When it comes to doing charity, many people get the perception that it comes in the form of donating money or old clothes to those in need. For others, it may even be in the form of spending time with those who are less fortunate or even providing shelter for them.
In the Hindu religion, one form of charity, called ‘Annadhanam
’, has always took precedence. The word ‘Annadanam
’ itself, is made up of two words: 'Annam
' stands for food and 'dhanam
' stands for the act of giving or donating.
Among all the forms of charity, ‘Annadhanam
’ is considered as an act of the highest virtue, simply because unlike all the other human needs such as clothes and shelter which impact only the quality of life, food impacts life itself.
’ is a way of viewing life as precious and aiding its survival, by giving a gesture of compassion towards fellow living beings. It is also said that those who gives ‘Annadhanam
’ will reduce their negative karmas and sins.
Keeping this in mind, the KL Arul Nilayam (KLAN) - the capital city branch of the Hindu based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Malaysia Hindu Dharma Maamandram (MHDM) - has embarked on their version of ‘Annadhanam
KLAN has been serving vegetarian Nasi Lemak to devotees who turn up at the Batu Caves for the annual Thaipusam festival since 2010.
Because the organisation serves the vegetarian Nasi Lemak near the Batu Caves KTM station inside the vicinity of the temple, the project has since been dubbed as #NasiLemakTepiKTM
recently spoke to KLAN Project Advisor, Nantha Kumar Arumugam, to get the story behind #NasiLemakTepiKTM.
Nasi Lemak And KTM?
Nantha Kumar said the initiative started when KLAN realised that there is a high demand for good food during the Thaipusam festival and it tied up perfectly with their intention to do ‘Annadhanam
“We wanted to feed people, especially the devotees who are there to fulfill their vows, with good, hot food. So, we took this up as a challenge and started this initiative back in 2010. We never looked back ever since,” he said.
However, Nantha Kumar explained that the general objectives of the initiative broadly centre around the concept of reduction; mainly the reduction of the sale of food, the reduction of the financial burden of devotees and the reduction of the usage of harmful styrofoam containers.
“When families visit the Batu Caves temple for prayers, many of them will stop to eat at the various stalls available around the vicinity of the temple. A modest meal including drinks for a family of five could easily cost them at least RM40 because the prices of food and beverages have jumped up in the last few years.
“This is where we play a part by serving devotees complimentary vegetarian Nasi Lemak from the evening of Thaipusam eve to the big day itself."
While they've been doing a good job feeding the devotees, Nantha Kumar told us that they've also been doing their part to save the environment.
“The most significant change for us was the year when we ditched styrofoam. In 2014, we replaced styrofoam containers with recycled waxed brown paper, to serve the food to devotees.
“However, the move had incurred additional cost to us. The easy way out is of course to continue with the cheaper option but that would compromise the purpose of the service,” he said.
Nantha Kumar said the term #NasiLemakTepiKTM was born after a move in their location in the temple.
“In 2010, when we first started this initiative, KLAN members assembled their families, friends and well-wishers to cook and serve vegetarian Nasi Lemak outside the main gates of the Batu Caves temple.
“Not long after that, the temple committee invited us to move to that location, and provided us with a more prominent location, which is near the Batu Caves KTM station, on the vacated parking lot at Jalan Station.
“More people have access to our service since we moved and we have been dubbed as #NasiLemakTepiKTM ever since,” he said.
Putting Nasi Lemak First
Nantha Kumar said there was an obvious reason why Nasi Lemak was the chosen menu to be distributed to the thousands of hungry mouths during Thaipusam.
“We chose Nasi Lemak simply because it is the most quintessential, all-day Malaysian meal. It is a simple meal that we believe we could cook and serve well, with the resources that have been made available to us.
“We are fortunate that our vegetarian Nasi Lemak has been accepted by everyone and rated as one of Batu Caves Thaipusam’s best three dishes
,” he said.
However, Nantha Kumar rapped some organisations that serve bad food during the holy festival, in the name of charity.
“There are many charitable organisations that endeavor to serve complimentary food in during the festival but not many serve food that is hot and tasty. For those who are tired after fulfilling their vows, such bad food would not only be a turn off, it is also a pitiful sight to see them eat such food.
“The saddest sight is when one finds styrofoam containers almost full with uneaten food, strewn all over the Batu Caves area before, during and after Thaipusam.
“The sheer wastage of it is mind-boggling and our aim is to not have any of our Nasi Lemak squandered by the devotees and visitors. That just means we have to prepare delicious and hygienic food.
“We take it up to ourselves to maintain quality control, from the preparation of ingredients to the cooking and serving,” he said.
Nantha Kumar said usually a group of volunteers, together with KLAN members, will cook the Nasi Lemak for 50,000 people.
“We have three groups who are in charge of cooking, each using different types of methods to cook the rice. One group cooks the rice in a traditional way, in big aluminum pots. The other two groups cook the rice in rice cookers and steamers.
“We usually start cooking very early and the cooking time depends on a few factors including the quality of the rice,” he said.
He added that in the last two years, the operational budget for the project has been set at RM30,000.
Nantha Kumar said the devotees who fulfill their vows at the temple usually throng their stalls for the Nasi Lemak.
“It is basically their fuel. They love them. When we shifted our base, the size of the crowd grew. We not only got more attention but the demand for our Nasi Lemak has increased,” he said.
He said preparation are already underway for the upcoming Thaipusam on 31 January.
“We will set up a fully functioning professional kitchen from scratch and commence work from the morning of 28 January to late night, when the goods for the cooking will be delivered to the cooking site in batches.
“This part of the operation will continue until the next day. We will activate the kitchen fully on the morning of 30 January and begin serving Nasi Lemak in the evening. The aim every year is to serve as much to as many people as possible,” he said.
Nantha Kumar added that the work put into preparing such a large amount of Nasi Lemak is definitely tiring but with the help of volunteers, they manage to see it through.
KLAN is in need of more volunteers to carry out their noble cause. Those who are interested in giving them a helping hand can visit their Facebook page, Thaipusam Annadhanam Batu Caves 2018
or contact 012-2359484 for details.