One of the first places our guide in New Delhi took us to was Sikh Gurudwara Shri Bangla Sahib. It is one of the largest Sikh Gurudwara’s, a place of worship for those of the Sikh faith, in the world. Here they serve 30,000 meals a day (up to 50,000 on a Sunday) to anyone who wants one.
It is estimated there are around 22 million people of Sikh faith in India – which accounts for around 1.8% of the Indian population. Interestingly, Canada has the highest Sikh population per capita with around 775,000 or 2.1%, while Australia records around 211,00. Worldwide it is estimated there are around 25 million people of Sikh faith – thats 0.40% of the population!
Why am I giving you all these facts and figures? Well, I find them quite interesting as Sikhs are not only be recognisable by wearing turbans, but also be quite visible in communities, often at grassroots level, giving a helping hand in the time of crisis. In Australia, a country often faced with natural disasters, the Sikh community is well known for providing meals to those affected or those providing assistance. I’m guessing this is because Sikhs have a fundamental belief in welfare for all and it starts with the most basic of needs – food.
After removing our shoes and popping bandana like scarves on or heads, we made our way to the gurudwara. Just outside the gates is the last place where photos are permitted. The building is stunning inside and worship is taking place as we’re there. At one side of the Gurudwara is a holy pond where followers come for healing. There are plenty of pictures available on the internet, but out of respect, I will not replicate them here.
On the other side of the Gurudwara, where we were permitted to take pictures, is the langer – a community kitchen. The langer provides simple vegetarian meals for anyone regardless of caste, race, religion, age, ability or wealth.
The kitchen is staffed by community volunteers and anyone, Sikh or not, may give their time to help out. This can be to make just a few chapati breads or several hundred. We decide to sit down, take up a rolling pin and give it a go.
Please excuse my stupid grin – I have no idea what I was saying… While my chapati rolling was a little trial and error, our young friend that joined in was great, we were super proud of her skills, as was she.
Once rolled to the desired size and thickness, they are passed to another volunteer who flips them onto a huge hotplate and cooks them until they are perfect – this is a hot job!
Let’s just say with every of the 30,000 meals an average of two, three or even four chapati’s are served it’s going to be a pretty slow process to produce so many!
So this is where one of many automatic chapati maker comes in. After a large chunk of dough is cut off, it is placed into the machine and comes out perfectly rounded, flattened and cooked chapati on the other side. This machine can make up to 1,800 chapati every hour!
There was a constant steam of people coming for a meal and I hope someone enjoyed my (poorly rolled) few chapati. My efforts were really nothing compared to the benevolence of the Sikh community. While there are many individuals, organisations, religious and community groups who devote their time to providing food for the needy, which I am sure we are all thankful for, the sheer size of this operation and the fact it is open to anyone is beautiful.
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I remember reading all about the Sikh volunteer’s amazing efforts with handing out food in times of crisis. Such an admirable community!
i’ve read about this. Such an amazing effort!