A project has been helping to spread a greener message at one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

The Bhumi Project and Alliance of Religions and Conservation, in collaboration with the Ganga Action Parivar, held a meeting at the Kumbh Mela to promote greener pilgrimages all around India.

The meeting was held on the banks of the sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad, India.

In attendance were many important dignitaries, including the Governor of Uttarakhand, Dr Aziz Qureshi, the Mayor of Allahabad, Abhilasha Gupta, and the Mayor of Varanasi, Ram Gopal Mohale.

In his address, Dr Quershi recommitted himself and his state officials and staff to ensuring the four holy sites in Uttarakhand, namely Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath, are environmentally friendly. “When I was elected into office, my priority was to preserve these holy places, and I will continue to do that” remarked Dr Quereshi.

The meeting was hosted by Pujya Swami Chidandad Saraswati, inaugural chair for the Hindu chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network. It follows on from a successful meeting in Rishikesh in November where Hindu leaders and city officials pledged to green their religious towns, cities and sites, and discussed practical solutions to some of the shared environmental issues and problems they all face.

“This movement of green pilgrimage will spread to all holy places in India”, commented Pujya Swamiji.

The Kumbh Mela, which occurs every 12 years in Allahabad, is the largest religious gathering on the planet. This more than 100 million pilgrims are expected to attend during the month-long festivities. Such large numbers pose significant environmental challenges, from waste disposal, sanitation, and energy use.

Before Pujya Swamiji’s own immersion in the holy rivers, he encouraged his followers to help him clean the banks of the Ganges of plastic bags and other waste. Commenting on this, Pujya Swamiji said that as religious people, we have a duty to set a good example for others to follow.

Pujya Swamiji has pledged to green his ashram, Parmarth Niketan, in Rishikesh and is taking steps to green his camp at the Kumbh Mela in conjunction with Sri Prem Baba of the Sachcha Mission Ashram, Rishikesh.

The Green Pilgrimage Network was founded in 2009 by ARC as an international network of religious sites in Europe, Africa and Asia that have committed to a vision of pilgrimage that is mindful of the Earth.

Bhumi Project Manager, Gopal Patel said, “We are very encouraged by the commitments made today. We now ask more Hindu groups, leaders and representatives of holy places to come forward and join us. Together we can work towards preserving the original spirit and mood of pilgrimage, where every step is an offering to God.”

ARC’s Chantal Elkin said, “This is the first step. Our vision is that in 12 years time, every camp at the Kumbh Mela will be green, and every pilgrim will be reminded that it is the sacred duty of every Hindu to protect the environment.”