Neelkanth Temple is one of the most revered sacred temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is located around 32kms from Rishikesh and is at a height of 1330 meters surrounded by dense forests and beautiful rivers.
According to the Hindu legend during the Samudra Manthan or the churning of the ocean by devtas (Gods) and asuras (demons) in pursuit of Amrit (nectar), the Halahal (poison) that emerged was believed to have a level of toxicity that was close to destroying the whole of creation. Since nobody could consume the poison, Lord Shiva stepped in and held the poison in his throat without consuming it. Soon after his throat turned blue and hence he was called ‘Neelkanth’, literally translating to “The Blue Throated One.”
To soothe His throat from the poisonous flame, Lord Shiva meditated for 60,000 years and before he returned to Kailash, His heavenly abode, He installed a symbolic Shivling at this sacred space of Neelkanth as a place of introspection and meditation, for the welfare of humanity.
To commemorate Lord Shiva’s sacrifice for mankind, devotees built this temple at the same spot where the event took place.
This holy ancient temple is venerated by many and is one of the most visited temples by devotees and believers.
The footfall of devotees increases manifold during the annual festival of Maha Shivratri (February-March) and Kanwar yatra in Shravan (July-August).
During the auspicious Shravan Kanwar yatra, millions of devotees known as Kanwaris undertake the spiritual journey by walking barefoot to the Neelkanth Temple and express their devotion by offering Ganga Jal (water) to the Shivlingam and seek blessings from Lord Shiva.
The Kanwar yatra leaves behind a lot of garbage (plastic water cans, plastic bags) in the temple premise, the forest area, and all along the path. The Kanwaris inevitably litter carelessly without respecting the sanctity of the holy site.
Divine Shakti Foundation, the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Harijan Sevak Sangh, and Parmarth Niketan organised a cleaning drive ‘Swachhta Abhiyaan’ on August 5th to clear the pile of plastic waste that was discarded by the Kanwaris.
A team of sevaks visited Neelkanth and collected garbage from in and around the temple.
The primary purpose of this cleanliness drive was to create awareness that a ‘Pada Yatra’ or a pilgrimage on foot, is not merely about undertaking and overcoming a tough physical challenge; it is about connecting to our land, the beautiful surrounding, and exploring the spiritual dimension of life with the Masters. Visiting sacred places rejuvenates and rebuilds shraddha (faith) in the parampara of our rishis. The sanctity of the temple, the area around the temple, and the path to the temple are holy and sacred so they should be respected by keeping it clean and plastic-free.
The August 5th ‘Swachhta Abhiyaan’ was in addition to the Swachhta Awareness campaign conducted during the start of the Kanwar yatra from July 14th to July 26th by these organisations.
During the 12-day campaign, the sevaks presented creative ways to spread the message of Swachhta to the Kanwaris. It included – puppet shows, signage boards, Swachh Kanwad pledge, placement of dustbins, distribution of recycled cloth bags to Kanwaris for garbage collection on their yatra, and a cleanliness rally.
Message of Inspiration
HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatij’s intense love for humanity and the universe makes him work selflessly towards ‘Saving Mother Earth’ and his action motivates us to do the same.
He says, ‘there is always a Plan A or Plan B but we have only one Planet B so we must preserve and protect it. If we want to save our future, we have to honor our culture, and that we must plant trees, protect our environment and our planet.”
Pujya Swamiji’s passion, persistence, and perseverance inspire many to take a pledge to ban single-use plastic, plant trees, and save water. He encourages us to make the shift from the ‘use and throw’ culture to the ‘use and grow’ culture.
Now or Never
We find it convenient to use and throw plastic that we rarely stop to think of the harmful effects of plastic pollution on our health and the devastating effect it has on animals, birds, marine animals, forest flora, and the rest of the environment. Why litter and expect others to clear our litter?
Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the universe. Can we not honor this sacrifice and curb our plastic consumption and put an end to its ‘use and throw’ culture and help our country and our planet? Now is the time to come together and take small steps towards this big change.