"So, what does 'jakara' mean?"
I was asked this question last weekend by a non-Sikh as I joined Misl Sacramento in commemorating Sikh Environment Day.
Officially on March 14, Sikh Environment Day is a worldwide initiative of EcoSikh to help build awareness about preserving our natural world in the legacy of Guru Har Rai Ji. We celebrated this day by taking part in tree and hedge plantings in our region during two Saturday mornings in March, the month of Guru Har Rai Ji's Gur Gaddi anniversary.
On March 9, we partnered with the Sacramento Tree Foundation to plant trees in the city of Woodland, California. We traveled around Woodland and planted various types of trees to help beautify and provide shade in several neighborhoods in the city. Then, on March 23, we brought a larger group of over a dozen young misldars -- from age 11 and up -- to join other volunteers with the Sacramento Tree Foundation at the Cosumnes River Preserve in Elk Grove, California. This project involved planting hedges, grasses and other types of plants to create habitat for the Swainson's Hawk and other wildlife -- a lot of such habitat was lost in local development. This part of the preserve is not normally open to the public, and so it was an honor for us to participate in supporting this area that not many others will see.
By the end of that day, 30 volunteers planted over 200 seedlings in three hours.
One of the great aspects of getting involved in this way was not just about our community doing seva, but more so that we did it working cohesively with other members of the community. In the two events, we joined families, medical students, other religious groups, wildlife officials and many individuals in contributing to the well-being of all of us. As we worked with each other, we also learned about each other. Several times, people would ask us about Jakara Movement, the Sikh community, and about who we are. At the same time, we carried our Guru's legacy further in helping to care for our environment to the benefit of our community.
When we often think about seva, we think about what we can do on a Sunday at the Gurdwara. But, to be a Sikh of the Guru, it is our mission to make a difference in the world. This is why we call for a jakara -- we ask for blessings when we act as activists for the common good.