9. Langar Institutionalised
Guru Amardas developed Langar (Free Kitchen) into an institution for service of the community and for channelling the charities of the Sikhs. Moreover, he made it compulsory for everyone to eat in the Free Kitchen, before he could meet the Guru or join the congregation. His directive became a maxim - Pahlay Pangat, Pichhay Sangat: first take a meal in the Community Kitchen and then join the congregation. Langar not only broke the caste barriers on account of the interdining of the Hindus, Moslems and Shudras, but also rejected taboos about ritual cooking in plastered or purified spots. Guru Amardas' Langar was open most of the day and night. According to one writer, all types of dishes were served: sweet, saltish, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. The rations were supplied by the devotees in plenty and there was no shortage of foodstuffs at any time. Balwand and Satta - the court musicians - have made a special mention of the Guru's Langar, as stated below:
"Ever in your Kitchen, butter and flour are served (in plenty)" (Page: 986)
The food was prepared and distributed to the rich and the poor alike, while they took their seats in a row on the carpeted ground. Whatever was left over was given to the birds and animals and even to the fish in the river Beas, flowing close by. Emperor Akbar and the Raja of Haripur (Kangra hills) who came to meet Guru Amardas followed the tradition and took food with the ordinary men seated in a line in the Free Kitchen. When Akbar talked to the Guru, he offered land for the maintenance of the Kitchen, but the Guru did not accept it, saying that it is a Sikh institution and must be supported by the offerings and services of the disciples.