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The Sikh Council on Religion and Education invites Sikhs worldwide to celebrate Sikh Environment Day on 14th March 2010. This date is special in the Sikh calendar as it commemorates the Gurgaddi Diwas of the 7th Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji. Additionally, it signifies the New Year according to the Nanakshahi Calendar. Join in the celebration to promote environmental awareness and honour the teachings of Guru Har Rai Ji on this significant day.

Message of sustainability 

Guru Har Rai Ji, who assumed the role of Guru in 1644, advocated for Sikhs to defend the vulnerable and safeguard the well-being of plants and animals. In line with this ethos, in July 2009, SCORE collaborated with the United Nations to organize an EcoSikh conclave in New Delhi. During this event, Sikh organizations and leaders unveiled a five-year plan as a collective Sikh response to address and combat environmental threats. This plan, aimed at preserving the Earth, was formally presented to UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon in November at Windsor Castle. The presentation was made during an international conference organized by ARC and the UNDP, involving representatives from nine religions who committed to practical actions on environmental issues like global warming.

As part of a global movement, Sikhs have devised a plan with a special emphasis on the environment, drawing inspiration from their history and religion. This plan centers around five key areas: assets, education, media/advocacy, eco-twinning (pairing gurdwaras worldwide for collaborative efforts), and celebration. The goal is to integrate environmental awareness into Sikh practices and engage communities globally in collective efforts towards a sustainable future.

Chairman of SCORE, Dr Rajwant Singh said "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."

Sikh Environment Day

During the observance, Sikhs are encouraged to focus on ecological tips and improvements. They promote the performance of environmentally themed shabads—hymns from the Sikh holy scriptures—by raagis or others. Many shabads highlight the relationship between Sikhism and the environment, allowing Sikhs to concentrate on this message during the celebration. In honour of this day, it is suggested that all communities participate in a tree-planting ceremony or other activities outlined in the EcoSikh Guidebook, along with a local environmental clean-up. Communities can choose their theme or follow one suggested by the EcoSikh initiative through its website. The hope is that this day will be celebrated, and the entire Sikh community worldwide will engage in solidarity. Various celebrations are planned in Punjab and other parts of India, and in North America, numerous gurdwaras have committed to celebrating Sikh Environment Day. Additionally, several Sikh youth organizations are planning to participate in this meaningful occasion.

Community coming together 

Avtar Singh Makkar, the former President of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), had agreed to disseminate announcements to all educational institutions and Gurdwaras in Punjab to commemorate March 14th as Sikh Environment Day. He had also committed to planting 100,000 trees in SGPC-run schools and colleges. The Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) had requested him to instruct all ragis to sing shabads with an environmental theme from the Golden Temple during TV broadcasts to inspire Sikhs worldwide to dedicate that Sunday to the environment. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee had similarly decided to issue directives to all 40 educational institutions in Delhi for the celebration of this day, with special observances at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. Prominent Sikh personalities and environmental activists were to form a committee, coordinated by individuals such as Baba Sewa Singh, Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, Prof. Manjit Singh, and Justice Kuldeep Singh, to work on Sikh environmental activism and collaborate with international bodies like the UN.

Harpal Singh, the Chairman of Nanhi Chhaan, a charity organisation advocating for women's rights and environmental conservation, has joined this initiative and offered organizational support. He has urged Sikhs to adopt "Nanhi Chhaan" and plant a sapling on March 14th in honour of both the girl child, a nurturing force for humankind, and trees, Mother Earth's invaluable gift. In Washington, Sikh Youth had planned presentations on Sikh environmental teachings at the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation on March 14th. The youth aimed to sing shabads focusing on nature and collect funds to plant 100 trees along a kilometre of road leading to Khadoor Sahib in Punjab, India, and other parts of the country.Baba Sewa Singh, a revered Sikh environmentalist based in Khadoor Sahib,  agreed to plant additional trees to kickstart the celebration. 

Sikh Environment Day stands as a unifying call for Sikhs worldwide to embody the teachings of Guru Har Rai Ji and actively participate in a collective effort toward environmental sustainability.  The global celebration reflects the commitment of Sikhs to honor their heritage, foster ecological consciousness, and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.

*Based on an article published in Arc World on 5th March 2010 

 

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