"Everybody gets a hot meal regardless of caste, creed and religion."
November 17, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

"Anyone can eat for free here, and many, many people do. On a weekday, about 80,000 come. On weekends, almost twice as many people visit. Each visitor gets a wholesome vegetarian meal, served by volunteers who embody India’s religious and ethnic mosaic. “This is our tradition,” said Harpinder Singh, the 45-year-old manager of this huge operation. “Anyone who wants can come and eat.”" Behind the scenes at the kitchen (langar) at the Golden Temple that feeds 100,000 daily. More information from the Golden Temple's website.
posted by jessamyn (30 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
There should be one of these in every town square, serving meals to anyone who wants or needs one.
posted by xingcat at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


One of the reasons Sikhs are an abused and persecuted minority in India is that Sikhism explicitly reject the caste system in India.

Originally, if one wanted to hear the wisdom of Amar Das (3rd Guru), one had to come eat the communal meal first. Prince or beggar, everyone is served from the communal bowl and sits on the floor to emphasize the equality of all people. Then you got an audience. Also, vegetarian, not for spiritual purposes, but so that people whose religious restrictions include not eating meat can take part.

These days, your local Gurdwara will be generally serving Langar after services. The pakora at Gurdwara Sahib Hayward are bangin. If you know someone(s) looking for a meal in today's economy, find their local Gurdwara and find out the langar schedule.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:14 AM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apparently Al Jazeera did the photo essay today because November 17, is Guru Nakak's (founder of Sikhism) 545th birth anniversary. President Obama issued a brief statement. Thanks for the tip, PBZM, my local Gurdwara appears to be about three states (or one country) away.
posted by jessamyn at 10:19 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Michael Palin spent some time at the Golden Temple in his "Himalaya" series. (Cued up to the 10 min mark, which is about where it starts)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is one of my favorite places in the world.

The thing that blew me away is that the food is delicious. And there really isn't any separation of classes -- I sort of expected it to be like a soup kitchen sort of environment, where it's "for everyone" but really people who can afford not to eat there don't. Nope. A central aspect of all people visiting the Golden Temple is to have a meal in the langar.

At this point my only regret is that I didn't find a way to volunteer in the kitchens. I think if I ever go back, I will.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


stacks of rotis = same as tortillas?

Wow, this was a great photo set.
posted by crapmatic at 10:28 AM on November 17, 2013


There should be one of these in every town square, serving meals to anyone who wants or needs one.

QFT. Would love to see a langar in my city...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:37 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's beautiful.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:42 AM on November 17, 2013


I've eaten at several gurudwaras, and the food is always from pretty good to delicious. They also have a giant zamboni-like thing to clean the floors after one group eats. It's quite a system they have.
posted by goethean at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2013


Yeah, rotis are effectively small wholewheat tortillas.
posted by ambrosen at 11:15 AM on November 17, 2013


I think the 500 kg of clarified butter they use everyday might explain the delicious food.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:24 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe? But ghee is the base cooking oil pretty much everywhere in India, and the food at the langar stood out even after months of backpacking around India eating amazing food.

The real reason it was delicious is that it's simple, traditional, and made with real ingredients. Also, all the dishes (with the exception of rotis I suppose) are long-simmering low and slow things that need much more attention than skill. You get daal, a couple of rotis, kheer, and maybe a bit of pickle or something.

Daal and kheer are cooked slowly and require a lot of time and babysitting. Which are two things that the langar at the Golden Temple has in virtually unlimited quantity.

And, I mean, the places is staffed with (mostly Punjabi) Sikh volunteers. These are people who could make a roti in their sleep.

It's just all done with so much more devotion than any American soup kitchen.
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not that I'm actively looking to join a religion, but of any of them, Sikhism really seems to be in line with my values, apart from the hair thing. I hope I can visit Amritsar at some point.
posted by A dead Quaker at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2013


Yeah, it makes me sort of sad that Sikhism is a deeply non-proselytizing religion, to the point that converts are not really a thing.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on November 17, 2013


I went to a performance in Madison, WI once where there was some small admission fee but you had to bring some vegetables. While the performance was going on, some of the crew cooked the vegetables into a pretty decent soup which they served with some donated bread. Everyone sat around after the performance, ate soup, and talked about the art. I think that the pace of modern life has definitely cost us something, and we should have more communal meals. And I am pretty much an "anti-joiner."
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:59 AM on November 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it makes me sort of sad that Sikhism is a deeply non-proselytizing religion, to the point that converts are not really a thing.
posted by Sara C. 47 minutes ago [+]


As the saying goes, "Sikhs are incredibly welcoming. Sikhism, not so much."

That having to learn Punjabi thing is a bit of a hurdle. Plus, theirs is not an "ours is the only way" kinda religion.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:47 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen converts here and there. I gather that the only "accepted" way to convert is to go the full baptized Sikh route, which even most born Sikhs never do.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2013


My understanding is that Sikh converts fall into two categories:

- People in intercultural marriages/families

- White hippies who end up joining the Sikhism Lite For White People quasi-cult, which is more an offshoot of Kundalini Yoga than anything resembling actual Sikhism. It's much more like the groups that have shot up around various Hindu gurus than anything else.
posted by Sara C. at 12:57 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend and I stumbled on a local Sikh temple here in the UK one Sunday afternoon and visited it on a whim. The service had just ended. After a brief tour to pay respects at the shrine the man who had shown us around disappeared so we thought it would be polite to leave as well. However when we had exited the building he came running after us with food in takeaway containers! I am ashamed I didn't educate myself before dropping in, I see now it might have been more polite to join them.
posted by yoHighness at 1:02 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not that I'm actively looking to join a religion,[...]
posted by A dead Quaker


Forgive me, it didn't seem right to let this pass entirely unnoticed...
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:07 PM on November 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


posthumousterical?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:20 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Five thousand kilograms of fire wood is used every day for preparing the meals at this langar, that runs 24/7.

Mind Blown! The logistics are beyond belief.
posted by nostrada at 6:55 PM on November 17, 2013


There should be one of these in every town square, serving meals to anyone who wants or needs one.

It’s possible, with a little effort and organization. Next week it will be two years since a laid-off hospital worker turned pig farmer began hosting free weekly dinners in a church basement to use up food our small town’s grocery store had planned to throw away. He had gone to the store looking for outdated bakery products that might become pig feed, and discovered tons of food (literally) that for various reasons were headed for the dumpster. “Take it all,” the store manager told him, so he did.

I didn’t go to the dinners until a few months ago, thinking I didn’t need a ‘soup kitchen,’ but the gatherings are more of a community celebration, where dozens of locals get together every Thursday. College students hang out with the retired elderly; people play music or sing. Four or five people help cook the food, and we all clean up after ourselves, but this is basically a one-man, one-truck operation aimed at making a (very small) dent in the tens of billions of dollars of food wasted every year in the U.S.

We’re a few thousand people on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Probably where you live there’s a lot more food going to waste.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:16 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wife and I went for a walk on Saturday, happened upon the celebrations, were led into the gurdwara and fed a delicious meal. I love our neighborhood.
posted by snottydick at 7:17 AM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


My understanding is that Sikh converts fall into two categories:

Perhaps it's just a Western world thing to evolve religions... but if people are actually practicing Kundalini Yoga and just end up calling it Sikhism en masse... would this be a bad thing?

Just look at the history of Christianity. It's changed a bit in the last couple thousand years too.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:23 PM on November 18, 2013


but if people are actually practicing Kundalini Yoga and just end up calling it Sikhism en masse... would this be a bad thing?

Yes, because actual Sikhs exist. You can't just go around being all "I did some yoga and now I'm a Sikh!!!" So the Kundalini folks call themselves "Happy Healthy Holy" and/or 3HO and the Sikhs mostly ignore them.

I mean, shit, I've won some gelt playing dreidel in my day, but that doesn't give me the right to prance around calling myself a Jew.
posted by Sara C. at 1:21 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


See also: Jews for Jesus. I'm all in favor of people finding whatever path to spirituality that makes them comfortable, but words and names mean things and unless you're a totally decentralized group of folks like Food Not Bombs (and even they've had some naming issues) it's probably wise to just use new words and not try to ride on the coattails of other words. Touchy subject obviously, but yeah it starts to feel like cultural appropriation if the people of the group you are naming yourself after don't consider you part of the group.
posted by jessamyn at 1:40 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Especially since, while Kundalini does have ties to Sikh mysticism, it's not a particularly important aspect of mainstream Sikh worship.

Also, the 3HO group is centered around a guru, which is about the closest thing Sikhism has to heresy -- one of the fundamental beliefs of the Sikh religion is that their scripture, the Guru Granth, is the final guru. Which means no additional human gurus* speak for Sikhism. Which means 3HO straight up is not Sikhism in their eyes.

*Prior to the Guru Granth being acknowledged as the final guru, there were several other Sikh gurus, of which Guru Nanak is the first and most important.
posted by Sara C. at 1:53 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


See also: Jews for Jesus

I really feel that both cultural affinity and religious adherence should be cafeteria style. For example, Conquistadors for Viracocha, or Mongols for Poseidon.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:37 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, the 3HO group is centered around a guru, which is about the closest thing Sikhism has to heresy -- one of the fundamental beliefs of the Sikh religion is that their scripture, the Guru Granth, is the final guru. Which means no additional human gurus* speak for Sikhism. Which means 3HO straight up is not Sikhism in their eyes.

I think the key phrase here is "in their eyes." In the eyes of many Christians, many other Christians aren't Christians, and in the eyes of some Jews, I'm not really a Jew. So it goes.
posted by snottydick at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2013


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