In Amritsar, India, the Sikh shrine Harmandir Sahib has sat proudly for over 420 years as a holy location. It also happens to be the world’s largest soup kitchen. Over 100,000 people visit the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Palace, each day. That’s more people than visit the Taj Mahal.
The Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, the most sacred Sikh temple in India.
For the entirety of the long and storied existence of the beautiful Harmandir Sahib, it’s been a place where food is given to those who request it. Each day, around 200,000 rotis (a type of Indian flatbread), more than a ton and a half of dal (lentil soup), and other free food items are handed out. Some is given to tourists, some to those desperately in need. There is no discrimination in regard to nationality, religion, or caste.
The entrance to the kitchen, which is called a langar.
Visitors receive plates on arrival and are then served. All visitor sit on the floor in keeping with the philosophy of equality in Sikhism. The exception to this rule is the elderly, who may sit in chairs.
All Sikh temples have free kitchens, but the Golden Temple is by far the largest. There are around 450 employees as well as hundreds of volunteers. Harpreet Singh, the manager the kitchen, estimates that 100,000 is the average daily service, with more on weekends and special occasions. “The langar never stops,” he explains. “On an average, 7,000 kilograms of wheat flour, 1,200 kilograms of rice, 1,300 kilograms of lentils, 500 kilograms of ghee (clarified butter) is used in preparing the meal every day.”
Volunteers and staff prepare food to serve at the langar. All food served here is vegetarian.
Many people come in to volunteer their service in the kitchen as part of their religious observance. They typically get to participate in the less complex chores, such as washing the 300,000 plates that are used every day.
The Golden Temple is truly an incredible place that showcases equality across races and gender as well as across the needy and the giving. It has helped millions of people spanning over 4 centuries and will continue to do so into the future.