Temple towns of India are not only popular for featuring important pilgrim centres but also for promoting harmony via community kitchens. They serve vegetarian meals for free and can accommodate hundreds of devotees at once.
There is nary a person in India who does not know that Ram Mandir's consecration will happen on January 22, 2023. Reportedly, between January to March, thousands of devotees will be visiting the city to offer their prayers to Ram Lalla, and they will have access to around 45 community kitchens serving delicious but free food. Run by Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra in Ayodhya, these kitchens have been receiving food grains, butter, spices, tea, ghee, and other essentials since October 2023.
Current reports reveal that these kitchens are being set up and will come into play from January 23, 2024, a day after the Pran Pratishtha ceremony. The plan of the trust is to feed around 25,000 devotees in these kitchens every day till March 2024. It is yet not unveiled what will be served in these kitchens, but it is highly likely that devotees will get to eat complete vegetarian and possibly sattvic meals. The Ram Rasoi is a community kitchen that has been in existence near the Ram Janmabhoomi since December 2019 and offers free food to people during the day. Devotees can enjoy their meals until other kitchens open up.
This is not the first time that community kitchens have been set up in a religious centre or temple town like Ayodhya. Most temple towns in India have such spaces that offer free food to devotees to promote communal harmony and bond between people from various parts of the country sharing common beliefs. Here are other community kitchens in popular temple towns of India that you must know about.
Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha
Rasoi Ghara of Jagannatha Temple in Puri, Odisha, is believed to be the second-largest community kitchen in the world, reportedly featuring 32 rooms and 250 earthen pots. At least 600 chefs and 400 assistants work together every day to feed people over 500 varieties of foods.
Spanning over 400,000 sq feet, it is the largest sattvic kitchen in the world that serves 56 foods, made without onion, chillies, potato, and garlic, to Lord Krishna. This list of dishes includes ghee rice, khichdi, sweet rice (kanika), different types of curries, dal, and dry confectioneries prepared with jaggery, sugar, ghee, milk, wheat flour, and cheese.
Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab
Langar (also called Guru ka Langar) is a community kitchen in Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, serving free food to 50,000-60,000 devotees every day. A pilgrim gathering, it can accommodate more than 100,000 people. Many devotees volunteer here to cook food without expecting anything in return. They believe that by serving in a Gurudwara, they are serving God.
Being the largest community kitchen in the world, the meals here are vegetarian. Devotees get to eat roti (flatbread), rice, pickles, kheer (rice pudding), dal (lentils), and more. It houses a roti maker that can reportedly make 25,000 chapatis in just an hour.
Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Shirdi, Maharashtra
Prasadalaya is the name of the community kitchen inside the premises of the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Shirdi, Maharashtra. It is powered by 73 solar panels and can accommodate 3200 people for a meal.
The volunteers carry large steel utensils to serve food. According to Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, more than 2 tonnes of rice is cooked every day. They have machines that efficiently cut vegetables, make rotis, and grind flour. They also reportedly serve vegetarian meals comprising desserts and savouries, including rice, sambhar, potato sabji, moong dal, etc.
Akshardham Temple, Delhi
Preparing 4,000 meals in a day is the community kitchen in Akshardham Temple, Delhi. Reportedly, meals here are vegetarian in a solar boiler, an eco-friendly alternative to using conventional fuels like PNG, oil, coal, and diesel which often lead to air pollution.
The meals here consist of dal, rice, and vegetables. The meals are free in the bhojanalya. The premise of the temple also features a vegetarian restaurant, called Premvati Food Court. You can also visit for snacks. It can cater to a large number of people at once and schools and other tourist groups can book it ahead of time.
Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra, Jammu & Kashmir
Vaishno Devi is an important pilgrim centre in Katra, Jammu & Kashmir. It experiences a footfall of devotees every year. Around 3 km, on the Tarakote route, from the starting point of the journey to Vaishno Devi Temple is a community kitchen where devotees can enjoy authentic flavours of the Dogra cuisine.
According to reports, the langar service continues 24*7, and the kitchen is equipped with modern equipment to feed 280 people at once. It serves vegetarian food, including dal, rice, rajma, and more, and refreshments like biscuits, tea, milk, etc. In October 2023, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board started a community kitchen serving vegetarian food in the complex of Shri Bhairon Ji temple. Two other such kitchens are operating at Sanjichatt and Tarakote Marg.