Backed by technology, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) plans to extend the community kitchen, which serves around one lakh pilgrims round-the-clock every day, at the Golden Temple.
With the ever-increasing footfall, the SGPC has decided to employ technology-based equipment to expedite the working. It will also prevent wastage of the grocery items being donated in abundance and help feed the underprivileged besides the visiting devotees, say the authorities. The SGPC has decided to extend the kitchen area as well. Installation of lifts is already being undertaken on the premises besides expansion of the cooking area. Golden Temple manager Sulakhan Singh said they would be adding new utensils and equipment to make preparation and distribution of ‘langar’ faster, and provide best facilities to devotees visiting the shrine.
How will extension help?
The extension will not only help serve more people but also make functioning of the community kitchen easier. “It will give us sufficient space to have massive furnaces and keep huge utensils in which lentils are cooked. Also sanitation will be taken care of by bigger automatic machines that will be procured by the SGPC,” said Sulakhan Singh.
Singh said a team visited Sai Baba Mandir and was impressed to see equipment such as trolley’s carrying raw veggies and utensils being used to serve the langar and employees being fully equipped with gloves while working near furnaces. They would be replicating the model in the Golden Temple kitchen, he said. Talking about conveyor belts for utensils being on the list, he said: “We are thinking on those lines, but as a large number of devotees want to perform ‘seva’ here, they don’t want everything to be mechanised.”
How community kitchen works?
The community kitchen at the Golden Temple is a perfect example of synchronisation and efficiency, which ensures thousands of people are served ‘langar’ at the same time. There are about 500 employees working in the kitchen along with volunteers, who assist in food preparation. They peel garlic, roll out rotis and these days there is a group that applies desi ghee on every roti being served.
Baldev Singh, an honorary employee at the shrine who is associated with langar tradition for past decades, said: “There was a time when due to scarce resources, people had to return without partaking of langar. Today, however, along with thousands of pilgrims, those belonging to deprived classes are able to have three meals at the community kitchen and also get some packed for those back home.”
Baldev Singh said it is mandatory to serve lentils along with one vegetable and a sweet dish. Everything is cooked in pure desi ghee. All this is made possible with the truckloads of grocery being sent by devotees on regular basis, he said.
“Around Rs 10 lakh is spent on the ‘langar’ every day, and with more and more people wanting to perform the ‘seva’, we are ready to serve more devotees,” he said. Jasjit Singh and Charanjeet Singh, employed as cooks at the community kitchen, said theirs is a very technical job, with no scope for mistake.
One needs to be focused while adding spices, salt, water and other ingredients.
What’s on the cards?
Although the community kitchen has machines that cook around 20,000 chapatis in an hour and equipment to peel veggies and pressurised pipes to clean utensils used by the devotees, the SGPC now plans to employ bigger and more efficient equipment.
Sulakhan Singh said: “Around 80,000 pilgrims visit the ‘langar’ hall every day, but on Sunday the footfall is over one lakh. In the kitchen, we work hard to blend manual work and technology to serve the people. Now, more smart equipment will be added and the space will be extended.”
Jasjit Singh and Charanjeet Singh said the authorities are working on procuring more equipment to make cooking more convenient and safe. Utensils, both the cutlery used by the devotees and the bigger ones used for cooking, will be cleaned steam dishwashers. Also pressure washers will be procured for the purpose, so that all leftovers can be sucked out.
There will be trolleys to carry utensils to increase efficiency. New machines will help cut veggies faster and uniformly. Also, there will be equipment that can pour lentils and ‘kheer’ out of the big utensils automatically, avoiding spillage.
Daily on the plate
1 lakh devotes partaking of ‘langar’
Rs 10 lakh: total expenditure
3 lakh chapattis served
60kg tea leaves used
50-60 desi ghee tins
200-300 kg lentils cooked, up to 500kg during festivals
Taking it up a notch
1) Steam dishwashers
2) Pressure washers
3) Cutting equipment
4) Trolleys to carry utensils
5) Bigger machines for sanitation
6) Expansion of langar halls, kitchen
7) Installation of lifts
8) Providing gloves to volunteers to maintain hygiene