Grand Trunk Road

A Free Meal For Thousands At India's Golden Temple

India's Golden Temple, also known as the Harmandir Sahib, is a major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs. But so long as visitors wear bandanas and leave their shoes at the entrance, all are welcome to come and enjoy a free meal.

  • The Golden Temple, commonly referred to as the Harmandir Sahib, is located in Amristar, India. A major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs, it's also open to visitors.
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    The Golden Temple, commonly referred to as the Harmandir Sahib, is located in Amristar, India. A major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs, it's also open to visitors.
    All photos by Kainaz Amaria for NPR
  • The communal kitchen of the Golden Temple serves free cooked food to all visitors irrespective of religion, caste or nationality. Here, an assembly line is created by volunteers to collect dirty plates from the Langar, or "free kitchen."
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    The communal kitchen of the Golden Temple serves free cooked food to all visitors irrespective of religion, caste or nationality. Here, an assembly line is created by volunteers to collect dirty plates from the Langar, or "free kitchen."
  • A Sikh pilgrim dries off her son after bathing him in the pool of the Amrit Sarovar surrounding the Golden Temple. The name of the city Amritsar derives from the name of the pool and means "holy pool of nectar." All visitors to the temple must cover their heads while inside the complex. The young boy is wearing an orange bandanna sold by hawkers outside the temple for 10 rupees.
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    A Sikh pilgrim dries off her son after bathing him in the pool of the Amrit Sarovar surrounding the Golden Temple. The name of the city Amritsar derives from the name of the pool and means "holy pool of nectar." All visitors to the temple must cover their heads while inside the complex. The young boy is wearing an orange bandanna sold by hawkers outside the temple for 10 rupees.
  • A young Sikh child passes out spoons to people as they enter the Langar inside the Golden Temple. Sikh community members of all ages help in the communal kitchen.
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    A young Sikh child passes out spoons to people as they enter the Langar inside the Golden Temple. Sikh community members of all ages help in the communal kitchen.
  • Sikhs from all over volunteer their time preparing food at the Langar. Here men and women sit together peeling garlic.
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    Sikhs from all over volunteer their time preparing food at the Langar. Here men and women sit together peeling garlic.
  • Volunteers cook and gather freshly baked chapattis inside the Langar.
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    Volunteers cook and gather freshly baked chapattis inside the Langar.
  • Freshly baked chapatis are ready to be served.
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    Freshly baked chapatis are ready to be served.
  • Visitors sit side by side on the floor of the Langar regardless of their caste, symbolic of the Sikh doctrine of equality of all people.
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    Visitors sit side by side on the floor of the Langar regardless of their caste, symbolic of the Sikh doctrine of equality of all people.
  • After eating their free meal, Sikhs carry their plates to be washed.
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    After eating their free meal, Sikhs carry their plates to be washed.
  • A Sikh holy man helps sort food waste from the plates before they go into the washing section.
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    A Sikh holy man helps sort food waste from the plates before they go into the washing section.
  • Minutes away from the Golden Temple complex, rickshaws and bicycles fill the streets of Amristar, which are dotted with shops selling everything from kites to the kara, a steel bracelet symbolizing strength and integrity.
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    Minutes away from the Golden Temple complex, rickshaws and bicycles fill the streets of Amristar, which are dotted with shops selling everything from kites to the kara, a steel bracelet symbolizing strength and integrity.

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Photojournalist Kainaz Amaria recently visited the temple as part of NPR's journey along the Grand Trunk Road.

Located in Amristar — meaning "holy pool of nectar" — the temple has been around since the 15th century.

Every day, thousands from across the world gathered inside the Langar, or "free kitchen" for their communal meal. Regardless of caste, status or religion, they sit side-by-side in rows.

"It's an extraordinary scene," NPR reporter Phil Reeves explained on Morning Edition this morning. Hundreds of men, women and children coming together to peel vegetables, bake chapati and set out plates. Once they've finished their meal, together they clean.

Further proof that a good meal is a universal enjoyment.

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