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Images: details from paintings by Pardeep Singh. Courtesy - "Journey With The Gurus", by Inni Kaur.


The Great Mother Earth
Maata Dharat Mahat





March 14 marks the Gurgaddi (investiture) Day of the Seventh Master, Guru Har Rai -- who is also known as the Eco-Guru. In his honour, this day is therefore celebrated worldwide as The Sikh Environment Day.


The earth is thy playground, and its resources and all other life on it for you to enjoy  [GGS:374]

But, this 'bounty' is only bestowed once. Man, you must manage it, optimise it, replenish it, nurture it - or perish. Your destiny is in being an astute store-keeper  [GGS:1190]

Kudrat = Nature + Creative Potency

There is a strong relationship between God and nature in Sikhi. In fact sometimes the Sikh word for nature even refers to the ‘creative potency’ of Waheguru.

His creative potency and His value cannot be measured. He is the great and carefree Lord [GSS:724]

By His power we see and hear. By His power we have fear/awe and the essence of happiness. Everything is in Your Power. You are the all-powerful Creator. Your Name is the Holiest of the Holy  [GGS: 464].

Then, the Creator within His Creation …

In an instant He assumes numerous forms of Nature  [GGS:519]

Nature is God's glory manifested for all to see in awe. Indeed Guru Nanak tells us to see God in nature.

O Nanak, the True Creator can be recognized in nature  [GGS:141]

He created nature and within it He dwells  [GGS:84]

Then, Guru Nanak tells us that even if one were ever to realise nature, the experience could never be expressed.

The value of the Nature can never be known. If its value were ever to be known it could never be described. Nature is so valuable that its value and usefulness is beyond words.

Nature is not static. It is very much alive and ever dynamic. When we destroy or over-utilise nature without replenishing it, the balance of all creation around us is disturbed. The ideal state is of balance. For example, the importance of trees and re-greening of the planet takes on even greater significance as realisation dawns that we are cutting down forests at an alarming rate, destroying the very lungs of this planet.

His creation is perfect. He creates and distributes without missing a beat.


In awe of the Lord the wind and breezes blow

The rivers flow as He dictates. They obey His dictates.

They cannot flow as they wish.

In His awe, thousands of rivers flow  [GGS:464]

Sikhs are God-inspired. There is a respectful fear/awe and love of God. God as Sikhs see the One, is not a vengeful God, He does not ‘punish’ or terrorize as understood by some other faiths. He is an all-powerful God who has set the Law of Karam in operation. (“As you sow, so shall you reap“ - This is the field of cause and effect.) We live within the Hukam (universal law). Nature and its alance is part and parcel of that law.


This world is a room of the True Lord and He dwells in it  [GGS:464]

In each and every heart the Lord permeates and pervades in water, on land, in the sky He pervades; through the Guru's
shabad He is revealed, O Nanak, it is ordained that you shall obey His Order and walk in the way of His Will.

Thus you have His kudrat, His creation [all nature], and Man subject to His divine order. The emphasis is on order as opposed to chaos.

In the scheme of things, man is the prime of creation, top of the food chain.

Other forms of creation are your water carriers [ in your care]. In this world you have [been granted] custodianship  [GGS:374]

This implies responsibility for the eco-system.

The earth is Your servant, a slave at Your Feet  [GGS:130.14]


Whatever is in the Universe is within ourselves [GGS:695]

My Maker has made this formation
Within this body He has placed everything

In this body everything resides - the continents worlds and nether regions

This body is the Temple of the Lord, in which the jewel of spiritual wisdom is revealed. This sentiment resonates with numerous other religions too.


Nature and the changing seasons affect us and there is advice in Sikhi about how to use nature to keep us in an uplifted state. The seasons, rejuvenation and deterioration of nature on an annual cycle, are all central themes in Sikhi and gurbani. Spring is the season for rejuvenation and gurbani urges us to always be in ‘spring’ as God too is within spring – the period of youthfulness and rejuvenation.

God Himself, is described as ever new, ever fresh.

My Lord and Master is forever new [GGS:660]

The Lord is ever vibrant, never stale or old. He never decays. It is this stage that Sikhism encourages us to aspire for: a state of "chardi kalaa" … of eternal optimism, forever in full spiritual bloom.

The first shabad in Raag Basant speaks of the month of spring which is described as a blessed month.

Among the months, blessed is this month when spring always comes  [GGS:1168].

Taking it further, God Himself and His wonderful play is described in terms of spring.

My Lord is in bloom, forever in spring

It follows therefore, that:

Those who are imbued with Truth are forever in the bloom of spring


When the mind is in spring, all are rejuvenated [GGS:1176]

This spring of and in the mind also give us a fresh body. The internal freshness manifests outwardly. And, to top it all, the Lord Himself is described as spring with eternal freshness, and this world, i.e., our surroundings, are His Garden.

The Lord Himself is the season of spring; this whole world is His Garden  [GGS:1176]


There is only One Gardener
He takes care of every leaf and branch

Now, if nature is indeed His garden, it behoves us to care for it with love. When we have our own garden we tend to it with care and attention. We water the plants, ensure enough sunlight, and do many things to create a lovely environment. We get untold joy when we are successful in getting a plant to flower or a tree to fruit.

Similarly, we are enjoined to take great care to live with nature and to respect the environment.

Gurbani sings that God preceded the creation of beings by first ensuring there was sustenance for all.

First, You created nourishment. Then You created the living beings [GGS:130]

He gave you invaluable air
He gave you priceless water
He gave you the burning fire
Let your mind ever remain in the sanctuary of that Lord and Master

Water, air, fire [fuel], all originate from sources in nature. They are described as gifts which are priceless. It is therefore our duty to ensure the sources of these fantastic gifts are not depleted or destroyed. The same verse continues:

He gave you the earth and things to use.

Since it is for our use, logically we would be foolish and selfish to destroy nature or foul up the environment.


O greed, you cling even to the great, assaulting them with countless waves
You cause them to run around wildly in all directions wobbling and wavering unsteadily
You have no respect for friends, ideals, relations, mother or father
You make them do what they should not; You make them eat what should not be eaten;
You make them accomplish what they should not accomplish.

This clearly explains the greedy motives of big corporations when man-made ecological disasters take place. BP, Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Seveso in Italy [where Dioxin was released and 37,000 people were affected and 80,000 animals put to sleep]. Wars for oil and other resources have been fought under the pretext of human rights.

There is a limit to what we as individuals can do. But do we must. We are asked to be pragmatic and do altrusitic acts. We are told the earth is a gift to us and we must not forget that.

To die and live in, He gave us this earth, but we have forgotten these blessings  [GGS:887]

We as individuals can make a difference in our own way. We are encouraged by our Gurus to adopt positive values ourselves, before expecting others to follow. Even on the spiritual path it is "aap juppo" first, then "avraa naam japaavo" ... Similarly, we need to first improve ourselves in our own attitude towards nature and the environment. Regard it as God's gift and use with respect for the Great Giver who gifted it to us. Then we will be making a meaningful contribution to the world.


Sikhs have no prohibition over parts of their body being of use after they pass away. Sikhs are urged to be organ donors.

And in life: blood donation is carried out regularly through gurdwaras worldwide.

I will consider my life a success if even my skin is used for making shoes  [Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 9/18].


We are reminded that we come to this life as guests.

With death pre-ordained the mortal comes into this world ... [GGS:876]

Burn away your selfish hopes and desires and live like a guest in the world

As guests, it is simply immoral of us to remove or destroy things belonging to the host …

[I would like to thank my good friend Manjeet Singh of Malaysia, Paramjit Singh of the Guru Granth Sahib Academy, Malaysia, and my brother, Gurmukh Singh of SEWA UK, for assistance with this article.]

Edited for
March 13, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 14, 2013, 8:00 PM.

Dya ji, an excellent expose. There is a large body of shabads that deal with kudrat, including Bhai Gurdas's Vaars ... like 'kadar' in kudrat where the Creator is seen in His Creation. Bhai Vir Singh's poetry is mainly about kudrat. 'mohee daykh daras nanak balihaari" [GGS:261.16] - "Nanak is fascinated, gazing upon the blessed vision of your creation."

2: Sukhindarpal SIngh (Penang, Malaysia), March 15, 2013, 11:55 AM.

I can see a DVD with these shabads and a commentary blooming with the next monsoon. Guru Rakha!

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Maata Dharat Mahat"

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