WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY SPECIAL

Religion And Environment — Greening Our Soul!

Ramanpreet Kaur

Ramanpreet Kaur

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Green your religion to save environment

WHEN WAS THE LAST time you asked abut the carbon footprint of a Nagar Kirtan? Or enquired whether the temple or the gurdwara near your home adopts environmentally good practices in langar cooking to help save our environment?

When Punjabis forgot their religion or Hindu, Sikh affiliations and fought as one in Guru Ka Bagh morcha, they were making a point against a corporate big business enemy that they will not surrender their resources and their rights to brute power.

Religion Sikh ParadeToday, those of us who tell our children the story of Guru Ka Bagh must explain that those times were different, and the Sikhs used to go out and get some wood from the nearby grove for cooking langar because the environmentally friendly notions were in keeping with those times.

In today’s world, a Sikh who refuses to burn wood in the langar and rather beseeches the sangat to invest in solar panels on gurdwaras’ rooftops to save the environment, will be a true Sikh of the Guru.

Punjabis have had the great heritage as given to us in the Slok, Pavan Guru Paani Pitaa, Mataa Dharat Mahat. The whole environment that sustains us has the status of Guru: Water the Father and, Earth the Mother. We are the children of nature. How worried we are to what we are doing to our Mother Earth and Father Water?

cleaning after langarAt a time when opinion leaders, politicians and activists around the world are talking about unprecedented pollution and epidemic increase in the number of diseases, we cannot fulfil our role by merely watching programs about global warming on National Geographic.

If the poor are the worst sufferers of certain actions, then those who claim to be the inheritors of Sarbat Da Bhala philosophy cannot sit at home and live in the false hope that Nanhi Chhaanv is enough of an endeavour to erase the guilt from our collective souls.

One day, the election gets over. One day, the public relations team finds the issue is now hackneyed and overdone. They will move ahead and find new theatre.


It is unfortunate that we are now witnessing extensive use of bottled water in Nagar Kirtans and Ram Navmi processions. Once the procession is over, the roadside is littered with plastic bottles and Styrofoam plates.

Punjab, the land of two and a half polluted rivers, has to live long after the media is tired of the story. The poor have to suffer the impact of our actions long after we have polluted the air and plunged the water tables to new moral lows.

We need to talk about in our gurdwaras and temples the issues of personal responsibility. We must ensure that the institution of Langar that feeds and nurtures the hungry with simple and nutritious food does so in the most earth friendly way, just as Guru Har Rai Ji had showed towards conservation and sustenance of flora and fauna, just as Bhagat Puran Singh lobbied for saving trees and reversing pollutions of our rivers when he only had the power of one.

Environment PollutionIt is unfortunate that we are now witnessing extensive use of bottled water in Nagar Kirtans and Ram Navmi processions. Once the procession is over, the roadside is littered with plastic bottles and Styrofoam plates.

We have abused our planet for a long time. Let’s not do ot in the name of our God. It’s time to stop trashing and contaminating the environment with synthetic toxic wastes that our fast and convenient lifestyle produces.

The idea of religion is also about taking personal responsibility. The Mother Earth is too dear to us to be left only to the activists to fend for. We must become the change agent for the future and we can all do our part. Simply by making a few lifestyle changes for ourselves and inspiring others to do so, we can bring about a revolution in the way we treat this earth!

It is time that the SGPC gets into the act in a major way and carries out a drive to make all gurdwaras green.

So the next time you sit on the dining table, take a stock of your household’s carbon footprint. Making your kitchen greener, so that you can have the moral force to ask the gurdwara or temple managers to make the langar kitchen greener. The prospect is unlimited if we all join together.

Kar seva
Kar seva being performed at Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, Patiala

It is time that the SGPC gets into the act in a major way and carries out a drive to make all gurdwaras green. It is a pity that even the Golden Temple greening project has not moved beyond some press statements. We need to understand that greening of a gurdwara or langar cooking practices or nagar kirtans or temples is not just about good practices in administration of religious places. People take these ideas home; these ideas creep into all spheres of life.

One would ideally expect that religious seminaries that prepare our kathakars and kirtani jathas should weave ideas about taking care of the planet into religious discourses. There are huge lessons to be learnt from the Guru’s decision to have a sarowar around Golden Temple, to have a Dukh Bhanjani Beri by its bank. Our religion joins us to nature, to mother earth, to our real inner being. Environment may be a new fad for some, for us in Punjab, it was always about life.

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Ramanpreet Kaur

Ramanpreet Kaur

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