The Golden temple in Amritsar is the holiest and shiniest of all Sikh Temples in the World. Bare-footed Sikh pilgrims make their way silently around a huge serene lake, filled with what look like prize-winning koi carp, in order to enter the temple and worship.
Only, the temple isn’t silent at all. There’s the almighty smashing and clashing of a gargantuan washing up session, because the Golden Temple also plays host to the largest kitchen in India which feeds up to 100,000 people a day. Everyone who visits is invited to eat for free, the idea being that people of all religions, race, gender, age and social status can sit and eat together as equals.
The meal is frugal and consists of urud dal, an earthy gingery black dal, served with rice, thick chapattis and kheer – a sweet hot rice pudding flavoured with saffron. It’s not fancy, but it’s an incredibly soothing and nourishing meal.
An enormous amount of preparation goes into the making of it all. There are hundreds of Sikh volunteers scattered around the kitchen, each with a specific task. In the entrance, they armed with knives, chopping up piles of carrots, beans and other vegetables. This man drew the short straw:
These men are in charge of an unimaginably big pot of rice pudding:
And here is where we ate, elbow to elbow, along with hundreds of others, cross-legged and contentedly.