GOLAK or GURU KI GOLAK (the Guru`s own till). Golak (Sanskrit golak; Persian gholak) means, in Punjabi, a till, cash box or any other container used for keeping money especially one used for receiving contributions for charitable purposes. It is a time honoured Indian custom to carry an offering when going to make obeisance to one`s deity. In gurdwdrus, i.e. Sikh places of worship, a receptacle, golak, is usually kept in front of the sanctum into which the devotees drop their cash offerings. Besides, the Sikhs are enjoined to keep apart for communal sharing one-tenth of their earnings. This is called dasvandh, lit. tithe or a tenth part. Rahitndmds advise every Sikh householder to maintain a golak to collect his savings towards dasvandh. All these receipts, dasvandhas well as routine offerings, go to build up Guru kl Golak a common fund used for communal or charitable purposes. It is not essential for this pool to be physically collected at one place.

Any charities dispensed in the Guru`s name, individually or collectively, are contributions to Guru ki Golak. Ghanh In rasnd, Guru ki golak, goes a Sikh saying: feeding a poor man is tantamount to contributing to the Guru`s golak. Guru ki Golak has a religious as well as an historical meaning in the Sikh tradition. The founder, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), had himself set up the institutions of sangat (holy fellowship) and pangai (commensality).

The latter, a practical step towards the eradication of untouch ability and caste prejudices, implied a common kitchen and refectory, langarm Punjabi. Langar needed resources; hence the golak. At the same time, whatever the Sikhs possessed was considered God`s gift or the Guru`s. Guru Nanak said, “One who offers his body, mind and material possessions at the feet of the Lord tastes the precious elixir [of nam]” (GG, 918).

Langar for the Sikhs became, therefore. Guru ka Larigar and the golak Guru ki Golak. Guru ka Larigar was a necessary adjunct of Sikh dharamsalds and gurudwaras.But there was other social and philanthropic activity inaugurated by the Gurus such as construction works, maintenance of orphanages, asylums, dispensaries, educational institutions, etc., which were also provided for by drawing upon Guru ki Golak.

As their following increased and their activities expanded, the Gurus strengthened the structural aspect of the community. Man/is or preaching centres were established and masandsov Guru`s representatives were appointed to propagate the faith and also to collect the offerings and dasvandh from the Sikhs and send these on to the central pool, Guru ki Golak. The system worked effectively for some lime, hut by and by malpractices crept in.Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) abolished the system of masands and brought the Sikh sunguts in direct touch with himself.

The Sikhs continued to maintain the golak in which i.hcv deposited their contributions in the name of the Guru. These were despatched to the Guru as sangats went to visit him on festivals or other occasions. As the Guru Granth Sahib was invested Guru, the dasvandh could be deposited at any giirdwdrd or allied charitable institution. Separate golaks in Sikh homes became redundant.

Since the Gurdwara Reform movement of the 1920`s control of a large number of gurudwaras, especially the historical ones, has passed on to a statutory body, the Shiromam Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Most of the other giirdwdrds are managed by committees of the local sangats. Sealed golaks a.re maintained in most of them to receive the daily cash offerings of the devotees. Offerings in kind are used in the Guru ka Langar attached to the gurudwara.

References :

1. Padam, Piara Singh, Rahitndmc. Amritsar, 1989
2. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990