Feed the world – or as much of it as you can at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara

Feed the world – or as much of it as you can at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara

The ‘langar,’ or free kitchen, operated by a Sikh shrine in Delhi dishes out an astonishing 10,000 meals a day. One traveller wanted to know who is eating all of this food
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
Bangla Sahib Gurdwara
People of all ages, religions and social backgrounds sit together on the floor to take a free meal.

At Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, an historic Sikh shrine in central Delhi, everybody is welcome to a meal, and nearly everybody comes. Fascinated by stories of the extremely busy ‘langar’ (free kitchen) housed within the golden-domed complex, I set off one afternoon to visit the shrine and meet the people who prepare and eat the 10,000 meals served here every day.

What I found was overwhelming. During my visit Bangla Sahib Gurdwara’s langar served an amazing 180 people every 15 minutes. Quietly and orderly, people of all castes, religions and ages took places on long, rough mats along the langar floor. Metal serving plates were handed out, volunteer servers distributed hot fresh chapatti, lightly spiced basmati rice, hearty dal, a spicy potato dish and a creamy yellow turmeric-based sauce with onion pakora.

All range of characters gathered, from those who survive on the langar’s food, to those simply socializing, to those who want to help serve their community.

The haves and have nots

After tucking in, I met Sapna and Harleen, two friends dressed in bright orange saris, enjoying time off of work with laughter and a good meal. Across from us was Rakesh, a construction worker. He’d injured his foot, and couldn’t work, so had come to the langar for a free meal. He took full advantage of the free chapattis, stashing a few to take home for the evening.

I visited with Harry Singh, a Sikh friend and barrister who volunteers at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara every day on his way to work.

He explained that meals are served from 5:30am to 11:30pm and that the kitchen operates all night. People donate ingredients and shortfalls are made up for by transfers from other Gurdwara in the city, a system that runs with the efficiency of an army mess.

A langar lifer, Hindu volunteers, a Sikh warrior

After eating, Harry and I settled down to make chapattis with fellow volunteers.

Satvir Singh is retired. Like Harry, he’s been coming to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara all his life, but now has more time on his hands to give ‘seva’ or service.

Next to Satvir was Pushta. Although Hindu, she has no problem giving service in a Sikh temple, side by side with Sikh strangers. There's also Nihang, who has given away his possessions and lives in Guardwara guesthouses, eating in the langars, working wherever he is needed, and looking as cool as they come. This, I was told, is the life of a Sikh warrior.

Anyone can volunteer at a Gurdwara, and although the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara is the largest, you’ll find smaller versions in most Delhi neighborhoods. Everyone is welcome to come to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara and be part of Vaṇḍ Chakkō, the Sikh uplifting concept that translates to ‘share and consume together.’

Getting there

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib
Ashok Road, near Baba Kharag Singh Marg
Central New Delhi