By Vishal Gulati
Amritsar, Dec 4:
Narendra Modi distributed food to devotees at the Golden Temple here on Saturday night thus becoming the first Prime Minister to serve the community kitchen, or langar, at the holiest of Sikh shrines in this Punjab city.
It was the Prime Minister’s first visit to the shrine and he was accompanied by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. The visit came on the sidelines of the 6th Heart Of Asia-Istanbul conference on Afghanistan.
“Modi is the first prime Minister who served the devotees in the Golden Temple,” Gurbachan Singh, Chief Information Officer at the shrine, told IANS on Sunday.
Gurbachan Singh said though almost every Indian Prime Minister has visited the Harmandar Sahib, the sanctum sanctorum, to pay obeisance and offer prayers, none had so far participated in the distribution of food in the community kitchen.
On Saturday night, when Modi entered the dining hall, “he suddenly started serving the devotees”, Gurbachan Singh said.
The shrine’s main dining hall is the 24-hour community kitchen where an estimated 100,000 devotees are fed traditional meals on peak days.
The official remembered that almost all former Prime Ministers visited the temple. Indira Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Manmohan Singh, to name a few, he recalled.
“In fact, Manmohan Singh visited the Golden Temple many times as Prime Minister,” Gurbachan Singh said.
Official sources said Modi, donning a woollen cap, spent more than 40 minutes in the Golden Temple, which is spread over 15 acres.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) provided a volunteer force inside the shrine during Modi’s visit while security officials in plain-clothes were accompanying the high-security VIP visitors.
Foreign leaders who have visited the shrine include then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in November 2009. British monarch Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Phillip visited the Golden Temple in October 1997. (IANS)