Washington DC, March 16 2017: A record 4,100 Sikh Gurdwaras, institutions, schools and communities all across India and all over the world celebrated Sikh Environment Day on March 14 this year, more than any other year since the celebration began in 2010.
It has been championed by Washington DC-based EcoSikh and supported by prominent Sikh figures, gurdwaras and community members, as well as the United Nations, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), the Government of Norway and others, with the main focus always being for people to make real changes that will have an impact for the rest of the year.
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Global President of EcoSikh in Washington, said, “March 14 was chosen because it is the Gurgaddi Diwas (Enthronement Day) of the seventh Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai, the “green Guru” remembered for his love of nature and care for animals. He is perhaps the first environmentalist in the South Asian region who during his ministry from 1644 to 1661 started and promoted herbal gardens and wild life refuge. In 2015, Jathedars (leaders) of all the five Takhats of Sikhism jointly endorsed this day, recognizing Sikh Environment Day as a fixed date on the official Sikh calendar.”
He added, “This is the largest global mass action on environment by a faith community.”
“Today we saw significant celebrations in more than 15 countries, as well as in 17 Indian states and 11 states in the USA,” said EcoSikh India President, Supreet Kaur.
“We saw plantation drives, bicycle rallies, nature walks, special seminars on nature, workshops on kitchen gardening,” she said. They also saw many of the free kitchens or langar in Sikh gurdwaras serving organic food, as well as a huge increase in the number of places where instead of giving sweets, gurdwaras gave plants and seedling or “buta prasad,”
“ The enthusiasm and varied celebrations of Sikh Environment Day have been phenomenal this year. It shows how more and more people are realising we need to protect the environment in active ways.”
EcoSikh South Asia Project Manager, Ravneet Singh said: “We are thrilled by the overwhelming response by the Sikhs who have reestablished the culture of planting trees as sewa (voluntary service) There are so many places to mention. But particular salutes to the Sikhs and the institutions in Derby (UK) and Nairobi (Kenya), and all over India who planted trees in the forests and in the country area for Sikh Environment Day. These are truly actions to extend the environmental vision of Guru Har Rai, ‘the Green Guru’.”
There were nearly 200,000 engagements and more than 800,000 video views on EcoSikh’s Facebook account in the past month, with hundreds of Sikh social network groups sharing ideas and inspiring green action. News of the celebration appeared in over 70 national papers and dozens of websites.
ACTIONS FOR SIKH ENVIRONMENT DAY
Leading institutions like Punjab University Chandigarh, Thapar and Punjabi University Patiala, Khalsa University Amritsar, Delhi University North Campus and many others had huge celebrations and academic teaching events Guru Nanak Multiversity carried awareness in 857 schools while Satnam Sarab Kalyan Trust planted 3,000 trees in 300 schools to mark the day. In addition, Kalgidhar Sewak Jatha, a group of young Sikhs in Mohali, Punjab, organized a presentation of organic produce by farmers at the celebrations and distributed thousands of samplings of many trees.
There were flower shows in Zirakpur, Ludhiana, Doraha and Abohar, with bicycle rallies in Ludhiana and Mohalli. Organic langar was provided in many gurdwaras including Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and two gurdwaras in Sweden. Kitchen gardening kits being gifted in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Mumbai. Three katha Kirtan diwans were orgainzed in Mohalli by Ek tu hi Society, two diwans in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala, and others in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Babina, Alwar and Delhi.
As a part of celebrations, Vigaas Foundation and EcoSikh have pledged to create 100 kitchen gardens in Gurdwaras across Punjab to spread the message of health and organic langar. “Our mission is to prepare the future generations to work for the planet preservation,” said Jaspreet Singh of Vigaas Foundation, and a member of EcoSikh’s Ludhiana Steering Committee.
“It’s been shown that by doing things like screening short entertaining environmental movies you can engage and inspire young minds, so we’ve created A Little Gardener, which is the charming story of a little Sikh boy who has a big dream to plant things. At EcoSikh are all set to screen this movie world-wide.”
Since Sikh Environment Day started seven years ago it has seen the planting of thousands of trees all round the world, and especially in Punjab. Communities have started making their nagar kirtans (religious processions) cleaner and greener; three historical gardens associated with Sikh Gurus have been revived in Punjab; the idea of organic langar has been initiated at the Golden Temple and is now being adopted by other gurdwaras, and many Gurdwaras have switched from harmful Styrofoam products to metal utensils and biodegradable pattals, granthis. Thanks to Sikh Environment Day preachers have been trained on environmental issues, environmental movies like A Little Gardener have been screened in schools, universities and colleges, and Gurdwaras around the world have become very active in environmental action.
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