At various times throughout the week, people can be found at the gurdwara, ready to serve.

The history of Sikhism honours many heroes, and talks in detail about their valour and dedication towards the religion. However, there remains a large section which remains uncelebrated; the unsung heroes. In this article,Vikram Singh Khalsa,a member of the Sikh community,  sheds light on the same, acknowledging the  presence and contributions of the heroes who remain under the shadows. 

From a young age, the author has been a regular presence on Gurdwara stages alongside their father. They would play tabla, harmonium, or sometimes cry in their mother's lap during these appearances. This frequent visibility on stage meant that the author and his family were often the centre of attention from the congregation.

The author recalls receiving many compliments from community members, especially for his tabla playing at such a young age. He remembers people often greeting him warmly  being the son of a respected Bhai Sahib. The author notes that his family received constant respect from the sangat  because of its prominent role in the Gurdwara community.

While committee members, kathavachaks (religious storytellers), and famous Raagis (Sikh musicians) are all incredibly important and deserve our respect for their contributions to the Sikh faith and Gurdwara (Sikh temple) community, this isn't about them.The author wishes to focus on the unsung heroes of the Gurdwara community. These are the ordinary people who do seva without recognition. They spend many hours serving but receive no fame or respect. The author realizes how complex it is to run the Langar in just one Gurdwara. Many volunteers work together to feed the sangat without seeking personal gain. This is true selfless service. The Langar Hall has many different faces working together. They are all part of a large system that keeps the Langar running. Everyday people make rotis, wash dishes, roll dough, set plates, and serve food. People of all ages participate, from young boys to old women.It is indeed a heartwarming display of community spirit. 

The sevadaars who serve food in the Langar line are visible to everyone. However, those washing dishes or cleaning often work out of sight. People eat and put their dishes away without thinking about what happens next.The author wonders what  would happen if there weren't enough volunteers to wash the dishes. He encourages reflection on the importance of these behind-the-scenes workers in keeping the Langar system running smoothly.Everyone plays a part, working like a big team.

At various times throughout the week, people can be found at the gurdwara, ready to serve. It is surprising that there is always someone who notices dirty dishes and decides to clean them. The necessary tasks are completed by random volunteers who come to do them. Sometimes no one is doing a particular seva, while at other times there are too many volunteers to join in. From taking out the trash to cleaning the floors, the Sikh spirit of selfless service remains strong. Witnessing this service fills observers with joy and inspiration. These volunteers are considered true heroes, without whom the entire system would fail.

The diversity of the volunteer group is remarkable. Not all volunteers are amritdhari or kesadhari Sikhs. Many people who do not fit the typical "Gursikh" image are often seen doing seva, such as vacuuming or rolling up rugs. They are the ones who deserve  real praise and recognition. This service is different from performing on stage, playing harmonium, singing, or playing tabla, which often result in compliments. Most background sevas do not come with credit or recognition. There is significance in Guru Gobind Singh Ji instructing Bhai Nand Lal to wash the dishes of the Khalsa. Such seva is meant to  promote humility.

Ego often tries to influence people's motivations. Many individuals attempt to perform seva privately for this reason. A person may experience an internal conflict between wanting to remain unseen and secretly hoping to be noticed. It can be challenging to avoid becoming egotistical when engaging in significant amounts of seva. An activity intended to foster humility can paradoxically increase ego. For seva to be truly beneficial, it should be done without hidden agendas or expectations of rewards. Performing Simran simultaneously can make seva even more valuable.

People may wonder about the motivation behind seva and why others engage in it. The only way to truly understand is through personal experience. Standing alongside strangers with a shared purpose and goal in a large collective effort can be a remarkable feeling. There are no obligations or expectations involved. The sense of peace and contentment derived from seva is unparalleled. Simply knowing that one is making a contribution, no matter how small, can be satisfying. The fulfilment and sense of purpose obtained from seva is unique. Even individuals who have performed minimal seva in their lives can experience these benefits.

Now, getting to the title of this post:

We’re all familiar with the famous Sikh Slogan “Degh Tegh Fateh”. Notice that the word “Degh” comes first. The Degh part is just as important to victory as the sword, or the warrior (sipahi) spirit. This means victory to the “cooking pot”, representing the concept of feeding and serving the community, making sure everyone is well fed in addition to providing protection and being politically victorious.

Over 500 years ago, Guru Nanak Dev Ji invested 20 rupees. This investment continues to benefit thousands through Langar. Langar is a free meal service. It feeds people worldwide. People from all backgrounds eat together as equals. This practice is due to Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji's teachings. The Langar system is considered a great bargain and investment.

The people who maintained Langars and fed the Khalsa Army were important in Sikh history. They are often unrecognised heroes. Many stories focus on warriors, but those who served in Langars were also crucial. Examples include Bhai Manjh and Bhai Taru Singh. They sacrificed much for the Langar institution. The Langar brought together people from all social levels. Even royalty and scholars like Bhai Nand Lal participated. Emperors had to sit with common people. The Langar was open to all, including enemies. Today, people of all ages volunteer to clean dishes at Langars. This act of service creates a sense of shared responsibility and community. It is seen as inspiring and hopeful.

Some people do good deeds without recognition. These people are real heroes. We don't often acknowledge them. This lack of recognition may be what makes their actions special. Giving them awards might ruin the purity of their service. If you serve others without seeking gain,you are respect worthy. You are far better than those who just talk about helping others. You are much better than any other public speakers who steal the limelight. If you haven't tried selfless service, you should. It gives an amazing feeling.


*Based on an article by Vikram Singh Khalsa, published in on 30th December 2014


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