20. Separate Social Practices
It must be noted that Guru Amardas had earlier undertaken a crusade against the Hindu caste system. The institution of langar was one of the many steps intended to break the caste system and the taboos about purity of cooking. The Guru spoke boldly against the caste system: "This body is made of five elements. It is subject to hunger, thirst, joy, sorrow, birth and death. It perishes and no caste goes with the soul to the next world. The Guru recognises no caste". Guru Amardas opposed the practice of Sati among the widows. True Satis are those who honour their husbands in their hearts and not those who burn themselves on the funeral pyre. He said :
Nanak, they are satis who die of the sheer shock of separation. (Page or Ang: 787)
On the other hand, Guru Amardas favoured widow remarriage, because he believed in family-life. He encouraged the Sikhs to have a marriage-partner after the death of their previous partner. Death is a natural phenomenon and as such it should be taken as a matter of course. Guru Amardas believed in the uplift of women. He discouraged the practice of veiling among women. Sikh women were forbidden the covering of their faces both inside and outside the congregation. Guru Amardas forbade 'drinking'. In one of his hymns, he exhorted his followers to avoid intoxicating wines and liquors. He wrote :
"One man brings a vessel filled with wine and fills a cup therefrom, by drinking which, intelligence departs and madness enters and man cannot distinguish between what is mine and yours and is accursed. Drinking it, one forsakes one's Lord and is punished at His Court. Yes, drink not this vicious wine, under any circumstances". (Page or Ang: 554)
By devising new practices and rejecting the old and futile ones, Guru Amardas made Sikhism quite separate from Hinduism. As one writer puts it: "He wished to construct a fence to protect it from the ancient Hindu faith". Thus his work and achievement is a turning point in the history of the Sikh Church or Gurudwara.