Friday 27 February 2015 at 19:09Varanasi Leads the Light
by Gopal Patel, Director, The Bhumi Project
The dust is settling on another successful Hindu Environment Week. Celebrated for the first time only last year, this year we saw twice the number of events and participants. We’re still getting all the reports back, but we estimate over 10,000 people took part.
That’s incredible for only the second year.
Organised by The Bhumi Project, an initiative of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Hindu Environment Week was created as a opportunity for Hindus worldwide to celebrate the natural world and raise awareness about environmental concerns. Supported by organisations including the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, GreenFaith, and the Hindu American Foundation, events this year took place all over the world.
As director, I was proud to see how many people joined in celebrating our planet. It was extra special for me to see the events that took place in the Indian holy city, Varanasi. Known traditionally as Banaras or Kashi – the City of Light, it is one of the oldest and most celebrated Hindu holy places in India. Sitting on the banks of the river Ganges, Varanasi has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. As Mark Twain wrote, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend.”
For Hindu Environment Week, students from Banaras Hindu University organised a week of events to raise awareness about environmental problems in the city. Like most places in India, waste management is a major problem in Varanasi. The students worked with local temples to organise temple and street cleaning activities. It was a huge success, with hundreds of students participating. They also organised a bicycle rally through the city, which I thought was a great way to raise awareness about the environment and promote the use of green transport.
BHU students in VaranasiAt The Bhumi Project, we work to encourage Hindu communities across the world to take better care of the environment.
We base our work on the teachings found within Hindu texts —Earth is our Mother, and we all have a duty to treat her with love, respect and compassion.
As events for Hindu Environment Week draw to a close, I’m reflecting on the all the great work Hindus are doing across the world for the environment—from New York, to London, to Mumbai. I’m particularly inspired by the events in Varanasi.
As a city that has been a seat of learning and focus for Hindu life and worship for many generations, I am hopeful that it will also become a leading light in caring for Mother Earth.
To see the complete photo highlights from Hindu Environment Week, click here.