Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Community Dining

On the way to Goa, took a detour to visit a couple of temples in coastal Karnataka. Temples in that part of Karnataka provide free food for devotees -  langar as it is called.

The meal is simple -  rice, rasam, sambhar, butter milk. At a time, about 1000-4000 people are fed in Sri Krishna temple, Udupi for instance. Hinduism believes nourishment is vital for survival and that's why there is free food distribution.

Yeah, dining here is a different experience. You sit along with people from various walks of life, total strangers and yet feel comfortable as if you knew them well. We ended up having our lunch and dinner. The meal is nutritious and light. Whats special about this is the order and time management. To feed thousands of people every 30 minutes is no simple feat. Yes, 30 minutes in all to serve, eat, clean and arrange for the next batch. The volunteers are very very efficient, why go to IIMs to study management, just observe these folks, so seamless and perfect.

That apart, I had a funny and uncomfortable experience. There was this woman with her grand daughter beside me, seating is on the floor cross-legged. As the food was served, she flicked portion of the food from her grand daughter's banana leaf. I started observing her there after.

I mentioned that 30 minutes was the total time between batches, so the effective eating time was 20 minutes. The food is served really fast and you are supposed to eat real fast. The food from her leaf was disappearing the same speed it was served. I mean, not to be rude, but she was so thin and fragile and I could marvel at her appetite. Rasam, sambhar, butter milk. No sooner the butter milk was served, next was the payasam or the sweet drink. I was wondering how could her stomach and the digestive system adapt to different food in a jiffy!!!!

Marvelous it was. All the while, she was so engrossed in lapping up the food that she was constantly nudging me with her right elbow. I moved aside a bit, again she was, moved was happening until the end. At one point, I thought that she might just end up hijacking my food mistaking it for her food. So I pulled my banana leaf aside, she gave me a 'What??' kind of look.

Her banana leaf was cleaned so well before each serving. In the end, it was so clear and clean that it could be used as it is to serve someone else and no one would have a clue :-)

You folks must try this at least once, I am sure you will have a story to share.


  1. hahahahahahhaha..that lady must surely have been one case :P

    byt he way i am very thin too with a huge appetite :D so don't go on physical appearance at all..

    I have had food in one of the langars too..I fail to understand how can simple food taste so delicious out there? it smells, tastes and looks different...I can never make it such way ever in my life!

  2. yay.. anything with sambhar is GOOD for me.. and I gorge tooo on food ..

    wowo the langar kya yaad karwa diya .. the black daal.. the gobhi ki sabzi.. the KAdi .. the chawal hmmmm .. As neha mentioned the smell the taste is WOWOW

    You should have given her your plate too.. I bet she was eyeing ur banana leaf.. KAISE LOG.. khane bhi nahin dete ha ha ha ha :)

  3. Nice one. Feeding many people at the temple is not just in Hinduism only. In Sikh religion, every Gurudwara has something called Langar. People will sit on the floor as equals in the same "pangat" (means row or line) and eat.

    That lady was nudging you with her right elbow. Thank God it was in India. If this was happening in San Francisco, I would have said probably she was sending you a signal and hitting on you.

  4. Hi Neha,

    Hehehehe, she was. I know that one should not go by physical appearance after seeing her, and now you are also on list.

    Yes, exactly, how can simple food be so tasty, light on your stomach and filling?? Miracle huh

  5. Bik,

    Hehehehe, so next time we have to feed you sambhar and kheer :-P

    i havent been to a sikh Langar. We have a gurudwara here, very famous. Should go there some day.

    You bet!! she was eying my food.

  6. Hi SG,

    Yes, thank you. I have mentioned about Langar. And yeah, its not only in Hinduism or Sikhism, every other religion have these practice.

    I was just trying to say the essence of Annadaanam in Hinduism.

    Yeah the lady was nudging me, and I had the same thought as you have mentioned. Poor thing!!

  7. "The food from her leaf was disappearing the same speed it was served"

    Hahahahaha......maybe she thought she wont be served the next item if she does not finish the current one.......hahahahaha

    Anyways,eating at temples among thousands of people is something i absolutely LOVE .

    Also,food i guess tastes nicer there.....maybe some divine intervention working!!

    Cheers and a nice blog too.

  8. What a mouth watering post ! And that i am just filled with food !

    Eating out of a banana leaf is so much fun ! The occassional flick with a finger... well, the leaf gives way for that !

    Rasam, sambhar and butter milk...! ask my digestive system. It will show you how it practically happens, when you get the Rasam, sambhar and butter milk !


  9. Interesting topic & funny lady..heehehe. I have had a similar experience in Sringeri. But I am a slowwww eater..In 30 minutes, I could just manage to eat some grains of rice and a little payasam. Later my aunt or uncle (one of them who ate fast) had to feed me the rest.I was in pri. school :D

  10. Nice lil experience to share. Did you manage to eat anything or you were too busy observing?

  11. Excellent experience. Nice sharing of your curiosity in observing the lady next to you.

    This type of serving lunch at temples is common here and I had an experience very long back at "Sri Raghavendra Swamy Temple" at Mantralaya. They call it as swamyji's prasadam. Same type of food, excellent taste (may be due to Gods blessings adds the taste) and time management is very very good here also in managing the croud.

    I only pity you Insignia, because you might not have concentrated in tasting your food rather than watching that lady who is clearing her portion as well as her grand daughter's portion in a lightening speed. One way you are lucky that she has not grabbed your portion of food. Some people are like that only in utilising the opportunity without observing the feelings of others. We can't help.

    Anyhow, nice sharing of feelings.

  12. Sounds like a really good experience. You're luck to visit so many places.

  13. Sounds like a really good experience. You're luck to visit so many places.

  14. sounds you enjoyed food and trip

  15. Hi Indian Pundit,

    Welcome to B Log. :-) Oh yeah!!! maybe she thought the same.
    Absolutely, food tastes there so much better even if its that simple. Thank you
    Keep visiting

  16. Hi kavi,

    hahahahha...was it?
    Eating out of a banana leaf is an artful thing, the occasional flick, the running out of rasam....
    :-) your digestive system seems to be as aggressive as that of that lady's


  17. lostworld,

    thank you. Oh I am a slow eater too. i can never finish the food; so i always say upfront to serve me lesser. :-)

    You got fed? Lucky you! :-)

  18. Holy lama,

    Thank you. I am a slow eater, so I told them upfront to serve me lesser. And I did take the serving of butter milk. So yes, i ate and as well observed :-)

  19. Naidu sir,

    Yes, the food in temples tastes so much better, light and nutritious, that you want to repeatedly go there.

    I did enjoy my food sir, she was not a trouble to me, instead it was funny watching her :-)

  20. Shaunak,

    Thank you. it was a good experience and thanks buddy!! I am indeed lucky :-)

  21. hahahahha.Very funny incident! That woman must be regular there so she knows how to eat at this speed! Well, I have seen people who take dry meals in their hand only and do not use banana leaves...:)
    What a trick I must say! :)

  22. I can understand how great must have the experience been.
    I have had Langar once at the Golden Temple.It is a fascinating experience.

  23. Hi Megha,

    Thank you. Oh yeah may be, she knew the trick hence. :-)

  24. Chowla sir,

    Oh yes, I never miss it whenever I go there. :-) I am yet to have Langar. hopefully soon

  25. I love dining in temples. Theres no inhibition and no uncomfort. Lolz at the old lady incident.

  26. Hi Rajlakshmi,

    You said it right!!! You can eat to your content :-)

  27. when we went vaishnav devi mandir,on the way we had roti and palak paneer in a small hut on the river banks.some mut.etched in our was free.and the ebst palak panner i have had till date.somehow the whple setting,unknown people,sitting on the banks of a river that has just taken form frm the ice..nice it

  28. soin,

    I understand what you are seeing. That simple meal among simple people, nature abounds around you...heavenly!!

  29. Well, I dont like to comment on any one eating profile and patterns.

    but indeed hilarious post.


  30. Makk,

    Well, its meant to be taken light :-)

    Thank you


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