Langar & Dal Amritsari: Sikh Values, Nurturing Unity & Community

Langar is a central Sikh tradition where a free communal meal is served to all, regardless of their social or economic status. Its origin dates back to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, who established the practise to promote equality and break down social barriers. Through langar, Sikhs embody the principle of "Sarbat da Bhala," meaning welfare of all, or "may everyone be blessed," fostering a spirit of unity and compassion. This selfless act of communal sharing reaffirms the core Sikh belief in serving humanity, transcending differences, and nurturing a sense of oneness among all individuals, making it a profound symbol of Sikh identity and ethos.

 The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is a revered Sikh gurdwara located in Amritsar, India. Built in the 16th century, it holds great historical and spiritual significance as the holiest shrine in Sikhism. The temple's architecture reflects a blend of Islamic and Hindu styles, symbolising the Sikh belief in unity and harmony among diverse faiths.

 At the Golden Temple, Langar operates on a massive scale, serving thousands of visitors daily. The Langar kitchen is run by dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to prepare, cook, and serve the meals. The organisation is meticulous, ensuring everyone is treated with respect and served a hot and nutritious vegetarian meal. Volunteers and visitors describe the langar experience as humbling and spiritually uplifting, fostering a sense of unity, equality, and community. Many are profoundly moved by the selfless service and the sacred atmosphere of the Golden Temple, making it a truly transformative encounter.

 The Art of Dal Amritsari

 Dal Amritsari, or langar wali dal, is a classic Punjabi dish renowned for its rich and indulgent flavours. It is a luscious combination of black lentils (urad dal) and chana dal, or split chickpea, slow-cooked with onion, garlic, tomatoes, chillies, and ginger. This creamy and hearty delicacy has become a symbol of Punjabi cuisine's warmth and hospitality. It is served with a dollop of butter and flatbreads like roti, etc.

 The origin of dal Amritsari can be traced back to the rural kitchens of Punjab, where it was initially prepared by slow-cooking lentils and beans over wood-fired stoves, infusing them with smoky flavours. Over time, as urbanisation and modern cooking methods emerged, dal Amritsari's preparation evolved, and additional ingredients like cream were incorporated, enhancing its taste and texture.

 The Role of Amritsari Dal in Langar

 Dal Amritsari plays a vital role in the langar, the Sikh tradition of providing free meals to all visitors at gurdwaras. As a staple dish, it holds both practical and symbolic significance. Practically, dal Amritsari is an ideal langar dish because it is nutritious, filling, and can be prepared in large quantities to serve the masses efficiently. Its hearty nature makes it suitable for people from diverse backgrounds and dietary preferences.

 Symbolically, Dal Amritsari embodies Sikh values of equality and selfless service. By offering a wholesome meal to everyone without discrimination, regardless of their social or economic status, Sikhs emphasise the principles of compassion and unity. The rich blend of lentils and beans signifies harmony and the coming together of different individuals as one community.

 In Sikh culture, the legacy of Langar and Dal Amritsari endures as a powerful embodiment of humanitarian values. Langar's tradition of serving free meals to all fosters a sense of equality, breaking down social barriers and promoting unity among people. Dal Amritsari, with its rich symbolism of harmony, complements this ethos perfectly. Beyond Sikhism, these traditions possess immense potential to inspire and foster understanding and unity on a global scale. By embracing the spirit of selfless service and communal sharing, Langar and Dal Amritsari can serve as bridges that connect diverse communities, promoting empathy, respect, and a shared sense of humanity in an increasingly interconnected world.

 Recipe For Dal Makhni

Dal Amritsari is a rich and flavorful Punjabi lentil curry that originates from the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab, India. It is known for its velvety texture, aromatic spices, and smoky flavour imparted by using the traditional technique of coal tempering. Here's a delicious Dal Amritsari recipe for you to try at home:


                                                    Video Credits: Kunal Kapur/YouTube

For the dal:

1 cup whole urad dal (black gram lentils)

1/4 cup kidney beans (rajma)

4 cups water (for pressure cooking the lentils)

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped

2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to your spice preference)

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to your spice preference)

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 cup fresh cream or heavy cream (optional, for richness)

2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish

For the coal tempering:

1 small piece of charcoal

1 teaspoon ghee or vegetable oil


Rinse the urad dal and kidney beans under running water until the water runs clear. Soak them together in water for at least 4-5 hours, or preferably overnight.

Drain the soaked dal and rajma, then transfer them to a pressure cooker. Add 4 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and pressure cook until they become soft and fully cooked. It usually takes about 15–20 minutes on medium heat after the first whistle. Once cooked, mash the dal lightly with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.

In a separate pan or kadai, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil. Add cumin seeds and let them splutter.

Add finely chopped onions and sauté until they turn golden brown.

Add ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chillies. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes until the raw smell disappears.

Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and salt. Cook until the tomatoes become soft and the oil starts to separate from the masala.

Pour this masala mixture into the cooked dal and mix well. Simmer the dal for 10–15 minutes on low heat, allowing the flavours to meld.

If using fresh cream or heavy cream, stir it in at this stage to add richness to the dal. You can skip this step for a lighter version.

For the coal tempering: Heat a small piece of charcoal over an open flame until it becomes red hot. Place the red-hot charcoal in a small bowl in the centre of the dal. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of ghee or oil over the charcoal. Quickly cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid to trap the smoke. Let the dal sit like this for about 5 minutes to absorb the smoky flavour.

Remove the charcoal bowl and discard it. Stir the dal well and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Garnish the Dal Amritsari with chopped fresh coriander leaves.