Sikhism’s key organising body goes in for organic farming on land attached to gurdwaras

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) which is the key organisation behind many of Sikhism’s major historical Gurdwaras including the Golden Temple in Amritsar has decided that langar (food in community kitchens) should be cooked from local and organic ingredients. And they will start, in November, by growing organically on gurdwara land.

The Sikh Environment body EcoSikh, as part of the Green Pilgrimage Network, has been working with the SGPC to find more ecological, workable solutions to the chemical food crisis in Punjab.

Hindustan Times article 

By Harkirat Singh

AUGUST 3, 2015 The SGPC has finally woken-up to the reality that the ‘daal-roti’ (pulses and chapattis) served in ‘langars’ (community kitchens) of its gurdwaras is laced with chemicals harmful to the human health.

The langar (food for community kitchen) is either purchased from the market or is collected by way of offerings from devotees. Some of these items like wheat for making chapattis also comes from agricultural land owned by the gurdwara body.

The SGPC has now decided to restrict the preparation of langar from chemical-laced food items. This clearly implies that langar prepared from organically produced foodgrains like wheat and rice, pulses, vegetables and even spices will be encouraged in all SGPC-managed historical gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (HP).

Encourages organic farming

The first step in this direction has been taken, with the SGPC holding a meeting with agricultural experts at Teja Singh Samundri Hall on the Golden Temple Complex here.

Officers of the Amritsar district agriculture department, including chief agriculture officer (CAO) Balwinder Singh Chinna, interacted with senior SGPC officials at the meeting.

At the meeting, SGPC secretary Roop Singh disclosed that the SGPC executive under its president Avtar Singh Makkar had given the go-ahead to organic farming on land owned by the religious body. The managers of all historical shrines of the SGPC were also present in the meeting.

The presence of the managers is significant as agricultural land is ‘attached’ or owned by many of the SGPC-managed shines. They will be instrumental in restricting the use of synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides on land under their respective jurisdiction and putting the organic farming concept into practice.

Roop Singh underlined the need of serving langar, which is free from any chemical sprays. He said in ‘guru ghar’ (gurdwaras) we must ensure that healthy food is served to devotees. In the first phase, he said, five acres attached with each shrine would be brought under organic farming. This implies that only gurdwaras which own five acres or more land will be brought under organic farming.

According to a rough estimate, in the first phase, the organic farming will be put into practice on around 100 acre. This will include one gurdwara in Himachal Pradesh (HP) besides the shrines in Punjab and Haryana, which own five acre or more land. The concept is likely to be put into practice in November when the wheat sowing season commences.

Expert advice

Chinna, who also addressed the meeting, welcomed the SGPC step and assured that his team would be ever ready to offer their expertise. He suggested involving Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in this project. “Do not get discouraged as yields will be low through organic farming. However, gradually the yields will increase. However, we must give importance to healthy food instead of just looking at yields,” he said, while addressing the meeting.

He pointed out that just for the sake of higher yields farmers tend to put in an overdose of synthetic fertilisers into the soil and also use chemical sprays, much more than the prescribed dose. These chemicals find their way into the food grains and vegetables and also damage the soil, he added.overdose of synthetic fertilisers into the soil and also use chemical sprays, much more than the prescribed dose. These chemicals find their way into the food grains and vegetables and also damage the soil, he added.

Pilgrimage more popular than ever: New York Times

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.36.08 Last year, writer Bruce Feiler went on six pilgrimages to explore what the growing numbers of pilgrims in the world might say about the future of faith. His article for The New York Times included the following:

  • Pilgrim numbers have exploded recently for several reasons, including the ease of travel.
  • In 1920 only 50,000 Muslims went on Hajj. Last year it was more than two million.
  • At the First International Congress on Tourism and Pilgrimages at Santiago de Compostela in September, attended the Green Pilgrim Network, the UN released a study finding that of every three tourists worldwide, one is a pilgrim, a total of 330 million people a year.
  • These include 30 million to Tirupati in India, 20 million to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, 15 million to Karbala in Iraq, and four million to Lourdes in France.
  • This growth in pilgrim numbers of pilgrims comes at a time when organized religion around the world is feeling threatened. Continue reading Pilgrimage more popular than ever: New York Times

Keralan Greens go on a pilgrimage

The mountain at Agasthyamalai
The mountain at Agasthyamalai

The priest and authorities of the Sree Uma Maheshwara temple at Agasthyamala, Kerala, were pleased to welcome an 80-strong ‘Green Pilgrimage’ recently. The pilgrims were all members of the Kozhikode chapter of Green Community and they made the three day journey to the temple through the Peruvannamuzhi reserve forest area in order to hold their annual general meeting there. The party of self-styled Greeners was guided on the 25-mile hike by a local tribal chief and a trainer from the Trekking Institute. The meeting launched a new state-wide Youth Green Community initiative which will hold its first summit in February 2015.

You can read more about the Green Pilgrimage in this article in The Hindu.

Canterbury GPN partnership to get the long-distance lowdown

7829414-largeOn November 10 members of the newly-launched Canterbury Green Pilgrimage Partnership will get the chance to hear about the realities of pilgrimage from someone who has recreated one of the longest traditional Christian pilgrim routes. In 2012 Harry Bucknall set out from St Paul’s Cathedral in London and headed for Canterbury to begin the 1400 mile journey to the Vatican City along the Via Francigena,. The walk took him 94 days to complete.

The pilgrim route from Canterbury was first established in the 7th century by St Wilfrid of Hexham and both King Canute and King Alfred the Great are said to have completed it. Harry Bucknall  has published an account of his journey  in his book Like A Tramp, Like A Pilgrim and he will be sharing his experiences in a talk to be given in Waterstones Bookshop, Canterbury at 6.30pm on November 10.

Read more about the event here.

Pilgrimages launch new Canterbury partnership

Archbishop Justin Welby (left) welcomes GPN pilgrims at Canterbury Cathedral
Archbishop Justin Welby (left) welcomes Bishop Trevor Wilmott of Dover and other GPN pilgrims at Canterbury Cathedral

The historic cathedral city of Canterbury has launched the Green Pilgrimage Canterbury Partnership bringing together some 40 local sacred sites, pilgrim routes, food producers and tourism authorities in a commitment to making pilgrimage through the region environmentally friendly.

The new partnership was launched on Friday October 3, 2014, when around fifty pilgrims converged on Canterbury Cathedral having followed pilgrim routes from five locations: The Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, The National Shrine of St Jude in Faversham, Patrixbourne Church on the Via Francigena, Porchlight’s ‘My Streets’ tour in Canterbury, and on the river from Sandwich. Most had walked but some had been able to use boats to help them on their journey.

Their arrival in Canterbury marked the opening of a weekend of pilgrimage-related activities culminating in a special service in the Cathedral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby. In his sermon the Archbishop said: “The Green Pilgrimage Network is an inter-faith movement in which Canterbury has an important part, drawing attention to our call to be good stewards of creation. … What difference will such a pilgrimage network make? We do not yet know but it is the beginnings of an encounter to celebrate and recognise that God is in every part of life.”

Hear a full audio recording of the Archbishop’s address.

Download the full text of the Archbishop’s address.

The day of pilgrimages was covered by the local Canterbury Times newspaper.

The Pilgrims Way website has an account of one of the pilgrimages.

The Cathedral has issued a press release about the Archbishop’s address and another about the Green Pilgrimage Canterbury Partnership.

GPN Canterbury Partnership


Helping pilgrim places and routes become cleaner and greener


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