World’s Largest Community Kitchen – Golden Temple
The Langar or free community kitchen is a hallmark of the Sikh faith. It was established by the first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, around the year of 1481. It is designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender, or social status; to eliminate the extreme poverty in the world, and to bring about the birth of “caring communities”. 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.” (Guru Granth Sahib, 282)
For the first time in history, Guruji designed an institution in which all people would sit on the floor together, as equals, to eat the same simple food. It is here that all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit in the same pangat (literally “row” or “line”) to share and enjoy the food together.
Voluntary Service and Selfless Service
The Langar is run by sevadars ‘volunteers doing selfless service’ Sikhs and others who wish to help. It is a community kitchen and anybody can help in its running. This function of Sewa results in a community feeling in peoples’ minds as they drop their mask of ego. The feeling of “I” or “me” is forgotten as they perform this valuable service to humanity
Referred to as the world’s largest community kitchen, the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Langar Hall of the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
It is a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night, all 365 days of the year. This has been going on for centuries, since the concept of langar was introduced by Shri Guru Nanak Dev JI ; propagated by other Gurus
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.
The langar food is even sent thrice daily to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, especially to a ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out.
Few facts about the world’s Largest Kitchen – Shri Harmandir Sahib ji ( Golden Temple )
1. The langar is all vegetarian , comprising mainly of dal (maa-chole ki dal), rice (slightly salted for taste), chapattis ( bread ) , achar (pickle) and a vegetable, along with something sweet (kheer or prasad). In the morning, the “chai langar” comprises of tea and rusk.
2. The langar at the Golden Temple serves a massive number – 50,000 people a day! On holidays/religious occasions, the number often goes up to 100,000!
3. The kitchen has two dining halls, which have a combined capacity of 5000 people. People come and sit down to eat on the mats on the floor, are served food by the volunteers, and are ushered out politely to make room for the next round of diners.
4. Serving these many people day after day is no easy task, but the clockwork efficiency of the sewadars (workers) makes the task simple . Usually, 90% of the working staff is made up of volunteers who, along with the 300 permanent sewadars, ensure the food is cooked and delivered on time. Some people volunteer for a few hours, some for a day, while others volunteer for days on end!
5. There are two kitchens in which the food is prepared. There are 11 hot plates (tawa), several burners, machines for sieving and kneading dough, and several other utensils. On normal days, all the dishes are hand made by the sewadars.
6. On holidays and religious occasions, a roti making machine (donated by a Lebanon based devotee) is used, which can churn out 25,000 rotis in just 1 hour!
7. Given the numbers of diners, imagine the amount of raw material needed! About 50 quintals of wheat, 18 quintals of daal, 14 quintals of rice, and 7 quintals of milk are consumed daily in the langar kitchen.Nearly 250 kg of ‘desi ghee’ (clarified butter) is used in the cooking.One hundred gas cylinders are needed to cook the food.
8. Most of the raw materials are brought from Delhi, or bought locally. Grains, fruits and vegetables like carrot, reddish, cauliflower, spinach and fenugreek (popularly known as ‘methi’) are now being grown at farms in Patiala and Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani Sahib near Amritsara .They have now started receiving supply of 10 quintals of organic produce every 1-2 days which is being used to prepare nourishing vegetarian meals for the pilgrims. kitchen receives a lot of donations too, either in cash or kind.
9. Normal cooking vessels don’t suffice for cooking such vast quantities of food. Instead, the langar uses large vats that can store as much as 7 quintals of daal or kheerat a time!
10. Hygiene is of utmost importance, both before and after meals. Dirty plates are handed over to another set of volunteers. Each plate is washed 5 times before being used again.
Source : National Herald , Natgeo, www.goldentempleheavenonearth.com6