Sikh Soc transformed Riley Smith into a Langar hall

Free food was dished out to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike

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Sikh Soc converted Riley Smith Hall into a Langar hall on Tuesday, trying to bring an authentic Gurdwara atmosphere to LUU.

Attendees were encouraged to take off their shoes and don a head covering as a sign of respect before entering the Hall.

Members of the society served vegetarian Indian cuisine, which they had prepared themselves.

People were encouraged to sit, eat, listen to the hymns, and read about Sikh history and traditions.

Co-president and Natural Sciences second year Sehaj Singh spoke to us about the event.

What did you want the event to achieve?

“We held our event with three objectives in mind. Firstly to educate non-Sikhs about what Sikhism teaches and significant events in our history, as well as raising awareness of current human rights issues.

“As British Sikhs we often find that others do not know anything about our beliefs and we find this a deeply regretful scenario as we believe out faith has beautiful values and there are many historical examples of how these values should be integrated into our lives.

“Secondly, we wanted to provide a spiritual/cultural experience similar to the ambiance found in a Gurdwara. Sikhism was built around strong cultural values which are still evident today, and a beautiful example of this is the Langar. The idea was to transform Riley Smith Hall for a few hours into a Langar hall such as the ones found in a Gurdwara.

“Thirdly, we wanted to provide an event where our own members could practice their own Sikh values together and in front of people from other/no faith. When moving away from home, people of faith often find themselves lacking community.The Langar on campus gives them a chance to reconnect with their Sikh values in the same way they might do with their local Gurdwaras at home, and forge a sense of community within the university. There is also huge value in giving chance for students of any faith to practice their faith in front of their peers.”

Were you happy with how the event turned out?

“For a first time effort, we thought the members did a brilliant job. Feeding meals to approximately 600 students is no mean feat, especially when you have to cook the food yourselves in the early hours of the morning. Members arrived at a local Gurdwara at 5 am to make roti (chapatis), daal (lentils) and chholay (chickpeas) for the students. It was a a fantastic team effort and something everybody can be proud of.

“With it being our first event, things were bound to go wrong. But once things started running smoothly everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Traditional hymn singing was played in the background. Students’ shoes were removed and their heads covered with cloth (both signs of humility and respect). We served full Indian meals and laid out carpets laid upon white sheets like a Gurdwara Langar hall.

“There were pop up stands with information on different areas of Sikhism, from practices to historical events and even an instagram picture frame. We were unfortunate to have a last minute cancellation from full time educators, Basics of Sikhi, who do a fantastic job informing the public about Sikhism. However, society members and Sikh staff stepped up to the plate an engaged with attendees.”

What kind of responses did you get?

“The responses were fantastic. People were grateful for the food and once things were flowing and the dialogues started, the ideologies of Sikhism were met with interest and appreciation. People found the information from the stands really interesting. For example,  nobody seemed to know of the 1984 Sikh genocide, or the role of Sikh soldiers in the World Wars.

“The main focus of the event was to display the beauty of Sikhism to those who hadn’t yet experienced it. There is so much positivity to take from the concept of Langar, with no discrimination between who can partake in it. There were some really beautiful conversations regarding Sikhism between members and non-Sikh attendees. The best example of this was probably at the end of the event when an attendee and me hugged it out. “