Bhawana Somaaya is better known for her authorized biographies of film stars including Hema Malini and Amitabh Bacchan, but now she has turned her writing expertise to describing how bhakti helps people to revere nature.
In her work KESHAVA: A Magnificent Obsession, which was released earlier this month, Somaaya shares her unique perspective on the relationship between bhakti and the environment:
Life has a bond with nature and every time there is decay and deterioration in the environment, it is a signal that humans are losing contact with the laws of nature.
There is a reason why our seers chose to go to the mountains for meditation, a reason why our ancestors exercised the bhoomi vandan, the sun worship, the watering of the Tulsi plant.
Human life does not and cannot live in isolation. All the components of universal life are inter-related and inter-dependent and mythology is proof of that.
All our deities were assigned specific animals as vehicles. As a result, Lord Indra travelled via Airavata, the elephant and Lord Kartikeya rode his peacock. Lord Ganesha, despite his potbelly, chose the mouse as his friend and Lord Shiva’s constant companion is Nandi, the bullock.
The deities have their favourite flowers and plants as well and religion does not permit a devotee to mix the flower in devotion to another. So the red shoe-flower is for Lord Ganesha, the betel leaf for Lord Hanuman, white flowers for Lord Shiva, and the lotus for Lord Krishna.
Our seers emphasised that religion is science and our deities taught us by example to revere nature. The grain that nourishes our body, the herbs that heal, the trees that store our waters, bear us fruits, and offer us the wood we use for our fuel and dwelling; the same trees also provide us shade and are home to birds and animals.
Tree and animal veneration in India has been practiced since ancient times…perhaps even before the civilisation of Mohenjo-daro. Our ancestors, through practice and faith have, over the centuries, inculcated in us the habit of revering plants, trees, the ocean, the cow, the sun, and the moon.
Somaaya said that the work is a combination of research and her own perspective. She is happy with the result and feels that she was able to write the book because of the will of the Supreme. She humbly admits, “I don’t know if I can write a similar book again”.
A prolific author, Somaaya is finalizing her third non-film book –‘Shaping of the Seed’ about Garb Sanskar (rituals before and during pregnancy). She is also writing her parent’s love story.
Somaaya began writing about Shri Krishna over ten years ago when she translated Kaajal Oza Vaidya’s Krishna: The God Who Lived as Man from Gujarati in 2008. A fictional exploration of Shri Krishna’s life on earth, the descriptive language in this book helps to deepen people’s emotional connection to Shri Krishna’s pastimes.
The river was in high tide and the footprints of the Yadavas were more or less washed away. Big waves came rushing to the shore and wiped away some more footprints Suddenly Rukmini discovered a familiar footprint and sat beside it . Her eyes brimmed over with tears . These were the footprints her hair locks drooped over when she knelt at her Lord’s feet every morning . These were the footprints she worshipped with chandan . the footprints of her Lord of Sri Krishna ! They were deeply immersed in the sand. the impression engraved in the sand was filled with water. Rukmini’s streaming tears were making an offering in the water-filled footprints. Daruk arrived and stood beside her . He looked startled. He could not believe how the footprints filled to the brim with water could contain Rukmini’s tears without spilling over. What was further surprising was that not a single tear had dropped out of the carved footprint.
As well as writing several books per year, Somaaya is also the editor of Blockbuster trade journal. When asked how she manages to write so much, Somaaya said, “I don’t think of it as work, writing is a passion, I write because I like to express, it is a way of life. The energy is there in all of us, it is up to us that we use our energies constructively.”