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Sikhism And The Environment

Dalvinder Singh Grewal

The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, declares that the purpose of human beings is to achieve a blissful state and to be in harmony with the earth and all of God's creation. It seems, however, that humans have drifted away from that ideal. For the earth is today saturated with problems. It is agonizing over the fate of its inhabitants and their future! It is in peril as never before. Its lakes and rivers are being choked, killing its marine life. Its forests are being denuded. A smoky haze envelops the cities of the world. Human beings are exploiting human beings.

The Sikh Gurus showed the world the way to live in harmony with the environment and all their constructions adhered to this principle. Guru Har Rai, the seventh Sikh Guru developed Kiratpur Sahib as a town of parks and gardens. Located on the banks of tributary of the Sutlej, he planted flowers and fruit bearing trees all over the area. This created a salubrious environment, attracting beautiful birds to the town and turning it into an idyllic place to live in.

Guru Har Rai developed Kiratpur Sahib as a town of parks and gardens.

The Sikh Scriptures emphasis the importance of the elements in this Shabad (hymn):
Pa uṇ gurū pāṇī piṯā māṯā ḏẖaraṯ mahaṯ. Ḏinas rāṯ ḏu ė ḏā ī ḏā i ā kẖėlai sagal jagaṯ.
Cẖang ā ī ā buri ā ī ā vācẖė ḏẖaram haḏūr. Karmī āpo āpṇī kė nėṛai kė ḏūr.
Jinī nām ḏẖi ā i ā ga ė maskaṯ gẖāl. Nānak ṯė mukẖ ujlė hor kėṯī cẖẖutī nāl. (2)

Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all.
Day and night are the two nurses, in whose lap all the world is at play.
Good deeds and bad deeds-the record is read out in the Presence of the Lord of Dharma.

According to their own actions, some are drawn closer, and some are driven ****her away.
Those who have meditated on the Naam, and departed after having worked by the sweat of their brow
O Nanak, their faces are radiant in the Court of the Lord, and many others are saved along with them!(2)
(SGGS p146)

The importance of Air, Water and Earth to life are emphasised over and over again in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The earth is referred to as the mother and as such requires the our respect. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that no damage occurs to it while the Sikh is going about his or her daily life. The pollution of these 3 elements is against the principles laid down by the Gurus.

On page 723, the Guru says:

ਪਉਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਧਰਤੀ ਆਕਾਸੁ ਘਰ ਮੰਦਰ ਹਰਿ ਬਨੀ ॥
Pa uṇ pāṇī ḏẖarṯī ākās gẖar manḏar har banī.
Air, water, earth and sky - the Lord has made these His home and temple.

Air, water earth and sky are God's home and temple - sacred places which need to be protected and looked after. The Sikh Gurus built many Gurdwaras surrounded by large pools which supported marine life, especially fish. This was clearly a sign to live in harmony with nature rather than in conflict with it.


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