Seeking Sikhism’s loaves and fishes

Sikhism’s remarkable feeding of the five thousand – every day!

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is Delhi’s most significant Sikh gurudwara (Sikh religious house) and at first glance yet another of India’s temples bursting at the seams with devout worshippers.
True, it does appear to be swamped with devotees all clamouring to enter the inner temple or dip their feet in the huge ‘tank’ or sacred pond that lies adjacent to it – but – there are also literally thousands of people from all walks of life and religions who enter Bangla Sahib on a daily basis in search of nothing more than a square meal!


Within the startlingly white marbled walls of Bangla Sahib is a huge communal kitchen that cooks huge vats of food to provide to anyone who needs a good meal.
Believed originally to be a sleight towards the Hindu caste system where each is born into a specific role in life; with its ‘Langar’ Sikhism is all encompassing and volunteers from all walks of life donate their time to cook and serve any individual who has fallen on hard times; irrespective of their background, caste, creed or nationality.


As you can imagine, the task is simply gargantuan and the hive of industry that is the kitchen preparation area is quite mind-boggling; with teams of ladies mixing chappatis, feeding teams of men cooking them on a red hot sheet of steel; cauldrons of curry, rice and dhal bubbling away as huge loads of vegetables are cleaned and sliced and sack-loads of rice and lentils are split open to fill the vats of boiling water.

 

Colour, noise and cooking smells assail your senses as the huge ‘langar hall’, or dining hall, constantly fills and refills with successive relays of hundreds of people who sit cross-legged on the floor, while energetic gursikhs who work there and volunteers briskly place a thali (plate) in front of each recipient and fill the little pots on them with steaming, wholesome food.


Tourists and travellers alike tour and partake in this spectacle and we cover our heads with cloth ‘turbans’ and walk barefoot into the kitchens to watch the preparations as others wait their turn to be fed.
If you wish to tour Bangla Sahib yourself then assistance is given to visitors, whilst the use of rudimentary headwear and shoe minding are complimentary.

There is a donation box for having made use of these courtesies and its useful to take a sanitary wipe to clean your feet after wandering through the expansive kitchen.
The temple itself is more orderly than many in India and there is no hassle for visitors who are treated with the same respect that you are expected to show yourself.

As with all photography of people, just check that they have no objection before you snap away.


Sikhism is recognised as being born out of Islamic persecution of Sikhs during the Murghal Empire in India, which triggered the founding of the Khalsa, a militaristic order for freedom of conscience and religion that saw the strongest members of Hindu families gathering under a separate faith to defend their beliefs. Sikhism is notable for being the shortest time in which to have created a distinctive ‘race’ of people – recognisable by their generally tall, imposing posture, dark uncut hair and lineage.

The mantra that ‘all Sikhs are called Singh but that not all Singhs are Sikhs’ seeks to clarify the somewhat mystifying use of the name in India.
Whatever your view on religions or their practices, a visit to Bangla Sahib in Delhi (as one of the most accessible locations) is a must if you’d like both a spectacle and an insight into the truly altruistic practices that can be found in an otherwise ever more materialistic nation.

 

Cherrie's Notes

If you’d like more information about other aspects of Delhi then follow these links.

Gurgaon – Delhi’s new magical metro area

The Imperial – Part of our Top Hotels in India article

Restaurant & Hotels – Part of our Golden Triangle articles.

 

Alternatively, why not let us arrange your own tailor-made travel experiences throughout  India – see below.

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