The Kennedy Caucus Room was a different event space than the usual historical Senate meeting room on Wednesday evening.
White cloth covered the ground of the room, and upon entering, guests were asked to do two things: cover their heads and remove their shoes.
“The room’s a little different,” California Democratic Rep. John Garamendi said.
The third annual ‘Langar on the Hill ’ was hosted by 16 Sikh American Capitol Hill interns on Wednesday, also known as the SikhLEAD internship class.
Langar refers to the Sikh tradition of sharing a free vegetarian meal together, sitting on the floor. They are traditionally held at Sikh houses of worship, or gurudwaras.
On Wednesday, orange bandannas were handed out to every guest at check-in and SikhLEAD interns helped people tie them.
SikhLEAD is part of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which advocates on behalf of the Sikh American community.
Dal Makhani — whole black lentils and red kidney beans in a butter cream — was a favorite, as well as Aloo Gobi — potatoes and cauliflower, cooked in a blend of spices.
Attendees also got to sample roti (round flat bread), dahi (yogurt) and kheer (rice pudding).
“I wanted to make sure people understood the wonderful tradition of heads covered, shoes off and sharing a meal,” California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu said on why she co-founded the American Sikh Congressional Caucus in 2013.
Once attendees filled their plates, everyone sat in rows on the floor and listened to the speakers. Because of the huge turnout, volunteers asked people to shuffle out once they were done eating.
Langar was established by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, to promote equality by bringing people together to enjoy a simple meal. Through this event, the Sikh community hoped to create dialogues about Sikhism in America.
“Food brings people together and is often the perfect conversation starter,” Georgia Democrat Sanford D. Bishop Jr., said.
The event was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and California Democratic Rep. Michael M. Honda.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin spoke at last year’s langar event. His district includes the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikh temple where several people were shot and killed in 2012.