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Explained: How Guru Nanak’s ‘Langar’ is helping UN achieve its ‘zero hunger’ goal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Langar

Mains level : Zero Hunger With Langar initiaitve

It is reported that Guru Nanak’s ‘Langar’ is contributing to achieve the SDG 2nd goal of Zero Hunger in African countries and is bringing down ‘preventable children deaths’ due to malnutrition.

What is Langar?

  • Langar refers to a system of developing a community kitchen, where people irrespective of their caste, religion and social status sit together on the floor and have food.
  • The word ‘langar’ has its origin in Persian, and means a public eating place where people, especially the needy, are given food.
  • The institution of langar finds its roots in two teachings of Sikhism — ‘Naam japo, kirat karo, vand chako’ (pray, work and share with others whatever you earn) and ‘Sangat aur pangat’ (eat sitting together in rows on the floor).
  • The langar kitchen at Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar feeds nearly a lakh people a day daily.
  • In Delhi, Sri Bangla Sahib gurdwara kitchen serves langar to 45,000-50,000 persons a day.

What is the link between Guru Nanak and langar?

  • Guru Nanak in his teenage had served some hungry sages on his way out of his own money purposed for buying grocery.
  • On being questioned, Nanak said that he did a ‘Sacha Sauda’ by feeding hungry men, which he said was ‘the most profitable deal’ for him.
  • Currently, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda stands at Farooqabad in Sheikhupura district of Pakistan, which is where Guru Nanak is believed to have fed those sadhus.
  • At Kartarpur, his final resting place, Guru Nanak had later established a dharamsal where food is served without discrimination.

How have other Sikh gurus contributed to this tradition?

  • The second Sikh guru Angad Dev and his wife Mata Khivi played a crucial role in strengthening the tradition of langar.
  • The third Sikh Guru, Amar Das, too devoutly followed ‘sangat aur pangat’ and anyone who used to come to meet him, was first served langar.
  • It is said that even when Emperor Akbar came to meet him, Guru suggested he should first have langar sitting with everyone on the floor, which Akbar accepted.

Zero Hunger With Langar

  • Several Sikh organisations like Khalsa Aid, Langar Aid, Midland Langar Seva Society and others are now branching out to other countries where langar is used to provide nutritious meals to the undernourished.
  • One such organisation is ‘Zero Hunger With Langar’ which is specifically working in two African countries — Malawi and Kenya — which are among the countries with the highest malnutrition rates among children and feature in the UN’s target list.

Why such move?

  • There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss.
  • Over 90 million children under 5 (years) are dangerously underweight. Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America.
  • In 2017, Asia accounted for nearly two-thirds, 63 per cent of world’s hungry and nearly 151 million children under 5 22 per cent, were stunted in 2017 across the world.

Impact of the movement

  • Attendance in primary schools and nurseries has improved considerably. More than 90 per cent malnutrition-free status is achieved in Malawi.
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