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In this post I hope to get SA members thoughts about 'puratan' Langar - in other words what was the langar served during puratan times ? .

Langar differs where ever you go - in the pind it is usually one dal or sabji served on a large 'manday' chappatti with 'kheer' served on the same chappatti- the sangat served while sitting in 'pangats'- lines . In urban India it is more elaborate, paneer and more 'dishes' - sometimes a 'birthday cake' if it is a Gurpurb celebrating the birth of a Guru Sahib.

In the UK it is like Urban India, lots of dishes with salad etc served on metal trays in a canteen style.

My sisters live in the USA and I have seen langer served like 'Sunday Lunch' - a buffet laid on a table and everyone serves themselves using disposable plates - some going for 'second helpings' - some of the kids call it the ' one dollar buffet' - a reference to the money you give when you 'matha tek' - here you also have lots of dishes and elaborate desserts.

I have seen in 'American ' Sikh gurdwaras 'pot luck' langers were sangat all bring a dish so you get different types of food - mexican italian etc.

Those of us in the UK will all be familiar with the Saturday 'Chips and Beans & Icecream Langar !!

I would like to know what was langar like in the 16th to 19th century ?-

We have one reference to Kheer in the Guru Granth Sahib - which is also the only mention of a female contemporary of the Gurus - Mata Khivi - the wife of Guru Angad Dev ji - (Ramkali ki war - Satta & Balwand) - they mention Mata Khivi bountifully giving rice pudding enriched with clarified butter to all the Sangat.

We also have the sakhi of Mata Ganga taking food - Desi village food- Lassi and onions - to Baba Buddha

We also have the sakhis from Guru Gobind Singh's life - the stories of Bala Preetam - such as the Raja Fateh Chand and Rani of Patna - into whose lap Guru Sahib sat and was called Bala Preetam - She gave Chhole and Puri to Guru Sahib - I believe the Gurdwara that commemorates this still serves Chhole Puri .

We also have the story of an elderly lady of Dina Pur who served Kichhori - lentils to Guru Sahib - When she asked when she would see Guru Sahib again - Guru Sahib said whenever you serve Kichhori to the poor and needy you will see me.

We also have the so called ''Controversial' jhatka ragra references in Panth Prakash.

Does the sangat have any thoughts?

If you look at the average 'Jat jimindar' family - they would have very simple food dependent on the season - like my Bibi would say -" we only bought Cha Patti - tea - every thing else was made or grown at home - Butter,veg, oil, clothes. - it was a treat to have masaley (spices)" -- This brings in the colonial factor - many things we believe as being crucial to punjabi food were brought to Punjab by others - one example being the Portuguese who brought tomatoes , Paneer, Chillies. and the British who brought and grew tea.

Potatoes are quite recent - can you imagine no Aloo Parauthe !! or Saag without chillies !! - the main spice would have been Black pepper .

This post could go on forever - I'll stop it there - Please add your thoughts - What was langer like in Puratan times ? - Many Thanks

Here is the Picture for this picture post !!! -- It shows Guru Nanak Sahib's visit to ManiKaran in the Kulu Valley - Bhai Mardana is shown cooking chappatties on a stone warmed by a Hot Spring - you can still visit these hot springs today - and people cook rice and bathe in the hot springs.


* a 1800s illustration from a Janam Sakhi - in the Sabi & Amrin Marwah Collection (Ontario) -

Taken from The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms,The Canadian Collections - Seema Bharadia - ROM - 2000

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It's crucial to understand when certain ingredients came into the Punjab (and indeed left it). As you say, tomatoes, potates, chillies and garlic are products of the "new world" and woudl ahve started to enter the punjabi diet in the 18th century.

The diet of the Gurus woudl have been spiced with only ground black pepper, ginger and coriander. Much closer to the authentic Mughali cuisine. the Jat diet is alluded to in a few early texts (including Sicques, tigers or Thieves 'wink wink') where there are 18th C refs to coarse gram breads and simple dals.

Some years ago I read KT Achaya Historical Companion to Indian Food and his excellent Historical Dictionary of Indian food. It inspired me to start to write still unfinished essay on what the Guru's ate. I'll dig it out and try to complete it


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