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ਸਗਲ ਬਨਸਪਤਿ ਮਹਿ ਬੈਸੰਤਰੁ ਸਗਲ ਦੂਧ ਮਹਿ ਘੀਆ ॥

ਊਚ ਨੀਚ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮਾਣੀ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਮਾਧਉ ਜੀਆ ॥੧॥

Fire is contained in all firewood, and butter is contained in all milk.

God’s Light is contained in the high and the low; the Lord is in the hearts of all beings. ||1||

- Guru Arjun Dev ji P:617, SGGS

 

On June 5th, 2011, Sikhs honored the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs who spread Divine Understanding and cared for everyone. To honour his love and dedication to humanity, Sikhs organized green nagar kirtans, following the Sikh principle of sarbat da bhala, which means the wellbeing of all. These events allow Sikhs to carry forward Guru Arjun Dev Ji’s vision of love and harmony for everyone.

Environment-friendly acts of faith 

Sikhs also showed their leadership skills during Sikh Environment Day on March 14th in 2011, celebrated on Guru Har Rai Ji's Gurgaddhi Diwas. They organized tree plantings, recycling programs, used steel plates, and peformed humble acts of sewa for the environment. These efforts displayed the unity and strength of the Sikh community when we work together based on our Gurus' teachings.

In our fast-paced world, we've gained many comforts, but somewhere along the way, we've lost touch with the environment that sustains us. It gives us food, water, and the air we breathe. It's vital to remind ourselves, whether in our places of worship, schools, or during festive occasions, that as humans, we possess the remarkable ability to cherish and safeguard our planet.

The teachings of Gurbani, with their rational and scientific approach, show us how to live in harmony with nature, both as individuals and communities. The Sikh Gurus were deeply concerned about preserving and nurturing the Earth and all its creations, guided by their profound understanding of Ik Onkar.

Their wisdom is a precious gift to us, offering a vision for a new kind of leadership—one that prioritizes environmental stewardship for the future. By embracing these teachings, we can rediscover our connection with the planet and strive towards a more sustainable world.

Nagar kirtans, beyond being cultural festivities, were meant to spread words of truth, love, and a commitment to living a divinely inspired life. Sharing food has always been central to this tradition. However, in today's world of disposable goods, our Nagar Kirtans have inadvertently contributed to environmental harm with the excessive use of plastic containers, styrofoam, and plastic bags.

It falls upon all Sikhs to offer and accept langar in a manner that respects the environment. Sewadars, too, must prioritize eco-friendly materials for distribution and raise awareness among the masses. The reasons for this are simple: the practice is constructive, but ultimately, the choice rests with us.

Reasons: 

Our Sikh belief of Sarbat da bhalaa drives our concern for the environment. We can make a big difference by altering how we conduct nagar kirtans, especially during summer and other religious festivals. By doing so, we can prevent billions of tons of plastic from being used. Plastics not only create harmful greenhouse gas emissions but also pollute our environment. You can see this problem clearly in slum areas where piles of garbage keep growing because of careless waste disposal. With smarter choices and more awareness, we can significantly decrease our impact on the environment.

Choice: 

In the past, during nagar kirtans, langar was served in paper bowls and bags, but they were not ideal. Plastic plates and containers also caused problems during festivals. Then, leaf plates and bowls, known as Pattals, came into the scene as a solution. They became readily available and helped solve the issue of waste and environmental impact during these events.

Support to choice: 

Leaf plates, known as pattals, break down naturally and release carbon during decomposition, just like all leaves and trees do. However, they are a far superior option to Styrofoam. So, why not make use of them before they break down? Let Sikhs of all ages recognize their ability to care for Mother Earth, inspired by the love that drove Guru Arjan Dev ji. Let us follow Guru Arjan's example and make a positive impact on the environment.

Sikh body calls for eco-friendly Nagar Kirtan

In Amritsar, EcoSikh, an organization that links Sikh values and beliefs to environmental concerns, is urging Sikhs to use eco-friendly materials during Langar distribution and Nagar Kirtan on Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom day, observed on June 5th.

Ravneet Singh, the Project Manager at EcoSikh, told TOI that Sikhs can honor Guru Arjan Dev's vision by organizing eco-friendly Nagar Kirtans, in line with the Sikh principle of sarbat da bhaala (well-being of all).

He said, "The modern lifestyle had brought many conveniences but during the process people had lost a connection with environment that nurtures everyone, provides food, water, and the very breath of life, so it was important to remind each other in Gurdwaras, schools, and religious celebrations that human beings were gifted with the tremendous ability to nurture and care for the planet and that Gurbani's rational and scientific approach and practice could make living in harmony with our environment."

The group is encouraging Sikhs to use environmentally friendly items when distributing Langar and to spread awareness to others. They suggest altering the way Nagar Kirtans are conducted to help save a lot of plastic during summer and other religious festivals each year. Plastic use adds to greenhouse gases and harms the environment. 

Tips for Green Nagar Kirtan:

In order to make Sikh occasions more environmentally friendly, simple yet impactful measures can be adopted. Instead of serving Kachhi Lassi or sweetened milk in disposable glasses, opt for reusable ones to minimize waste. Street-side langar can be served on eco-friendly leaf plates or pattals, which are compostable after use, contributing to a reduction in environmental impact. Placing waste bins along the nagar kirtan route encourages attendees to responsibly dispose of trash, while collecting used leaf plates near the food area helps maintain cleanliness. Initiating youth groups or sewa teams to conduct litter cleanup before Punj Pyaras arrive ensures a pristine environment for the celebration.

Further, distributing reusable bags made from jute or other eco-friendly materials serves dual purposes by raising awareness about reducing plastic usage and providing a practical item for daily use. Offering seasonal plants for devotees to take home and plant in their neighborhoods promotes environmental sustainability on a broader scale. Environment-friendly banners or quotes from Gurbani displayed during the occasion serve as gentle reminders to care for the earth.

Moreover, serving organic langar or dishes made from fresh ingredients not only promotes healthy eating but also aligns with principles of sustainability. Respect for the langar can be demonstrated by minimizing food waste and taking only what is needed. By collectively embracing these practices, let's celebrate Sikh occasions in a manner that inspires everyone to protect and cherish our planet, fostering a sense of responsibility and reverence for the environment within the Sikh community.

*Based on an article published in EcoSikh on 4th June 2011

 

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