One of India’s leading spiritual leaders, His Holiness HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji (HH Pujya Muniji), led the closing ceremony of the fourth International Festival of Buddhist Heritage of Ladakh, north India, last month.
HH Pujya Muniji is the president of the Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, north India, and is also a co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance as well as the Ganga Action Parivar and Divine Shakti Foundation.
As the week-long festival drew to a close, HH Pujya Muniji urged participants, who came from India and abroad, to make a pledge towards maintaining sustainable eco-tourism in places such as Ladakh, known for its rich natural and spiritual heritage.
Participants came from Britain, the United States, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and Myanmar among others.
HH Pujya Munji urged those gathered to plant trees, conserve water and keep their streets and places of worship clean and tidy.
In his remarks, he said: “It has been so remarkable to be in this land of Ladakh, which is truly heaven on earth. Ladakh is also the land of the Sindhu or the Indus River by which our country is known as India or Hindustan.”
India’s defence minister Manohar Parikkar inaugurated the festival. Among those who attended were HH Pujya Muniji; Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji of the Divine Shakti Foundation; Yoga Guru HH Pujya Swami Ramdevji, founder-president of Patanjali Yogpeeth; Pujya Acharya Balkrishanji, renowned Ayurveda expert of Patanjali Yogpeeth; and Bhikkhu Sanghasenaji, founder-president of the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC), who was also responsible for organising the event.
The festival also witnessed the launch of the first branch of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) in Ladakh which will work to to raise awareness for improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Ladakh and throughout the world.
GIWA was launched globally on September 25, 2013, at UNICEF headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly week, sponsored by the governments of the Netherlands and USAID.
It is the world’s first initiative to engage many faiths to create a united world where everyone has access to improved sanitation, safe drinking water and proper hygiene.
HH Pujya Muniji said: “For the first time, meditation, sanitation and medication came together. Today has also been a symbol of the 3H programme of health, hygiene and harmony.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji said: “As citizens of Ladakh, we have a great responsibility to preserve the sacred heritage of this land and to truly empower ourselves by rooting our values, our choices in our rich spiritual-cultural wisdom.
“Today, along with modernising and welcoming tourists, we must also recognise the importance of maintaining a clean, green and serene Ladakh for all.
“We also must also actively work to ensure adequate and improved water, sanitation and hygiene to all our brothers and sisters in Ladakh as well as ensure these basic facilities are available to thousands of tourists that are being attracted and called to this land of Buddha.”
For more information, see www.washalliance.org