Inside the world’s largest community kitchen

Every Sikh should make the pilgrimage to the Golden Temple once in their lives

The langur (community kitchen) at the Golden Temple serves 50,000 free meals a day to everyone, regardless of religion or class. More than 5,000 happy volunteers work round the clock, cooking up a full meal of tea, rice, vegetable, daal, chapati and kheer (pudding). A whopping 18 quantals (=18,000 kg) of daal and 50 quantals of wheat are consumed each day. This has got to be the largest and happiest community kitchen in the world.

Harmandir Sahib (A.K.A the Golden Temple) in Amritsar is the most important place in the Sikh religion. Construction of the temple was started by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism in the 1400’s. Guru Nanak was fed up with the Hindu caste-system and the discrimination between Hindus and Muslims, so created a faith that was accepting of everyone regardless of their social status or religion. Being charitable towards others, especially the poor, was another fundamental aspect of the new Sikh religion, and it was Guru Nanak who established the first langur many centuries ago.

Today, every gurudwara provides free meals as well as places for people to sleep. In a society where the divide between rich and poor is so stark, eating at the Golden Temple is refreshingly grounding as everyone sits together on the floor, eating exactly the same meal. All langurs are the same, but the sheer size and efficiency of the one at the Golden Temple boggles the mind.

Sikhs pray in the temple around the clock, the music and prayers sung during their meditation are played on loud speakers throughout the centre of Amritsar

The langur runs on food and cash donations. Punjab, A.K.A ‘the garden of India’ has fertile soil which provide much of the country’s grain and crops. Every day wheat, rice and daal are delivered from the surrounding areas and Delhi. Food waste is then sent back out to the countryside to be used as animal feed

A mixture of wood and LPG gas heat up the HUUUUUGE vats of daal, rice, curry and milk pudding that are cooked each day

Chapatis are hand-rolled by volunteers (of all ages) in one section then sent to another section to be brushed with ghee. There is also a chapati machine, which can churn out 25,000 chapatis an hour.

The chapati machine (apparently donated by a guy from Lebanon) in action

The garlic peeling section

The most impressive part of the langur is not the size, but the volunteers. All Sikhs must perform seva (service) with a full heart and compassion. The happiness and sincerity from the 5,000 plus volunteers working in the kitchen is palpable. Around 400 sewadas (workers) supervise the volunteers, noticeable by their yellow and blue turbans.

Every meal comes with kheer (sweet), which is usually rice pudding. If you’re lucky you’ll also get jalebis, which are a batter fried in ghee then soaked in sugar syrup.

The langur never sleeps. On an average day 50,000 people are fed in the vast dining halls. On religious holidays this number rises to 100,000. Despite the large numbers, the langur works like clockwork and nobody queues for longer than a few minutes.

At the end of each meal dishes are collected then washed 5 times in a deafeningly loud washroom. Every day 300,000 cups, spoons and plates are washed.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Fascinating story. And great photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

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