Commonly known as the "Golden Temple," Harmandir Sahib is the the spiritual center of the Sikh religion. Located in Amritsar, in India's Punjab state, the Golden Temple is famous for its sacred pool, marble walls, and gold foil domes. As the most important pilgrimage site in Sikhism, it attracts around 100,000 people every day for worship, as well as many visitors. But although the structure is famous for its history and architectural beauty, it's very special for another reason, too. Men, women, and children from all socioeconomic backgrounds, castes, ethnicities, nationalities, and faiths are welcome at the Golden Temple, and all visitors are entitled to a vegetarian meal from the langar, the Sikh community kitchen. The Golden Temple's langar is the largest free kitchen in the world, regularly serving 40,000 meals a day -- or sometimes 100,000 on weekends and religious holidays. All gurdwaras (centers of Sikh worship) have a langar, but not on anything approaching this scale. Everyone sits together on the floor to eat the simple meal of lentils, vegetables, rice, and roti, which is prepared almost entirely by volunteers, carrying on a practice that originated with earliest Sikh Gurus in the 15th century.
Getting to know the Golden Temple:
- Under the supervision of Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of Sikhism, the temple was constructed between 1581 and 1589, but was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times in the intervening centuries.
- The Golden Temple is currently under consideration to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Nearly all of the food prepared and served in the Golden Temple is donated, or was purchased with donations.