Amritsar: the beating heart of the Sikh

Amritsar: the beating heart of the Sikh

This excerpt was taken from BBC travel.

Sikhs all over the world do seva, such as cleaning the Golden Temple’s holy pool (Credit- Raphael Reichel)

Amritsar, a north Indian city of two million people, is famous for many things: delectable cuisine, its historical old town and the spectacular Golden Temple – the most significant shrine of the Sikh religion. Yet, what stands out everywhere, from the temple to the people in the streets, is a feeling of generosity that is linked to the very founding of the city.

Amritsar was established in the 16th Century by a Sikh guru and is located in the region of Punjab where Sikhism originated. The religion is known for its tradition of seva – a voluntary service performed for others without any expectations or reciprocity.

The Golden Temple’s communal kitchen serves hot meals to 100,000 people each day (Credit- Raphael Reichel)

Sikhs all over the world do seva in gurudwaras (Sikh temples), most often in simple acts like cleaning the floors, serving meals and maintaining order in the temple. Others perform seva in their private life through acts of generosity and charity. In April 2021 when Covid devastated families across India, the Sikh community rose to the challenge of delivering oxygen cylinders and other medical supplies to those in desperate need.

“Seva means selfless service, and in Sikhism it is not just an exhortation and a guide but a daily practice,” writes Jasreen Mayal Khanna in her book Seva: Sikh Wisdom for Living Well by Doing Good. “Kind has been cool among Sikhs way before it became a Brooklyn hipster motto.”

Amritsar was established in the 16th Century by a Sikh guru and is the spiritual centre of the Sikh religion (Credit- Raphael Reichel)

“The other name for seva is love,” said 23-year-old Abhinandan Chaudhary, who has been doing seva with his family since he was eight. “A common teaching is that one should be so discreet and selfless, that if you are doing seva from the left hand, even your right hand should not find out about it.”

In an increasingly individualised and capitalistic world, it is a refreshing way of living.

The spirit of generosity in Sikhism can be seen across the world. During Covid lockdown, Sikh volunteers in a gurudwara in England delivered thousands of meals a day to NHS staff, while Sikhs in various US cities cooked hundreds of thousands of free meals.

The Sikh religion places a strong emphasis on doing good deeds and helping others (Credit- Alison Wright:Getty Images)

In crisis or emergency situations, Sikhs have rallied their full force to help those in need, whether it may be storm-hit Canada or cyclone-struck New Zealand.

But in Amritsar, the beating heart of the Sikh religion, the fulfilment of seva is taken to another level. It is known throughout India that no person ever has to go to bed hungry in Amritsar. That’s because there is always a hot meal ready for anyone who should want it at the Golden Temple, the most significant shrine of the Sikh religion.

The Golden Temple’s langar, a free, communal kitchen, is the largest in the world, serving 100,000 people per day, seven days a week. Everybody is welcome to eat here, without discrimination, for as long as they need shelter and food, and meals are available 24 hours a day….

Read the full BBC article HERE.


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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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