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Every year in early September the city of Amritsar sees a great prayerful Nagar Kirtan procession through the streets, organised by the SGPC to commemorate the Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
This year, though, when the celebration took place on September 1, the city witnessed a major change. SGPC worked with Eco-Amritsar to form a team of more than 20 volunteers, including students of Khalsa College of Engineering and Technology and local young people, who stayed behind and cleaned throughout the route of the procession. They picked up the trash around the streets by hand, loaded it into the bin bags made of recycled plastic and then put it onto trolleys.
Apparently members of the public were both surprised and impressed, and many were inspired to join the team. One family – a father and his three children – were so touched by this unique sewa at the City of Guru Ram Das that they volunteered all the way along, only leaving us when the procession reached its end point at the Golden Temple. Watch a video (with captions) of this humbling inspiring sewa by so many good people.
The Eco-Amritsar team prepared the ground in advance. They guided stall keepers to add dustbins outside their stalls. Many people expressed sorrow or embarrassment that they were using Styrofoam and plastic when our team members shared with them how harmful they are to nature and its resources. Eco-Amritsar also advised the revival of traditional bio-degradable leaf bowls or pattals to serve food. See more pics here.
The first Green Nagar Kirtan was launched by Eco-Amritsar and EcoSikh on July 5 this year, for Amritsar’s 436th Foundation Day, with the help of Gurdwara Patshahi Chhevi, Amritsar.
For the past two years, Baba Kulwant Singh ji of Ajnala has been instrumental in night cleaning the streets around the Golden Temple once a week. In the past months he has doubled this to twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. A team of volunteers from 60 villages, who support him in this cause, come in on their own motorbikes or on a bus, which arrives in Amritsar absolutely full. Their initiative is also directed towards addressing the challenges faced by the Municipal Corporation of Amritsar which is officially responsible for the cleaning of streets in the city. Watch this video of night cleaning.
Up until now it has failed miserably: the challenges of ignorant citizens and probably non-committed work force has made the efforts of collecting waste fail as there is hardly any organised way in the city to collect its daily estimated 750 tons of garbage. Many of the streets in the holy city are used as dumping sites, and the trash then is set to fire every morning. But now, as a new initiative Eco-Amritsar (EcoSikh) and the Tourism Department of the city is working closely with Baba Kulwant Singh and hoping to make it a public responsibility for a change. The Tourism Department have promised to provide both high tech cleaning tools including vacuum cleaners, water suckers, brooms, vehicles and trolleys for the speedy operations by these Sikh volunteers who has deep devotion for the holy city established by the fourth Sikh Master, Guru Ramdas. We are currently spreading awareness and fundraising among the community to support this.
Last week, Eco-Amritsar shared the idea of shaping local Nagar Kirtans into Green Nagar Kirtans with Baba Kulwant Singh. This resulted in a big change in their recent 30 kilometres-long religious procession. This endeavor saw devotees from the villages around Ajnala undertaking a clean up along the 30km route to ensure that garbage is not left anywhere along the route. Baba Kulwant Singh was immediately keen. “We will increase our association further with Eco-Amritsar to spread this message to one and all,” he said.
“Seva is only half done if we leave garbage behind processions, kirtan samagams or jagratas (religious prayer programmes), langars (free festival food) and chhabeels. We must take responsibility to clean up after religious, personal or public events,” said EcoAmritsar Chairman, Gunbir Singh.
This week Eco-Amritsar invited Baba Kulwant Singh to our stake holders committee meeting in Amritsar. “Our efforts are rewarded if we see the citizens of Amritsar joining us by tackling the problem of rubbish in the city and sharing responsibility to keep it clean,” he said.
“The Golden Temple has four doors; it is a shared place for us all. As Sikhs we are keen to collaborate with people from all religions so it is not just the roads to gurdwaras that are clean, but the road to all religious places – churches, mosques, temples. And we can only do this when everyone joins together,” he appealed.
The lead taken up by SGPC in collaboration with EcoAmritsar in this regard is bearing fruit with other religious institutions following suit. Eco-Amritsar has also appealed to all city bodies including Durgiana Committee, the Masjids, Idgahs and the Church institutions to spread this socially critical message and help it succeed.
This initiative is organised by EcoAmritsar in collaboration with EcoSikh, and it is part of a wider green pilgrimage project to help clean Amristar because it is a holy city, supported by many individuals from the Sikh communities, the Sikh Spirit Foundation, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the Norwegian Government.
EcoSikh seeks cooperation and support from all the Sikhs in making all our Nagar Kirtans in the world as garbage free and green.
Flickr set for Green Nagar Kirtan, Set 1, Set 2
Sikh Spirit Foundation