Exploring The World’s Biggest Community Kitchen Inside The Golden Temple

Cover Comunity kitchen

Located in the city of Amritsar, Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Darbar Sahib is one of the prominent pilgrimage sites of Sikhism. Arguably referred to as the World Headquarter for Sikhism, the place attracts many tourists from around the globe. Apart from being the central religious place of the Sikhs, it is also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of caste, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory, and heritage of the Sikhs.

About Sri Harmandir Sahib

Harmandir Sahib
Harmandir Sahib

Built at a level lower than the surrounding land, the Golden Temple has a unique Sikh architecture. The Darbar Sahib teaches a lesson of egalitarianism and humility. The entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.

To pen-down, the philosophy, ideology, the inner and outer beauty, as well as the historical legacy of Sri Harmandir Sahib is a momentous task. It is a matter of experience rather than a description.

World’s Largest Community Kitchen

The institution of the Sikh langar, or free kitchen, was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender or social status. It was indeed a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th-century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind. “..the Light of God is in all hearts.”

Since then, a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night to serve free food among the people has been going on for 365 days of the year. Yes, the Community Kitchen or the Langar Hall, serves about everything for centuries. From dal to vegetables, roti to rice and a thick South Asian rice pudding called Kheer, everything is served under one roof and for all. Nearly 100,000 people eat here every day and not a single one of them is asked to pay for it.

To serve a meal of this scale is made possible by a cadre of volunteers working on an astonishing amount of raw material like 12,000 kilos of flour; 1500 kilos of rice; 13000 kilos of lentils and 2000 kilos of vegetables. Most of the raw materials are brought either from Delhi or locally. As we all know that due to GST, some tax is levied on all the things that we buy the authorities have managed to waver it off for this cause. The kitchen receives a lot of donations too, either in cash or kind. This incredible feat is made possible through thousands of volunteers who work tirelessly. During one of our early morning Golden Temple Tours, we have been able to visit the basement of the Langar Hall where tons of raw material is kept, including a large cold storage space.

Overwhelming feeling after seeing the size of cooking pots

As per a report published in 2016, it was also mentioned that the Biggest Free Kitchen of the World is turning Organic. A landmark decision to adopt organic farming by The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was taken 3 years back with an aim to inspire farmers to take up organic farming and cut down on the use of chemical products. They partnered with Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC) for this cause of replacing pesticides and the use of organic fertilizers. In fact, the first phase of this experimental model was successfully completed.

At any given point of the day or night, the place is not only swarmed by devotees wanting to partake what is considered as blessed by service, but by hundreds of volunteers who are ever-so-ready to be part of the voluntary cooking and serving process.

From anything to everything is done by them. Like planning to preparation, cooking to cleaning is done by these Sewadars that can help out for as long as they like. Come let’s take a tour to this entire process at the Golden Temple from preparations to cleaning.

Quick Facts about the Langar Hall

  1. There are two halls that can serve about 5,000 diners at a time
  2. About 90% of staff are made up of volunteers who put in their “Head and Heart” to serve in Guru-Ghar
  3. Hygiene is of utmost importance
  4. Everyone regardless of faith and background is allowed in the dining hall
  5. Everyone must sit on the floor as equals, so all are on the same level and nobody is ‘above’ anyone else
  6. Women, men, and children, everyone sits together
  7. Just like the temple, everyone has to remove their shoes and wear a head covering before entering
Langer Hall
Langer Hall

Volunteers Tasks Inside The Community Kitchen

Some of the tasks performed by them are as follows:

1. Preparations For Communal Kitchen

  • Assist with food prep such as peeling garlic or hand-rolling rotis
  • Operate large flour grinders located under the kitchen that process up to 12,000 kg of flour a day
  • Stir large vats of lentils that requires 1-2 people
  • Carry food in small containers and serve them to the pilgrims inside the Langar Hall

2. Serving Food in Hall

  • Guide the pilgrims to sit in organized rows
  • First food is served to one and all
  • On the proclaims of “Jo Bole So Nihal” by a Volunteer, the devotees start eating Langar

3. Cleaning and Stacking of Utensils

  • Pass over the plates and utensils to another set of volunteers
  • Wash the dishes at five different levels
  • Stack plates for the next round of diners

Nearly three times in a day, this langar food is also sent to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, including a special ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out.

Who Can Be A Volunteer

Anyone can!

Volunteers working in Community Kitchen
Volunteers working in Community Kitchen

Yes, as the Dwaars of Guru is Open for One and All, so is the Langar-Ghar – be it the one who eats or the one who serves. In fact, people come from across Punjab, and even from other states and countries – to help in this massive exercise of making and serving food. Several local residents, including women, have been coming here for years. People take time out of their government and private jobs to serve here. Be it a celebrity or a common man – Guru-Ghar welcomes all with the same Divine Love.

The Golden Temple is also deemed as “One of The Most Visited Places of the World” by Guinness Book of World Records in the year 2018. The stature has made possible not only by the visitors but by the local people as well. The place is sure to raise the position high in the times to come and probably become the most visited place as it will be hosting the 550th Birth Anniversary of the Revered Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji – an event popular as Guru Nanak Jayanti. Being a global event, it is expected to be attended by people from across the globe. Because of the prominence of this place, our Golden Temple Tour is the most popular walking tour in the Holy City of Amritsar.

Thus, selflessness and generosity of the volunteers at Harmandir Sahib shows that not only is this beautiful temple made of gold, but so are the hearts of the devotees who come to worship here.

This was Indeed, one aspect of the Golden Temple. There are many other facts with the interesting historical background to it like the formation of the Akal Takht, which will soon follow in our next section. Stay tuned!