There’s so much to learn from everything that the Sri Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara, popularly referred to as the Golden Temple, stands for. And it also houses what is arguably the world’s largest community kitchen, which serves ‘langar’ to the devotees, every day, round the clock.
Amritsar was on our travel bucket list for a very long time. Finally, this plan was made over a phone call with two of our closest friends, and off we were the very next day. And thank goodness that we were impulsive enough to do so, because the trip turned out to be a truly memorable one.
Neither of us are particularly religious, or spiritual even. And we generally do not plan trips around places of worship, unless it is of historical or architectural significance. However, a trip to Amritsar would have been grossly incomplete without a visit to the much-famed Golden Temple. And so we went, without expecting too much. But lo and behold! We were in for a surprise. Do you know that feeling of seeing something for the first time, and getting completely mesmerized by it? Like getting in a trance? It was exactly that feeling.
It was a place where there was enough for everyone – enough place to rest, enough food to eat and water to drink. And also enough peace to give solace to everyone’s racy minds. It was like a world where people left their egos outside before entering, to do the most menial jobs and find joy in serving. Devotees volunteered to safely keep the shoes of those entering, serve cool water to everyone in steel bowls, sweep the floors of the temple and keep them sparkling clean. The first time we went there, was at night. We just silently sat there listening to the wafting tunes of the songs being sung, and watching the golden temple and its reflection in the trembling waters surrounding it. Oh, and we also had the ghee-laden halwa Prasad gleefully. The next time we went was during the day, when we entered the actual temple. Unlike any other popular place of worship in India that I have been to, no one asked for a single penny at any point, no one urged us to buy flowers or Prasad, there were no vip lines for people who can afford to skip the long queue, and that changed everything.
Then we went to eat at the langar. A steel plate and bowl were handed out at the entrance. On our way to the eating hall, I caught a glimpse of two dozen volunteers peeling sackful of onions and garlic. We went inside and sat on the floor in neat lines and had a rather comforting meal of roti, dal, chana and kheer. As I was about to keep my plate and bowl, I came across another section where about a hundred men were washing the dishes in a line of sinks. All of them with a smile on their faces, happy playing a small part in the whole set-up that feeds the hungry every single day. I kept staring at the washing line-up but in awe, feeling truly humbled to see so many people finding joy in washing utensils to serve fellow humans. It is then that a man approached me, and asked me if I wanted to see the kitchen. I jumped with joy, and followed him immediately. From giant couldrons with bubbling curries, to machines churning out hundreds of rotis in a matter of minutes, it was magical. Well, the scale at which it happens is sure to blow your mind.
The Langar Kitchen is magic. A place that runs like clock-work, a place which feeds thousands of people every day, a place which is open 24 hours, and where everyone, irrespective of their faith, cast, creed or social status, does their bit and it’s just enough.