Pujya Swamiji’s Birthday Celebration (Janam Utsav)-Environment Day
A unique gathering of some of India’s most revered faith leaders to celebrate Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati’s 64th birthday as a green birthday dedicated to the environment, in which a sweeping consensus was reached that new traditions must be forged to compensate for the growing threats of climate change, population growth and pollution.
The saints who graced and blessed the ceremony were: H.H. M.M. Pujya Swami Gurusharananandji Maharaj of Sri Udasin Karshni Ashram H.H. M.M. Pujya Swami Asanganand Saraswatiji Maharaj, H.H. M.M. Pujya Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, H.H. M.M. Pujya Swami Harichetanandji Maharaj, H.H. Pujya Acharya Bal Krishna ji, H.H. Pujya Brahmachari Brahmaswarupji Maharaj, H.H. Swami Shri Govind Dev Giri ji Maharaj Pujya Mahant Mohandasji, Pujya Baba Hath Yogiji, Pujya Mahant Rishishwaranad Maharaji , Pujya Mahant Durgadasji, Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji and many others.
The saints all spoke with great love for Pujya Swamiji and His selfless service of all of humanity, and particularly His emphasis on the protection of the environment. They declared that Pujya Swamiji’s birthday, June 3, will now be Environment Day (Paryavaran Diwas). Out of their love they offered Pujya Swamiji a pagri (reverential turban) along with a ped (tree) as a symbol of His great vision, mission and commitment for environmental preservation and world peace.
“Let us break free from the walls and break through towards a new era,” says H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Founder of the Ganga Action Parivar. “No longer can we follow ways of even 50 years ago. Our world is becoming hotter, dryer and more and more polluted. Traditions, such as even my own birthday celebration, must change if we as humanity are to survive.”
With a steadily-growing population, 54% of India is already facing extreme water stress, which is aggravated by the growing burdens of pollution, rising temperatures and increasing incidents of disaster. The saints unanimously agreed that celebrations and rituals, which play a crucial role in the fabric of society, can become dynamic forces for change. To demonstrate the point, a tree plantation drive was inaugurated as part of the celebration event.
“In Vedic times, trees and water were revered as sacred. Today, we’ve turned our backs on them, becoming far too insulated within our temples and homes.” said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji. He added, “let us break free from these walls and break through towards a new era. Rather than plucking flowers for my birthday let us plant trees, so that all may benefit from their cooling shelter. Instead of performing Abhishek to just one idol, let the world become our idol, which we can all clean and beautify. In such a way, a single ritual, or a single celebration, can become a boon for all.”
Added Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, “Pujya Swamiji is always teaching us and inspiring us all to celebrate differently and in a fuller way. He has urged us in the celebration of His birthday to be creative and give back to our Creator by serving His creation in any way we can. Imagine, for example, if we celebrated our birthdays by planting one tree a year. By the end of our lives, the world around us will have been completely transformed. To me, that is a true reason for celebration.”
They performed the world-famous and divine Ganga Aarti, at the conclusion of which, the assembled seers raised their hands in a rousing pledge for a Swachhta Kranti: a Clean Revolution for Mother India. They were joined by hundreds of people from around the world, who vowed to plant trees, keep our waterways clean, ensuring healthy sanitation. They illustrated so beautifully that through existing spiritual and religious rituals new traditions could be born and new messages for the welfare and well-being of all of humanity could be propagated and shared.