Every morning, Ashok Singh makes it a point to get up as early as 4:30 am. After all, he has important business to attend to – cooking for at least 250 persons on a daily basis. But feeding these 250 individuals their morning tea, breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner is not just work, Singh considers it a holy assignment – his door to reach the Guru.
Surprised? Don’t be, for Ashok works at the kitchen of the century old Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha at Fancy Bazar, Guwahati.
“I get just about ` 8000. But then, it’s not about money, it’s a part of our religion. The task assigned to me is my sewa in a way. Preparing prasad for so many people is my sewa (service) to my Guru (Guru Nanak Dev). The count fed on Sundays touches the 500 mark. It’s my privilege to do this task,” he shared.
A resident of Sarabhati in the city, Ashok is assisted by another cook Jeet Bahadur and two other sewadars (gurdwara volunteer). The Gurudwara is a four storeyed building, amidst the choc-a-block lanes of Fancy Bazar. The ground floor of the Gurudwara has been allotted for private shops. There are total six rooms for visitors and 18 workers who look after the Gurudwara. Worshippers are offered karah parshad (made with whole wheat flour, ghee and sugar) in the hall, which is usually served into cupped hands by a sewadar.
Every day, langar, which is strictly vegetarian and free, is served on the top floor of the building. It’s an open space where visitors and staff would sit on the floor in a row and eat the sada khana (simple food).
Mukhtar Singh, who has been over- looking the management of the Fancy Bazar Gurudwara for 10 years now, shared, “We believe in equality; we believe in oneness. Being a Sikh, we are just following the footsteps of Guru Nanak Dev ji. The door of any Gurudwara is always open for all regardless of any religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status.”
He added, “What makes langar saintly is the very fact that it teaches a person to uphold one’s virtue of oneness and community gathering through food. Our kitchen is open round the clock and no visitor leaves without a meal. Around 10 kg of rice, 8 kg of kali dal (black lentils) and ` 500 is spent on buying vegetables every day. On Sunday, the limit goes up.”
A visitor from Punjab, Happy Singh, who is staying at the Fancy Bazar Gurudwara, shared, “We eat simple food like dal (lentil), sabji (mixed vegetable), chawal (rice) and acchar (pickle) and we have to wash our own dishes. The langars in all the Gurudwaras are melting pots of people from all walks of life. The meals, which we eat together, help us form a bond with one another, as here we are all equal. I met some Assamese people here. Though I don’t understand the language, it was good to know them.”
During festivals like Gurpurbs, the rush exceeds to more than thousands of visitors at the Fancy Bazar Gurudwara.
Surjit Singh, general secretary, Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha, Beltola, Guwahati shared, “We don’t let any person leave without having prasad. It doesn’t matter which religion you follow or how much money you have, in front of the Guru, we all are equal. The entire Gurudwara runs on donation and by the Sikh community here. The people who work here offer their sewas to their Guru. We have a darbar hall where prasad is distributed to all the devotees on an everyday basis.”
The three storeyed Beltola Gurudwara, established in the year 1995, has a total of 29 workers with 18 -20 rooms for accommodation for the visitors.
Gurvinder Singh, manager, Gurdwara Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, Dhubri, shared, “There are many heartwarming stories, depicting communal harmony and brotherhood, which you will come across the langars.”
It may be mentioned that in an example of communal harmony, the Sikh Community in Lucknow organised an iftar party at Gurudwara Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji in Yahiyaganj, Lucknow on June 30 this year.
“Sewa is our main goal. Guru Nanak Dev ji, the founder of Sikhism, preached communal harmony. We are just following his teachings. Our doors are open for all round the clock. The other day, a person came to our Gurudwara and shared that he lost all his money. We helped him with some money so that he can reach his destination. We solely run on donations,” Gurvinder informed.
The first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev, visited Dhubri in 1505 AD and met Srimanta Sankardev on his way when he traveled from Dhaka to Assam. Later, the 9th Guru Teg Bahadur came to this place and established this Gurdwara during the 17th century.
Apart from serving free meals, Gurudwara Sahib, Dimapur, Nagaland is providing filtered water and medical assistance to the needy ones.
“Since the inception of the Gurudwara in 1951, we are providing water and medicines to the needy ones. As Dimapur faces severe water scarcity issues, we serve the needy ones as preached by Guru Nanak Dev ji. We have also organized free artificial limb and caliper camps for the divyangs,” shared Harjinder PS Ahluwalia, president of Shri Guru Singh Sabha, Dimapur. This five- storeyed Gurudwara is looked after by 15 sewadars.
“I am associated with this Gurudwara for the last 40 years. I consider myself lucky as I got the chance to do sewa for the people in need. It is not about what religion you follow, it is about the sense of brotherhood and oneness. We are all one,” summed up Ahluwalia.
Meanwhile, a ‘never-tired’ Ashok makes a list of items to be bought for Sunday langar.
“Sewa helps me sleep peacefully,” Ashok stated before signing off.