This is a Sikh Temple in San Jose, California. Here, and at any other Sikh place of worship in the world, they serve free meals for all visitors, regardless of religion, race, background, gender or social status. The temples are called gurdwara, where Sikhs pay their respect for the teachings and commandments of the Ten Gurus, and in every gurdwara is a langar, a food hall where meals are cooked and served by the people of the community.
The menu here is vegetarian to cater to visitors from any background so as not to offend anyone who may choose to eat from their kitchen. People of all faiths and backgrounds sit together and share a meal. The philosophy is simple: to serve people from all walks of life, help banish all distinctions between religion, race and class. Sounds like a pretty good philosophy to me– one we could use a lot more of.
In a forum discussing the custom on Reddit, one commenter wrote,
“There’s a fire station across the road from the gurdwara in my town. One of the firemen has been coming into the gurdwara for his lunch for years. He pays his respects by listening to the sermon for a while too.”
“I know of a homeless person who goes to a gurdwara everyday for food. He offers to do the dishes for them because he wants to thank them for literally keeping him alive.”
Gurwaras around the world have been quietly serving the community and expressing its ethics of sharing and inclusiveness since the 16th century when Sikhism began, a revolutionary concept at the time, particularly in the historically caste-ordered society of India.
At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, the holiest site for practitioners of the Sikh religion, the free kitchen can serve from 50,000 to 100,000 people a day. They are open 24 hours a fay and reportedly make up to 6,000 chapatis (flatbread) an hour.
So if you’d like to sample some Indian cuisine in a welcoming and often palatial environment, for free, head to your local gurdwara. Meet and dine with the Sikh community and others, perhaps learn how to cook a punjabi speciality when you’re done by offering to cook more food; and general feel like a good human being in the kind of world you’d like to live in. That’s all it’s about.