23. Testing the Sikhs

As is the case nowadays, in the Guru's time, too, there were lots of black sheep in the fold. The continued stay of the Guru at Anandpur had attracted a large number of disciples from places near and remote. The more wealthy of the disciples established langars (free kitchens) from where the poor and the needy could get food. This free distribution of food was considered an act of merit and those who performed it won popular esteem. Some of the Guru's agents and courtiers who traded in the name of religion and whose business was to deal with the visitors in their respective countries considered it incumbent on them to start langars of their own. But most of what they did was mere show. One night the Guru, dressed as a Sadhu, went round the town and asked for food from all the langars. Nobody recognised him. In most places his request for food was refused. Some gave him stale and dried crumbs of bread on the plea that the fresh food had been used up. Only from the Langars of Diwan Nand Chand, Bhais Nand Lal, Ram Kaur and Sahib Chand fresh and sufficient food was obtained. The following day the Guru related the experience of the night and exhibited the crumbs of bread. This public exposure of men who pretended virtue had a salutary effect on the morals of the Sikhs.