Categorized | Environment

March 14th: Sikh Environment Day

Posted on 10 March 2010 by .

The Sikh Council on Religion and Education would like to invite all Sikhs to celebrate Gurgaddi Diwas of the 7th Guru, Guru Har Rai ji, as a Sikh Environment Day. Guru Har Rai Ji, who became Guru in the year 1644, preached that Sikhs must come to the defense of all that is vulnerable and protect the well being of plants and animals. It will provide an opportunity to reflect upon our relationship with nature and mark a day on which we commit to environmental activism as followers of Guru Har Rai ji. (The New Year also begins on March 14th according to Nanakshahi Calender.)

In July 2009, in collaboration with the United Nations, SCORE organized a EcoSikh conclave in New Delhi in which Sikh organizations and leaders declared a five year plan as a Sikh response and commitment to save earth against the threat of global warming. This plan was presented to the UN chief Ban Ki Moon in December at the Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s residence which hosted an international conference of all religions on global warming. Sikh plan includes creating a one particular environmentally focused celebration from Sikh history and theology and it focuses on five key areas — assets, education, media/advocacy, eco-twinning ( pairing gurdwaras across globe for collaborative work), and celebration.

Under this Sikh plan, we propose to coordinate an annual EcoSikh holiday season corresponding with Gur Har Rai ji Gurgaddi Diwas.  Guru Har Rai Ji’s* legacy provides one of the most inspiring models for our ecological consciousness. While commemorating and celebrating the important points of his life each year, meditating on our own environmental habits is a profound way to gain spiritual renewal.

During this observance, we can focus on ecological tips and encourage ragis to perform environmentally themed shabads. A number of shabads extol the relationship between Sikhi and the environment and we can focus on their message during this celebration.   Each community can create their own theme or follow one suggested by the EcoSikh initiative organized through the website. We hope that this particular day will be celebrated and the entire Sikh community will do something in solidarity around the world.

Various celebrations will take place in Punjab and in other parts of India. In North America, various Gurdwaras have committed to celebrating this day as a Sikh Environment day. Sikh youth is also getting excited in planning and executing ideas to celebrate this occasion.

Avtar Singh Makkar, President of SGPC, has agreed to send announcements to all educational institutions and Gurdwaras in Punjab to mark March 14th as the Sikh Environment day. He also pledged to plant 100,000 trees in SGPC run schools and colleges.  In addition, SCORE has requested him to direct all ragis to sing shabads with environment theme from the Golden Temple during the TV broadcasts to encourage Sikhs all across the globe to dedicate this Sunday for environment.

In honour of this day, we propose that all communities participate in a tree planting ceremony or various other activities listed below or in the EcoSikh plan at www.ecosikh.org.   In addition, we propose that all communities participate in a local environmental cleanup.

Sikh Youth in Washington has drawn up a plan to make presentations on Sikh environmental teachings on March 14th at the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. Youth will sing shabads focusing on nature. In addition, they plan to collect funds to support planting of 100 trees on a Kilometer of road leading to Khadoor Sahib in Punjab, India and other parts of India. Baba Sewa Singh, a Sikh environmental hero based in Khadoor Sahib, who has planted and nurtured over 100,000 trees in last ten years, has agreed to plant trees to kick start this celebration. To plant a tree and to water it for four years, the cost is $25 dollars.

*The story of Guru Har Rai Ji and the Trampled Rose expresses a profound call to ecological consciousness. When the Sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Gobind Ji explains to his grandson and future7th Guru,  Baba Har Rai Ji that the Sikhs must come to the defense of all that is vulnerable and protect the well being of plants and animals, he plants the seeds in young Baba Har Rai Ji that would lead him to become an eternal defender and caretaker of our natural world. The beauty of this moment and the importance of these teachings may inspire us to celebrate our own relationship with the environment.

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What Can You Do?

Several suggestions that can be followed by individuals/families, Gurdwaras/Sikh organizations, and the wider community:

Individuals/Families:

  • Plant an EcoSikh garden or tree
  • Visit your local parks monthly as time for spiritual reflection and renewal

Gurdwaras/Organizations:

  • Ragis sing shabads with environmental themes
  • Distribute tree saplings
  • Organize a tree planting ceremony or plant saplings of plants in the Gurdwara complex.

Wider Community:

  • Become an active part of Earth Day celebrations (April 22nd)
  • Join interfaith environmental work camps and celebrations

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