The Sikh Organization of Penn hosted their annual langar event on campus to raise awareness for the religion’s traditions and values.
This year's event, which was called "Langar on Locust" and held on Locust Walk, was the inaugural event of its kind on Penn's campus. Over 200 attendees stopped by to eat over four different dishes, featuring traditional foods served at langars.
A langar is a traditional community meal held by Sikhs at local temples, in which anyone can stop by to eat free of charge. Those participating typically eat the meal together on the floor, symbolizing a core Sikh value of equality, regardless of socioeconomic status and other factors.
“Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, but in my experience, there’s a lot of Penn students who don’t know what it is,” Jasleen Gill, a College junior and Sikh Organization board member, said. “We really wanted to educate the community on what our religion is about and celebrate its values of community service.”
To mirror the community-oriented nature of langars, all dishes were homemade by the board members’ families, with contributions from members of the Philadelphia community. Students from Drexel University, Temple University, Rutgers University, and Rowan University were also present to volunteer at the event.
“At first, we were worried about what people on Locust might think, but everyone who passed by seemed to enjoy it a lot,” Mehak Dhaliwal, College first year and Sikh Organization board member, said.
Many prospective Penn students also experienced the tabling as Quaker Days was taking place at the same time.
“The free food was actually a great way to foster conversation about our faith,” Chanpreet Toor, College junior and Sikh Organization board member, said. “We had some students ask us to write down the name of the dishes and people wanted to ask questions to learn more.”
The Sikh Organization also included a turban tying initiative at the langar. 102 turbans were tied in the traditional way worn by practicing Sikhs in order to spread understanding among the campus community.
“As one of the few Sikhs on campus that wears a turban, I wanted Penn community members to try a turban on during our event so that next time they see someone wearing one, they know who that person is and what they represent,” Harjap Singh, a Wharton junior and Sikh Organization board member who led the turban tying initiative, said. “Sikhs have faced a lot of discrimination because of the turban, so we wanted to break the stereotypes with this event.”
He said that historically, turbans were only worn by kings in India, and so Sikhism’s call for regular men and women to wear turbans represents the core tenet of equality in the faith.
“It was just really heartwarming seeing people walk down Locust with their new turbans,” Jasleen Kaur, College first year and Sikh Organization board member, said.
This event comes after the group's leaders sought to revive the Sikh Organization’s presence on campus after COVID-19. In the future, the board members said that the organization is looking to host this langar and turban tying event again with more collaborations with other campus groups, such as other religious associations.
“We really want to integrate ourself better in the Penn community,” Rhea Bakshi, College junior and Sikh Organization board member, said. “We think there’s a lot of opportunity for collaboration in interfaith discussions particularly to continue educating people at Penn about minority religions on campus.”