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Jan 15, 2008 11:52 AM

Langar at Gurdwara Sahib, El Sobrante ... or elsewhere?

This is really stupid but after living here more than three years I never knew about the pink building with the gold domes located high on the hills in El Sobrante. Googling something else, I came across this.

It is a a Sikh Temple, supposedly one of the larger, if not the largest in the US.

Langar, free vegetarian-only food, is served daily. Here's some info from wikipedia

The only mention of langar I could find on Chowhound.

Sure, I asked about langar on the General Board.

Actually it sounds kind of cool. I don't know anything about Sikh's ... food, religion or culture-wise and this seems like an opportunity where the Sikh's reach out to those of other beliefs to sit down and share bread and veggies ... speaking of which ... the picture in wiki shows people sitting on the floor for this. Does that happen? My knee can't take that.

Info about Gurdwara Sahib

Here's an article about Nagar Kirtan, a Sikh holiday

Here are photos of the parade in 2006 in El Sobrante from the blog Sikhs R Us ... love that name

I read that this area has one of the larger Sikh commnities in the Bay Area. I wonder how that has impacted local restaurants, if at all. Maybe all the food action is happening at the langer.

Does anyone attend these locally and could give some, uh, feedback?

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  1. I've been to the temple in El Sobrante many times (no, I'm not Sikh.) Properly, you should be freshly bathed. When you arrive, you will remove your shoes (and volunteers will clean and shine them if you want) and put on a head covering. They have spares if you need them. You will wash your hands.
    If you go to the service, it will be in Punjabi. I go because I like the music and singing. I sit on the second floor overlooking the congregation.
    The langar hall serves a breakfast. Lunch is generally started at 11:30. All the food is vegetarian, sometimes spicy, sometimes not.
    You wait in line cafeteria style for your initial serving. Yes, you sit on the floor to eat (to emphasize that when breaking bread, even the rich and powerful are equal to the ordinary and poor). There are carpet runners inside and out on the deck, which has a view of the bay. Volunteers come around w/ all the entrees and bread and you can have seconds, thirds...............
    You clean up after yourself. It is a great way to spend a Sunday. It is all free, all are welcome, no one will prosyletize (sp) and no one asks for donations. It would be nice to make one, however.
    The food at the El Sobrante is very good. Among other things, I've had a lentil stew, a dish of cabbage and potatoes, a chickpea stew, flat bread--paratha?, rice, and Indian sweets (not my favorite thing). The people are gracious, welcoming and they do give tours.
    I've been meaning to go again.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MKatrinaToo

      Thanks so much. It sounds lovely and I might stop by for the services, at least. I'm definately going to try to make the Nagar Kirtan celebration in June.

      Sikh Center
      3550 Hillcrest Rd, El Sobrante, CA

      1. re: rworange

        It really is a nice way to spend a Sunday. I go whenever I need an East Indian food and/or music fix. You can go in wearing western clothing, altho i do have a couple of inexpensive shalwar/khameez (?) sets. Visually, I love the bright colors and patterns of the garments. On the temple floor, men and women sit segregated, but I don't think that's a requirement--just works out that way. That's why I go to the second floor on the balcony--there will be others up there too.

    2. This is a place of worship...not a restaurant with an entertainment/music venue. I am Sikh and I appreciate and embrace every one who wants to come here, but I don't appreciate people gawking at us like we are zoo animals.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jkdhaliwal

        Food is a very uniteing thing. I've learned more about ethnicities other than mine through their food. It gave us a common thing to talk about and relate better. An intro into someone else's world. On chowhound I've read about deeply personal events related through the food part ... everything from Chinese births to funerals, Jewish, Persian, African, Filipono holidays, etc. And it has led me to viewing people as less foreign. We are all basically alike.

        I was at the temple for the first time two Sunday's ago when it was a gloriously sunny day. I didn't impose on the services that were just starting or the meal. I enjoyed seeing the ladies walking up the hill their colorful sari's fluttering in the wind.

        It felt holy and my impression was that had I chosen to attend services, I would have been welcomed. Based on your response, I guess not. Too bad. I don't need to feel like a resented stranger.

        An interest in a culture we are unfamilair with does not equate to gawking at someone like a zoo animal. I re-read this entire post to see if there was anything disrespectful. IMO, no. It was just gathering information about what this was about and nothing that I could see to prompt the response.

        1. re: rworange

          I don't think that "jkdhaliwal" was specifically referring to you. It sounded more like the reference was to "mkatrinatoo" as he/she stated that whenever they needed an East Indian food fix that's where they go. Kind of sad that they capatilize on someone elses culture and beliefs for their own free ride. I have many friends who are Shik's, they are the most honorable, passive and peaceful people you will ever meet. Attend one of their Sunday Langar' will enjoy it to the hilt. You might even make some new friends.

      2. I am a Sikh. In any Gurdwara people from all faiths are always welcome. Even the foundation stone of most holiest of places for Sikhs, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, was laid by a Muslim. Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs contain verses from saints of different faiths, not only Sikhs.

        Also nobody will try to proselytize at a Gurdwara. Not because we are arrogant people but because one reason for separate Sikh identity was to fight against forced conversions to Islam by then muslim rulers. It was in late 16th century when Guru Gobind Singh saw that people were hiding or converting to Islam rather than fighting against the injustice, he gave his followers, a separate identity(unshorn hair, Turban), so they can't hide among masses but have to fight. It is ironic that Sikhs were biggest target of hate crime after 9/11.

        Music played at a Gurdwara is called Kirtan. Usually it is sung in classical Indian Raags which are very soothing to hear even if you don't understand the lyrics. El Sabranto gurdwara broadcasts its kirtan live so you can listen it here to get an idea.

        Main purpose for Langar is to stress equality as rightly pointed out by MKatrinaToo. institution of Langar was deemed so important that 4th guru, Guru Ramdas had instructed that any visitors to him had to sit in Langar first before meeting him. Even then Emporer of India, Akbar, had to first sit in Langar and eat along with others before he was able to meet the Guru.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cskay

          Thanks so much for the reply. Anything that brings people together and removes the mystery is a good thing, IMO.