Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Langar and legacy : Helping United Nations fight world hunger


Davinder Singh, Lawyer

LL.M., King’s College London



The concept of langar is a profound embodiment of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. Langar is a community kitchen where Sikh Gurudwaras serve free food to people without any prejudice or discrimination. Anyone can eat there as often as they want. The food prepared in langar is simple, vegetarian and hygienically prepared, and is served after reciting Ardas (prayer to almighty). The Sikh idea of langar is essentially social in conception. While having langar, people sit in pangat (literally a row) to share a common meal without distinction of caste or status.

The genesis of langar can be traced back to a short story concerning a true bargain known as ‘Sacha Sauda’ done by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. When Guru Nanak Dev ji was a young man, he hardly took any interest in worldly affairs and was inclined towards spending his time with holy men. His father, who was an important revenue official, wanted him to take up the profession seriously. Once, Guru ji was handed over a sum of 20 rupees by his father to visit market along with a servant and do a good bargain. Instead, he bought food with that money and fed a large group of saints who had been hungry for days. That is when he said, ‘what better use could money be put to, than feeding the hungry’ and termed it as ‘true and better bargain’ (Sacha Sauda). This underscored Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s philosophy and served as a powerful instrument for practical realisation.

The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development which was adopted by United Nations in 2015 consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by all the countries. The second goal of ‘zero hunger’ specified under these 17 SDGs aims to end extreme hunger and malnutrition, especially among children, by 2030. Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s langar is helping UN to achieve this goal. Several Sikh organisations like Khalsa Aid, Langar Aid, Midland Langar Seva Society and such others are serving langar in different countries to provide nutritious meals to the undernourished. One such organisation, ‘Zero Hunger With Langar’ is specifically focused on two African countries, Malawi and Kenya. These countries have the highest malnutrition rates among children and are featured in the UN’s target list. In Malawi, this organisation is currently serving up to 1,50,000 meals a month. In Kenya, around 300 acres of land is being cultivated with aim to serve 10 million meals a year. So, in this way, Guru Nank Dev Ji’s langar is served across the world with the aim to help UN fight hunger.