All about the Community Kitchen

16 September, 2020

Community kitchen is basically a group of people who come together to plan, cook and serve food to everyone irrespective of their caste, religion and status. They serve food to everybody in need and don't want anything in return from them. In India you will find many community kitchens where they serve free food to all the people without charging anything for the food they consume. In India, there are many Sikh temples around the world who run community kitchens and provide access to free food also known as “Langar” in Sikhism. This tradition was started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and this selfless service by the devotees is just amazing. The kitchen is run by the volunteers where they do all the preparations and work like cooking, washing dishes, cleaning etc. Devotees are encouraged to work hard and emphasize the idea of equality. That is the reason why almost every Gurudwara (Sikh temple) in India has a community kitchen attached where all the visitors gather and eat together. Most of the Sikh temples serve free meals 24/7 which I think is really impressive and generous. Indeed it is a revolutionary concept and the practice of serving langar shows the teachings of their Gurus where they try to help people in the best way possible.

I was really curious and wanted to explore all about community kitchen and understand the importance of Sikh Culture. I went to explore the World’s biggest community Kitchen at Golden Temple in Amritsar also famous as Sri Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara. Golden temple is one of biggest Sikh temples in the entire world and thousands of visitors visit here daily to seek blessings. The temple has a peaceful atmosphere and looks extremely stunning as it has a very detailed architecture. I went inside the main hall and paid my respects and then sat there for at least an hour. I listened to the prayers which helped me clear my thoughts and I felt calm within. Later I explored the entire temple and had Kada prasad (a smooth and soft dish made with whole wheat flour) which was very delicious. Later I wanted to volunteer at the community kitchen where all the magic happens so I went inside the world's largest free kitchen. It was really huge. I was speechless when I saw all the people in there doing the preparations with a smile on their face. I talked to one of the members of the kitchen and he showed me and informed me about everything. I wanted to see how that place runs by volunteers and the donations. Almost 1,00,000 people are daily fed there and even more on holidays. They do not refuse anyone who comes there for a meal. Everybody is welcome in the dining hall from all communities. The majority of kitchen staff were volunteers and they can choose from many services as per their age, expertise and time they can offer. He told me that thousands of people donate to ensure that nobody goes hungry from there. The kitchen was grand but still manages to be the cleanest and organized places I have ever been. Everything was so smooth and well maintained there. Some volunteers were cutting vegetables, making food, cleaning dishes and were working together to make the meal happen which is great. They serve different dishes such as lentils, rice pudding, chapatis(bread), vegetable dish etc. All the meals are vegetarian, healthy and full of love. They also serve tea and biscuits. This 24/7 operation runs 365 days a year with a dedicated team of volunteers organizing a free meal . They work non stop and still have no complaints which i loved most about the Sikh community. They all devote their time for a common cause and I also wanted to be a part of it. I did not have much time so i decided to do the dishes and help clean the kitchen. I have been to Sikh temple before but it was my first time volunteering and I was really happy because I knew I was doing something good. Now I understand why all those people volunteer because you feel so much happiness within you at that time.

There is a large hall near the kitchen where all the devotees get together and enjoy a meal. They wait outside the hall while other people finish the food. Volunteers clean the whole room and later people enter in the hall and sit on the floor. All this happens with a great discipline. After doing the dishes I also wanted to have the Langar. I sat with other people and after doing prayers we had our food. People serving the food were also really sweet and continuously chanting the name of Guru Nanak (founder of Sikhism) while serving. I relished every bit because that meal was the yummiest.

Hats Off to all the volunteers and authorities who manage all this because it is a really dedicated work. You can also come and witness people volunteering in the community kitchen who make this miracle happen. And I suggest you volunteer if you have time because it is the best feeling that i can't even describe in words. It was an experience filled trip and one of the best moments of my life. According to me, India is a great country and Indians are very helpful and kind in nature. So whenever you are in India visit a Sikh temple with your family and have free food in the Community Kitchen.

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