Dubai: Tens of thousands of UAE residents were served free meals as part of a festival celebration at the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple in Dubai on Friday.
More than 50,000 Sikh devotees and others were estimated to have taken part in the Baisakhi celebrations, said Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the gurudwara.
“We served free meals to all of them from our langar (community kitchen),” he told Gulf News.
Baisakhi is the harvest festival in Punjab which also commemorates the birth of Khalsa, the Sikh way of living, 319 years ago.
Though Baisakhi falls on Saturday, the gurudwara in Jebel Ali held the main celebrations yesterday.
Tens of thousands of Sikhs living across the UAE swarmed their temple to offer special prayers and seek blessings on the auspicious occasion.
The day sees one of the largest distribution of free community meals in the UAE as it is a custom at the gurudwara to offer free meals for each and every visitor every day.
Naveep Singh Suri and Surender Singh Kandhari join the Sikh community in offering prayers at the gurudwara.
Two temporary tents were set up outside the gurudwara to serve food and keep shoes of the visitors.
The groceries used to prepare the vegetarian meals included over 1,000kg rice, 800kg wheat, 600kg lentils and 600kg vegetables, said Kandhari.
He estimated the number of rotis consumed by visitors to be 200,000.
“We have three roti-making machines that make 2,400 rotis per hour. Those are continuously operational. Since there are so many people, we had to buy 50,000 rotis from catering companies.”
Preparations for the meals began with vegetable cutting on Thursday afternoon. “Cooking started by midnight. Vessel after vessel, it has been going on. We had prepared food for 40,000 people. But we had to make more later,” said Kandhari.
More than 100 buses were arranged to bring in devotees from across the UAE. The gurudwara also hired a couple of public buses to transport labourers to and from the gurudwara. Special shuttle services from the Jebel Ali metro station were also available.
Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, was the chief guest on the occasion.
He joined the community in offering prayers and urged them to respect the local rules and show the same level of tolerance that is extended by the UAE to all communities.
“This week my weekly off is on Saturday. But I took special permission to change it to today so that I could visit the gurudwara and attend the celebrations,” said Jaswinder Kumar Singh, a mason who lives in Al Quoz.
“I came with my friend. Though it is too crowded and we had to wait for more than one hour in the queue to offer prayers, we are very happy that we could visit the gurudwara on this special day and also have meals with all these people,” he said.
Jebel Ali police offered support to regulate the crowds and manage the traffic to the venue.