Many Heavens, One Earth: Sikh Environment Day
The Sikh Council on Religion and Education is inviting Sikhs around the world to celebrate 14th March as Sikh Environment Day.This date already holds great significance within the Sikh calendar as it celebrates the Gurgaddi Diwas of the 7th Guru, Guru Har Rai ji, and also because it marks the New Year according to the Nanakshahi Calendar.
“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” said the Chairman of SCORE, Dr Rajwant Singh. Guru Har Rai Ji, who became Guru in 1644, preached that Sikhs must come to the defence of all that is vulnerable and protect the well being of plants and animals.
The EcoSikh plan
In July 2009, in collaboration with the United Nations, SCORE organised an EcoSikh conclave in New Delhi in which Sikh organisations and leaders declared a five year plan as a Sikh response and commitment to save earth against the threat of environmental destruction. This plan was presented to the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon in November at Windsor Castle, as the culmination of an international conference organised by ARC and the UNDP, of nine religions to commit to practical action on environmental issues such as global warming.
The Sikh Plan, which was created as part of this worldwide movement, includes creating a 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,” Dr Singh said. “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.”
What will Sikh Environment Day involve?
During this observance, Sikhs can focus on ecological tips and improvement, and encourage raagis, or others, to perform environmentally themed shabads – hymns from the Sikh holy scriptures. A number of shabads extol the relationship between Sikhism and the environment, and Sikhs will be able to focus on their message during this celebration.
In honour of this day, it is proposed that all communities participate in a tree planting ceremony or various other activities listed below, or further listed in the EcoSikh Guidebook. In addition, we propose that all communities participate in a local environmental clean-up.
“Each community can create their own theme or follow one suggested by the EcoSikh initiative organised 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, several gurdwaras have committed to celebrating this day as a Sikh Environment day. Several Sikh Youth organisations also planning to celebrate this occasion.
What can people do for Sikh Environment Day?
- Plant an EcoSikh garden or tree
- Visit your local parks monthly as time for spiritual reflection and renewal
- Ragis sing shabads with environmental themes
- Distribute tree saplings
- Organise a tree planting ceremony or plant saplings of plants in the Gurdwara complex.
- Become an active part of Earth Day celebrations (April 22nd)
- Join interfaith environmental work camps and celebrations
Who is committed already?
Avtar Singh Makkar, President of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (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.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has also decided to send directives to all the 40 educational institutions in Delhi to celebrate this day and there will be special observance at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. Bhai Vir Singh Sahit Sadan and Guru Granth Sahib Resource center will also observe this day in New Delhi. SCORE also plans to announce a committee of prominent Sikh personalities and environmental activists like Baba Sewa Singh, Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, Prof. Manjit Singh, and Justice Kuldeep Singh to help coordinate Sikh environmental activism and to work with international bodies like UN.
Harpal Singh, Chairman of Nanhi Chhaan or ‘little shade’- a charity that promotes womens’ rights along with saving the environment- has joined in this initiative and will provide organisational support. He has appealed Sikhs to adopt “Nanhi Chhaan” and plant a sapling on the 14th of March in honor of Nature’s two great Nurturers – the girl child who is mother to humankind, and trees who are Mother Earth’s greatest gift to life on this plant.
Sikh Youth in Washington have 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 the 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 some more to kickstart this celebration. To plant a tree and to water it for four years, the cost is $25 dollars.