in punjabi to fold hands, would be a help. :D

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The problem is that elders are doing this! These are the people who have been in that gurdwara for the past few decades (I am afraid some of them think the gurdwara is their own personal club or some such thing). When elders like these create examples of bad practice, it becomes extremely difficult to teach the correct way to the little kids. And thus this is a problem that can have long lasting consequences -- bad ones!

When I do seva in the langar hall or in the divaan hall and am giving parshad or langar, if a little kid or a person apparently new to the gurdwara extends a single hand, I just politely and clearly say "ਦੋਵੇਂ ਹੱਥ ਜੋਡ਼ ਕੇ ਲਵੋ ਜੀ" or "ਹੱਥ ਜੋਡ਼ੋ ਜੀ" or "please use both hands". I do this with elders also, but the elders are the ones who are the toughest to change, in fact, some look at you as if you have insulted them in some way.

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The elders will remember a time when serving langar at the Gurudwara was not common and Gurudwaras relied upon the rare event when langar would be organised by someone out of special commission for Akhand Path for instance. Even in larger Gurudwaras in those times, the langar consisted of tandoor ovens where bread was baked and distributed to the poor who lived locally and came to colect it - your average visitor took prashad, but not langar.

Therefore their attitude to langar is very casual and they do see it a bit like being in a restaurant. Personally I do not mind their attitude - its just the way they were nurtured and I doubt for a single moment that they mean any disrespect.

It is nice to teach young ones to take the phulka respectfully and that's a good trend.

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Therefore their attitude to langar is very casual and they do see it a bit like being in a restaurant. Personally I do not mind their attitude - its just the way they were nurtured and I doubt for a single moment that they mean any disrespect.

That is one way to explain it while keeping in mind that this is no justification to condone the practice.

I have a related theory mainly founded on some other observations I have made -- now that I have started to think critically about almost anything that goes on in the gurdwaras. I have noticed that more often than not, the elders here take a dim view of whatever practices occur in India, sometimes I think they take them as uncivilized. Examples:

- They don't think it is necessary to keep your head covered (for women) except in the divaan hall in a gurdwara

- They think it is okay to wear footwear in the langar hall.

- That the sangat in India has the convenience of hiring servants to prepare the langar (this is a gros misconception too).

- They think all Indian gurdwaras are corrupt, while I know for a fact that they are no different than any in the world in this respect! Not sure about in India, but I know that here in the west there have been many cases of gross moral and illegal acts within gurdwara (don't want to go there).

I can make these comparison because I have been to India a few times in the past some years and have seen things myself.

Given these observations and their behaviour and the way they argue, it appears to me that they have some sort of a dislike of practices followed in India. Their usual argument is "we need to progress with time and circumstances." I am not sure what to make of this. I fail to see how wearing shoes and sandals in langar hall (building is centerally airconditioned and there is no cold floor problem) and not covering one's head is a sign of progress.

Lastly, even if one were to ignore their attidue, the problem is the young ones see their example and there is no stopping this trend in the future --- corollary: trying to teach the younger ones is fruitless in this scenario.

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best way to convince most people is through a genuine loving manner. If you give a holier-than-thou impression, the result will be either the other person being confrontational, or being hurt (and consequently having a negative view of singhs).

say with a smile and ut most nimrata "mataji/bibji/bhenji dovay hath kariyo".... if they don't budge, say "mataji, eh guru ka parshada"

i don't think most people will argue after that.

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best way to convince most people is through a genuine loving manner. If you give a holier-than-thou impression, the result will be either the other person being confrontational, or being hurt (and consequently having a negative view of singhs).

say with a smile and ut most nimrata "mataji/bibji/bhenji dovay hath kariyo".... if they don't budge, say "mataji, eh guru ka parshada"

i don't think most people will argue after that.

Yes, I agree with this fully and I do follow this idea. However, I hit a wall when the other person just laughs it off saying something on the lines of "chall chadd, koi na, baabe nu sabh pata hi hai ke sahde dill which puri sharadda hai" (ਚਲ ਛੱਡ ਕੋਈ ਨਾ, ਬਾਬੇ ਨੂੰ ਪਤਾ ਹੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਸ੍ਹਾਡੇ ਦਿੱਲ ਵਿੱਚ ਪੂਰੀ ਸ਼ਰਦਾ ਹੈ।).

You will be surprised how many times I have faced these kind of comments, they just laught it off! So far I have not argued further to avoid any unpleasant situation ... otherwise, as you say, I may turn out acting the holier than thou attitude.

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Veer Ji! U should come down to the Gurdware near my ends!! Its more like a club hall! 2 Gurdware, no space to sit down on the floor at all! Everyone walks around wid shoes, even da Gyanis!! (they encourage it and always tell me 2 put on shoes lol). Women do not cover their head! Even while servin! When i try and give out Parshada they only put out one hand, and most the time they dont even look at me and just tell me 2 "drop" it on their tray. I cant stress how bad the state the Gurdware down here are in! I really need some help in getting things sorted! Wish i lived somewhere like bham! Really hurts to see all this beadbi and stuff goin on! But the good thing is, when theres no space to sit down on the floor, i go in the Dabar Sahib and sit near Mahraj :)

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most annoying thing at langars:

perfectly healthy people sitting on the handicap designated seating; that is flipping annoying.....

tabya is made for a reason

Well, at least you have the signs. In the gurdwara which I usuallly go to, there are tables and chair in half the hall and the strips of rugs in the other half. Everybody is free to sit where ever they please. In essense we have two levels of sangat then.

I always notice that the youth that are not regulars and are related to the gurdwara "elite" always sit with them on the tables, even though the "official" stance of the management is that the tables and chairs are for physically challenged sangat. However, they completely refuse to put signs to that effect on the tables. I have observed during the last few years that the unwritten rules is that the sangat can sit whereever they want. The rule is intentionally unwritten, since then the management has plausible deniability.

What troubles me is that we consistently have sangat sitting at two levels. When I first pointed out this problem, the management first tried to define "pangat" as "a line"; the definition specifically did not have "sitting on the floor" in it. With this definition, when I pointed out that the sangat could even be having langar while standing or walking or dancing as long as they always in a line, the management then said that pangat means sitting at the same level, which brought us back to where we started!

Then they just made lame excuses, which included:

1. We shoud be progrossive, for how long should we keep on sitting on the floors.

2. We should keep the physically challenged people in mind (but ignored my earlier request to put the relevant signs on the tables)

3. These are small things and we should not fixate on them and it is not good to have a holier than thou attitude. We should look at the bigger picture. (I fail to understand how a better bigger picture can be realized when the fundamentals are not strong and consistent; true in every sphere of life).

4. And conlcuded that the "controversy" of tables and chair is the handiword of uneducated, backword and rigid Sikhs from India and the educated and progressive Sikhs in the western world should not tow their line.

I have since stopped argueing with them on this. I have since realized that there appears to be a huge divide in the Sikhs outside Punjab: those that have emigrated from Punjab recently and those who have been away since many decades. Divisions, divisions ... no wonder Sikhs are on the receiving end in many places in the world (booted from aircrafts, have their turbans taken off at airports, turbans banned in France, etc.).

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