ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ 




Montreal, Canada, April 20, 2013
Dr. Prof. D.S. Chahal



The name and concept of Earth Day was pioneered by John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. He proposed March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by a consensus resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2009.[7]


However, the Importance of environment (air, water and the Earth) was realized by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) exactly 500 years before John McConnell could think of it during 1969. Let us have a look into Guru Nanak vision about the importance of environment (air, water and the Earth) during 15th century:

ਗੁਰੂ2 ਪਾਣੀ3 ਪਿਤ4 ਜਾਤਾ5 

Pau gurū pāṇī pi jāṯā.

ਉਦਰ6 ਸੰਜੋਗੀ6 ਧਰਤੀ7 ਮਾਤਾ8 

Uḏar sanjogī ḏẖarṯī māṯā.

Guru Nanak is advising the humanity:

Please consider5 the importance of air1 as the Guru2; water3 as the father4;

And the Earth7 as the womb6 of mother8, where everything needed by the humanity is produced with collective6 actions of air, water and Earth.

ਰੈਣਿ9 ਦਿਨਸੁ10 ਦੁਇ11 ਦਾਈ12 ਦਾਇਆ13 ਜਗੁ14 ਖੇਲੈ15 ਖੇਲਾਈ16 ਹੇ ੧੦॥

Raiṇ ḏinas ḏu▫e ḏā▫ī ḏā▫i▫ā jag kẖelai kẖelā▫ī he. ||10||

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪਂਨਾ 1021.

Night9 and day10 both11 are as female12 and male13 nurses and the whole humanity14 plays15,16 in their laps. 10

AGGS, M 1, p 1021. [1]

Guru Nanak has further expanded the above philosophy about the importance of environment as a Sloka at the end of JAP – The Essence of Nanakian Philosophy at page 8 of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib and it is repeated again at page 146 but under M 2 instead of M 1 [2]:


ਪਵਣੁ1 ਗੁਰੂ2 ਪਾਣੀ3 ਪਿਤਾ4 ਮਾਤਾ5 ਧਰਤਿ6 ਮਹਤੁ7 

ਦਿਵਸੁ8 ਰਾਤਿ9 ਦੁਇ10 ਦਾਈ11 ਦਾਇਆ12 ਖੇਲੈ13 ਸਗਲ14 ਜਗਤੁ15 

Pavaṇ gurū pāṇī piṯā māṯā ḏẖaraṯ mahaṯ.

Ḏivas rāṯ ḏu▫e ḏā▫ī ḏā▫i▫ā kẖelai sagal jagaṯ.

Air1 is like a Guru2, water3 like a father4 and the Earth6 like the great7 mother5 (which provides all types of resources and food).

Both10 day8 and night9 are like female-nurse11 and male nurse12 and the whole14 humanity15 plays13 in their laps.


During Guru Nanak’s time people were not polluting the air, water and the Earth as we are doing now, however, he was cautious to warn the humanity that they have to pay according to their activities (Good or bad deeds) so it is their duty to practice righteousness while living on the Great Mother Earth – ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ.

  ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ16 ਬੁਰਿਆਈਆ17 ਵਾਚੈ18 ਧਰਮੁ*19 ਹਦੂਰਿ20 

ਕਰਮੀ21 ਆਪੋ ਆਪਣੀ22 ਕੇ ਨੇੜੈ23 ਕੇ ਦੂਰਿ24 

Cẖang▫ā▫ī▫ā buri▫ā▫ī▫ā vācẖai ḏẖaram haḏūr.

Karmī āpo āpṇī ke neṛai ke ḏūr.

Virtues16 (good deeds) and vices17 (bad deeds) of everybody are evaluated18 naturally under20 the laws of righteousness19.

Therefore, everybody will be affected by their22 deeds21 whether they consider themselves close to God (religious mentors)23 or away from God (atheists)24.

ਧਰਮੁ*: Many theologians interpret ਧਰਮੁ* as the Dharam Raj who keeps an account of good and bad deeds of every person according to ancient mythology. But here ਧਰਮੁ has been interpreted as laws of righteousness – strictly observing the laws of morality’.


ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ**25 ਧਿਆਇਆ26 ਗਏ27 ਮਸਕਤਿ28 ਘਾਲਿ29 

ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ30 ਉਜਲੇ31 ਕੇਤੀ32 ਛੁਟੀ33 ਨਾਲਿ 

Jinī nām ḏẖi▫ā▫i▫ā ga▫e maskaṯ gẖāl.

Nānak ṯe mukẖ ujle keṯī cẖẖutī nāl. ||1||

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 8; ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 2, ਪੰਨਾ 146.

Nanak says:

The faces30 of those, who have comprehended26 Laws of Nature/Universe25 and had27 worked29 hard28 accordingly, will glow31 with happiness and attain liberation from their troubles. And many others32 can also be liberated33 with the association of such persons.

AGGS, M 1, p 8; AGGS, M 2, p 146.

Note: ** ਨਾਮੁ : It has been interpreted as ‘Laws of Nature/Universe’ since ਨਾਮੁ (Naam) has shown as ਹੁਕਮੁ (Hukm – meanings Laws of Nature/Universe) by Guru Nanak:

ਏਕੋ1 ਨਾਮੁ2 ਹੁਕਮੁ3 ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿ ਗੁਰਿ4 ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ5 ਜੀਉ ੫॥

Ėko nām hukam hai Nānak saṯgur ḏī▫ā bujẖā▫e jī▫o. ||5|| 

That only1 Naam2 has been deciphered5 as is the Laws of Nature/Universe3 by the true Guru4.

AGGS, M 1, p 72. 


According to Guru Arjan ਨਾਮੁ (Naam) also means ‘Laws of Nature/Universe’:

ਨਾਮ1 ਕੇ ਧਾਰੇ2 ਸਗਲੇ3 ਜੰਤ4 

Nām ke ḏẖāre sagle janṯ.  

All3 living beings4 are under2 the Laws of Nature1.

ਨਾਮ1 ਕੇ ਧਾਰੇ2 ਖੰਡ3 ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡ4 

Nām ke ḏẖāre kẖand barahmand.  

All the galaxies4 and stars3 and planets3 are under2 the Laws of Nature1.

AGGS, M 5, p 284.


Here Guru Nanak explains that the Earth is the only Planet in our Solar System where all the natural resources, i.e. air, water and the necessary phenomena - day, night, and seasons; and the suitable environment for all the living beings are found. Guru Nanak advises to practice righteousness for peaceful life and to save this Earth (Mata Dharat Mahat) for coming generation of the humanity. The Earth (Mata Dharat Mahat) as a place to practice righteousness has also been explained by Guru Nanak in the Stanza 34 of JAP as follows:


ਰਾਤੀ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ 

ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਪਾਤਾਲ 

ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ 

ਅਗਗਸ, ਜਪੁ 34, ਪੰਨਾ 7.

Rāṯī ruṯī thiṯī vār.  

Pavaṇ pāṇī agnī pāṯāl.  

Ŧis vicẖ ḏẖarṯī thāp rakẖī ḏẖaram sāl.  

The Earth having energy in its center is a place, among air and water around it with day, night and different season, for the humanity to practice righteousness.

AGGS, JAP 34, p 7.


The Sikhs might have recited the above Sabds for hundreds of millions of times during performance of Akhad Paaths of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib and also while reciting  JAP Bani all over the world but never realized the importance of air, water and the Earth to celebrate EARTH DAY. However, it was recognized by John McConnell in 1969 exactly after 500 years of Guru Nanak. John McConnell (1915-2012)  is Peace Activist with passion for peace, religion and science.[3]  Ironically the Sikh still could not recognize this realization of Guru Nanak until 2009 for another 40 years when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) initiated a program to help the world’s religious traditions to create long-term plans to improve their relationship with the environment.[6]


Under that program the Sikh started their own EcoSikh project for celebration of Sikh Environment Day not on March 21 or April 22 but on March 14 the date when Guru Har Rai, the seventh Guru, succeeded to the House of Nanak.[6]  But Encyclopaedia of Sikhism [4] and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar say it is March 3, 1644.[5]  This credit was given to Guru Har Rai for his passion of preserving flowers since a few flowers were broken from a bush with his long robe which made him very sad.  I wonder why the Sikh, responsible for creating Sikh Environment Day, ignored to give this credit to Guru Nanak for his passion for peace, religion and science, the founder of Sikhi, who made the humanity aware of the fact that air is the Guru, water is the father and the Earth is their Great Mother who provides everything needed by the humanity. And it is the duty of the humanity to practice righteousness and  protect them from pollution.


Now there is a big question:

Should the Sikh celebrate EARTH DAY as a great event with humanity of the world on April 14 or as Sikh Environment Day on March 14?


I may add here that April 22 is the most suitable date for the Sikhs because during the month of Vaisakh (April):

·         Birthday of Guru Nanak falls on April 15.

·         The Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi on April 13/14.

·          Moreover, Vaisakh is almost peak of the Spring Season – The cheerful season according to Guru Nanak:

ਨਾਨਕ ਵੈਸਾਖੀਂ1 ਪ੍ਰਭੁ2 ਪਾਵੈ3 ਸੁਰਤਿ4 ਸਬਦਿ5 ਮਨੁ6 ਮਾਨਾ7

Nānak vaisākẖīʼn parabẖ pāvai suraṯ sabaḏ man mānā. ||6||

AGGS, M 1, p 1108.

Guru Nanak says use7 your mind6 to study Sabd5 attentively4 to understand3 God2 during the month of Vaisakh - The peak of Spring Season when everything is cheerful.

(Note: The time of blooming of shrubs and trees is variable at different places. For example, in Quebec, Canada the plants are still in dormant stage while in Punjab the farmers have harvested their crops, and flowers of shrubs and trees are gone and now bearing fruits.)



1.     AGGS (ਅਗਗਸ) = Aad Guru Granth Sahib. 1983 (reprint). Publishers:  Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. M () = Mahla, i.e., succession number of the Sikh Gurus to the House of Nanak, M is replaced with the name of Bhagat/ Bhatt for their Bani, p (ਪੰਨਾ) = Page of the AGGS).

2.     Chahal, D. S. 2003. Jap: The Essence of Nanakian Philosophy. Institute for Understanding Sikhism, 4418 Martin-Plouffe, Laval, Quebec, H7W 5L9, and Singh Brothers, S.C.O. 223-24 City Centre, Amritsar – 143 006.

3.     McConnell (Peace Activist) http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/John_McConnell_(peace_activist)

4.     Singh, Harbans, 1996. Entry: Har Rai, Guru. In: Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjabi University, Patiala.

5. asp

6.     http://www.ecosikh. org/about/

7.     "General Assembly Proclaims 22 April 'International Mother Earth Day' Adopting By Consensus Bolivia-Led Resolution". United Nations. 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2011-04-22.