LUDHIANA, Punjab—At the initiative of Washington based Sikh organization EcoSikh, thousands of Sikhs all across the world celebrated the Sikh Environment Day on March 14, 2014 with great enthusiasm. Over 2000 Sikh gurdwaras, schools, and organizations marked the Nanakshahi New Year as a day when Guru Har Rai, known for his deep love, and sensitivity towards nature, and its preservation, also became inaugurated as the seventh Sikh guru in 1644.
On the conclusion of the celebration, EcoSikh expressed gratification over the response given by Sikh masses all over the world. Ravneet Singh, Ludhiana based India Project Manager of EcoSikh said, “Organizations from India, Nepal, Canada, Dubai, Norway, Sweden, UK, France, USA, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ghana held special services which included Gurbani recitals on the theme of nature, [as well as] organized herbal plants and flower shows, along with painting competitions and poster exhibitions in the Gurdwara premises.”
President of EcoSikh, Dr. Rajwant Singh, said, “It is sheer pride to announce that Sikhs are the only faith community celebrating their own environment day. Sikhs have created history by simultaneously taking a mass global action in favor of Mother Earth as envisioned by the Sikh Gurus. We hope that this will continue to inspire future generations to become environmentally conscious, and be aware of this critical issue of our times. We simply cannot afford to let land, water, and air, continue to deteriorate when so much reverence is placed in the Sikh theology on these God given natural resources.”
According to Ravneet Singh, “The excitement this year has grown many folds. Gurdwara organizations have been even more creative by having flower shows; distributing bird houses, seeds, and plant saplings, [creating] plantations on gurdwara premises, and increasing green patches in surrounding areas, and creating productive green plans for upcoming festivals, religious processions, and marches.”
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) also organized plantation drives in 145 gurdwaras across Punjab and Haryana, and Mumbai with special awareness programs held in educational institutions run under SGPC. Prominent environmentalists Baba Sewa Singh and Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal ran plantation drives, and educational initiatives in their respective areas, and directed the villages around them in environment preservation.
Over 900 Khalsa schools in Punjab under SGPC, the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Guru Nanak Multiversity, Satnam Sarab Kalyan Trust, Ajnala Sewa Trust, Khalsa Institutions of Amritsar, and private institutions, conducted environment rallies, eco-prayers, and inspirational movie sessions to spread the word about saving the planet.
Dr. Singh further stated, “We congratulate youth groups in Bangalore, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Washington, Oslo, and other parts of the world who enthusiastically mobilized the local communities at gurdwaras and schools, and we are heartened by their commitment to come forward and take the leadership role to saving the planet. It is commendable that many gurdwaras in the west are switching to steel cutlery, and giving up Styrofoam which is an environment hazard.”
The Sikh spiritual leadership also took action. Giani Gurbachan Singh of Sri Akal Takht planted Juju (Beri) trees in collaboration with Eco-Amritsar at the historical house of the literary giant Bhai Vir Singh, in Amritsar. In addition, Jathedar Giani Mull Singh planted cinnamon trees at the 350 years old Naulakha Garden at the birth place of Guru Har Rai ji in Kiratpur Sahib. These events were specially attended by Victoria Finlay, a representative of UK based Alliance of Religions and Conservation, an organization headed by Prince Philip. The revival of this historical garden, originally planted by the seventh Sikh Guru, is being coordinated by Sri Ganga Nursery of Zirakpur.
A historical Gurdwara in Patto Hira Singh village near Moga also launched a massive landscape plan of an 11 Acre nature park featuring trees mentioned in the holy Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, which includes a body of water with aquatic animals and birds, as well as other features like an organic kitchen garden, solar lighting, composting pits, bird houses, and a lengthy walking route within the park.
According to Ravneet Singh, many social media outlets like FaceBook, Whatsapp, YouTube, along with TV, and print media played a major role in spreading the word about the significance of this day which helped to engage participation of many more people than in previous years.
A group of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also submitted a memorandum to Sri Akal Takht on March 14, against Genetically Modified (GM) food crops requesting the Akal Takht to take the lead on saving pure native seeds for Punjabi farmers.