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ARC Home > Projects > Green pilgrimage network :
GPN-India Chapter | GPN India launch | Green Kumbh Mela 2013

GPN India launch

The magnificent Charminar building at the centre of Hyderabad's old town

Hyderabad Conference launches 'Green Pilgrimage Network - India Chapter' in October 2012.

On October 14, 2012, eleven of India’s holy towns and cities came together in Hyderabad, India, to launch the India chapter of the international Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN).

The meeting took place on the seventh day of the United Nations’ eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad and was jointly hosted by the international organisation ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).

As well as ARC Deputy Secretary-General Alison Hilliard, Eco-Sikh project manager Ravneet Pal Singh and Gopal Patel representing the Hindu Bhumi project, representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh cities of Amritsar, Bodh Gaya, Guntur, Howrah, Leh, Nanded, Rishikesh, Shirdi, Ujjain, Varanasi and Visakhapatnen attended.

It is hoped that they will join an international network of nine green pilgrimage cities and places located across Africa, Asia and Europe, all pledged to explore ways to make their holy places as sustainable as possible based on their particular religious traditions and beliefs. At present the Sikh site of Amritsar is the only Indian pilgrimage site to have formally joined the Green Pilgrimage Network. It has already created a greening movement, called Eco-Amritsar, headed by Gunbir Singh, Chairman of WWF Punjab and supported by EcoSikh, an NGO launched in 2010.

Download the GPN Handbook - India Chapter version
“On any given day of the year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are on pilgrimage,” said Alison Hilliard, project manager for GPN at ARC. “The goal of the network is to encourage pilgrims, and pilgrim places throughout the world to become models of care for the environment and leaving a positive footprint on the Earth.”

Why India?

It is fitting that India should host the largest branch of the Green Pilgrimage Network, as nowhere else in the world has more pilgrim cities or greater numbers of pilgrims. The Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2001 was the largest human gathering in recorded history – attracting around 70 million people. Other pilgrim sites attract millions every year including 30 million in Tirupati, 30 million in Amritsar, and 1.5 million in Ajmer. Rishikesh, Varanasi and Bodh Gaya also attract a sizeable number of pilgrims.

Pilgrims bathing in the sacred waters during the 2013 Kumbh Mela.
Representatives from the government of Andhra Pradesh, including the Mayor and city commissioner of Hyderabad and the Honourable Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, endorsed the meeting and mentioned some of the greening initiatives already underway in the state, such as solar powered cooking for the 15,000 daily devotees at Tirupati.

“This new program being launched today is unique, in that it aims to bring together religions and local governments. I cannot think of a better place to have such a network than India. With religious sites in every corner of the country, India has a sacred geography that is inclusive of every major religious tradition in the world,” said the city commissioner of Hyderabad Mr. M. T. Krishna Babu in his opening speech.

Member cities agreed to meet again in 12 months time, when they will share sustainable solutions for pilgrim cities for greening waste, sanitation, buildings, transport, food and accommodation and share strategies to make the hosting of large scale pilgrimage more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Action

It is expected that the cities in the GPN India Chapter will:
  • Create a network of sustainable and earth-friendly pilgrim sites across India
  • Join an existing network of 9 international member cities
  • Create a theological basis for green pilgrimage for each religion
  • Encourage religions and municipalities to work with government agencies, NGOs and private companies including tourist agencies, hotels, restaurants and transport companies to make pilgrimage greener
  • Create plans for promoting sustainability in their pilgrimage city and along their pilgrimage paths
  • Ask and educate pilgrims to walk lightly and travel responsibly in the spirit of their religion
  • Inspire pilgrim sites to green their religious festivals
For more information please contact Gopal Patel of the Bhumi Project for Hindu sites at gopal@bhumiproject.org; Ravneet Pal Singh of EcoSikh for details of Sikh sites at ravneet.singh@ecosikh.org, and Alison Hilliard at ARC on alisonh@arcworld.org

Some of the tents used to shelter pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.


Useful links

Download the GPN Handbook - India Chapter version

Read about the GPN meeting in Rishikesk in November 2012.

Read coverage of the Bhumi Project/ARC Green Camp at Kumbh Mela in The Wall St Journal and Asian Image .

News from the Sikh cities of Amritsar and Nanded.

ARC press release from the Hyderabad conference.

Find out more about ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability here.

Find out more about the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity here.

Find out more about the 'Cities for Life' summit here.

Read about (and download) The Hidden Forest, a specially commissioned Hindu story and play script for younger readers about Green Pilgrimage here.

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Related information

Green pilgrimage network members
The vision is of pilgrims on all continents and the pilgrim cities that receive them, leaving a positive footprint on the Earth
Amritsar and the Green Pilgrimage Network
Information about the sacred site of Amritsar and the ways in which the religious and civil authorities are collaborating to make it a green pilgrimage destination.
June 11, 2013:
Delightful new play script helps spread the Green Pilgrimage message
A play script version of 'The Hidden Forest', Jahnavi Harrison's story about Hindu women going on pilgrimage in India, has been published. Suitable for schools the script can be downloaded from the ARC website.