Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Tree Huggers" of Ancient India

I just finished reading the educational yet moving Curse of the Grass a middle grade novel by my friend Ira Saxena that is set in 18th century India about the Bishnoi tribe, who clung to their sacred khejari trees to protect their home and environment. Sadly, it became a bloody sacrifice.

In an email from New Dehli Ira Saxena said, "The incident portrayed in the book is a historical fact which touched me to the core. It kept haunting me while I researched the the period in history and the background of the tribe. I wanted to tell the story to suit the current generation and the characters began to take shape, the plot structure developed incorporating the events of Indian significance like marriage in the village, appearance of a saint, presence of royalty in those days. The heroine became the source of expressing my feelings. Finishing a tragic happening with a spirit of Hope was quite a challenge in terms of plotting. Its history and fiction all rolled in together."

The spiritual devotion of the Bishnoi for the earth resonated with another book I recently read by the late Jesuit Priest Thomas Berry and physicist Brain Swimme, The Universe Story. Berry calls for a new respect for ancient earth-centered beliefs, wherein compassion extends to the natural world. He sees this as the only way to move forward if we hope to live on a viable planet.

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