Sikh Environment Day declared Annual Sikh Event by Five Takhats

Singh Sahibans

Singh Sahibans in a meeting at Sri Akal Takhat Sahib – March 2013

EcoSikh has welcomed a directive by the Sikh spiritual leaders to celebrate Sikh Environment Day on March 14th by all Sikhs. During a recent meeting of five Takhats (spiritual seats of authority in Sikhism) at Amritsar, the Singh Sahibans (the spiritual heads of the Sikh community) declared that Gurgaddi Diwas (coronation day ) of the 7th Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai, should be celebrated as a Sikh Environment Day each year especially ‘in light of the rising global environmental crisis’. Guru Har Rai, who became 7th Sikh Guru on March 14, 1644, was known for his deep sensitivity towards nature and its preservation. Read the original message from Sri Akal Takhat Sahib here.

Dr. Rajwant Singh, President of EcoSikh, welcomed the announcement by the Sikh spiritual leaders. “This declaration is extremely significant. This is the first time in the history of Sikhism that a day has been set aside to pay attention to nature and to take steps to harness it following the teachings of our Green Guru, Guru Har Rai ji. He inspired Sikhs to live in harmonious relationship with nature and with other living beings. This is the best way to remember him and to take lessons to shape our common future.”

He added, “We are thankful to our leaders for their thoughtful action and directive which is so critically needed in the current times when we all are facing environmental disasters across the globe and severe weather patterns.”

Akal Takhat Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, based in Amritsar, Punjab, had earlier given a special message to all Sikhs all over the world to plant a tree on March 14. In his directive, Giani Gurbachan Singh said, “The Gurmat (teachings of the Sikh Gurus) describes air as the Guru, water as the father and the earth as the mother and it reminds us to respect and take care of these three elements.”

Jathedar Sardar Kulwant Singh Ji, the head of Takhat Sri Hazur Sahib, based in Nanded, Maharasthra, this year released a message for Sikh community to plant one tree on the occasion of Sikh Environment Day on March 14 ‘as a token of love for Guru Har Rai Ji’. “The Sikh Environment Day is a religious effort in the honour of Sri Guru Har Rai to highlight the significance of God’s creation; flora and fauna in human life”, said Jathedar Kulwant Singh. “Due to immense environmental challenges facing the entire humanity, each Sikh is duty bound to respect Air the Guru, Water the Father and Earth the great Mother and plant one tree.” He said in his appeal.

In 2011, four year old EcoSikh, launched the initiative to have Sikh Environment Day celebrated on March 14th and it has become a global phenomenon. According to Ravneet Singh, “This year it was celebrated by over 1600 Sikh gurdwaras, educational institutions and various organizations have celebrated this year with varied action plans. These celebrations were marked with kirtan/katha, plantations, seminars and environment awareness rallies throughout the Sikh community. Many major Sikh gurdwaras in America, Canada, England, Australia and South East Asia celebrated with many action plans including taking a pledge to use steel plates and shunning Styrofoam or disposables.”

Ravneet Singh added, “Message from Singh Sahibans is exhilarating and it gives direction to all Sikhs to become environmentally conscious. EcoSikh believes this movement will gradually improve the religious celebrations, gurpurabs and Gurdwara buildings from environment aspect.”

This year, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), an apex body of the Sikhs, organized plantation of 5000 trees in 145 Gurdwaras, schools and colleges. Takhat Hazur Sahib announced a local bus service in Nanded to reduce carbon emission and even organized a major plantation drive in the city under the aegis of Baba Narinder Singh of Gurdwara Langar Sahib. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) involved its educational institutions via eco-assembly with a message from Gurbani and inspired the students to take action towards environment protection. 35 Gurdwaras in Pakistan, mainly in Sindh and Baluchistan, and in Nankana Sahib (birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev ji) observed this day with various activities such as plantations around the gurdwara complex. An interfaith seminar on Sikh Environment Day was also organized in Karachi. Naulakha Bagh, a 300 year old herbal garden originally planted by Guru Har Rai ji in the 17th century in Kiratpur Sahib, has been revived by Ganga Nursery with collaboration efforts from SGPC.

Expressing his excitement over the success of the SED in 2013, President of EcoSikh, Dr Rajwant Singh said, “We believe that this is the largest direct action by the Sikhs for the environment in the history of Sikhism.”