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The Golden Temple - Feeding 100,000 People a Day

Ivy Gordon | India

Feeding 100,000 people in the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India 2020.

Covid-19 has increased food insecurity and hunger around the world. In the US, Feeding America has predicted that the number of people who are food insecure in 2020 could rise to more than 50 million, including 17 million children. In addition to food banks and other services, Sikh temples have been been serving free meals to all visitors for over 500 years. At least 80 Sikh gurudwaras in America are mobilizing their large-scale kitchens to provide food assistance to people in need.

Not wanting to visit my local Sikh Gurudwara in San Diego due to the pandemic, this story is about the largest Sikh temple in the world, Sri Harmandir Sahib, The Golden Temple, in Amristrar, India. I have also had the pleasure of visiting two other Sikh gurudwaras (temples) and their langars in Delhi and Bikaner.

Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors without regard to religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. In Sikhism all are equal before god.
 

500 years ago the idea of the langar was a radical departure from the existing norms of India’s caste system. It was both a means to alleviate hunger and an attempt at social reform by creating a place where everyone, regardless of religion or social status, could sit on the ground together as equals and eat the same food.

Free langars are served at all Sikh gurudwaras around the world. Vegetarian food, consisting of rotis (bread), rice, daal (lentils), a vegetable dish, and kheer (dessert), is served and all people eat together as equals. Langars are open 24hours a day and no one is turned away.

The Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi typically serves 40,000 meals a day. With the lock-down due to Covid-19 in May the temple has increased the number of people it feeds to 300,000 a day.

But by far, the largest temple is Sri Harmandir Sahib, more commonly known as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, where sometimes 100,000 people eat in a day. 90% of the staff are volunteers from around the world supporting the 300 permanent workers. 26,000lbs of wheat, 28,000lbs of daal, 3000lbs of rice, 4500lbs of vegetables, and 1500lbs of milk are consumed daily. 200,000 rotis can be made by machine and large vats cook 1500 lbs of daal at a time. Each plate is washed five times before it is used again. Sitting in rows on the ground known as pangats the two dining rooms can feed up to 5000 people at a time. It costs tens of millions of dollars to run this kitchen today.

ivy@ivygordonphoto.com

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