The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, serves food to more than 100,000 people each day. The temple, a Sikh place of worship called a gurudwara, is simply carrying out one of the basic practices of the Sikh religion: providing a free meal, a langar, to anyone who visits—regardless of race, caste or creed.
But you don’t have to travel to India to take part in this religious custom. Langar meals are served after every service at gurudwaras throughout New York City, including the Staten Island Gurudwara, in Concord, featured in this video.
Langar is not meant to be a charity meal or a donation to the poor. Instead, it’s a way of bringing the community together.
The meal itself exemplifies two of the most important tenets of Sikhism: equality and community service. That egalitarian philosophy is emphasized by the custom of eating langar on the floor, where everyone literally sits at the same level.
“If you go to any langar hall, you can see that everybody is sitting on the floor,” says Gurpreet Singh Sodhi, a member of the Staten Island Gurudwara. “You’re all sitting at the same level and having food together.”
The meal is prepared entirely by congregation members who volunteer to cook at the gurudwara. The food is strictly vegetarian, which ensures that no one is excluded from the meal.
“Anyone and everyone who visits the gurudwara can have langar,” Sodhi says.