The Gita for Children
Reviews

The Gita for Children by Roopa Pai


yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛijāmyaham
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśhāya cha duṣhkṛitām
dharma-sansthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge

“Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, at that time I manifest myself on earth. To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age..”

One may not exactly have had the courage to pick up the intimidating colossus that the Bhagavad Gita looks like, and read it but there are some simple truths we all know, but it tends to change or get lost as it passes from man to man. Hence some of these truths need to be re-told, and often. “The Gita for Children” is written by Roopa Pai, author of Taranauts, India’s first fantasy adventure series for kids, and has many other children’s books. She grew up in a Lingayat family reading the Vachanas of the Veerashaiva saints, and her writings have appeared in many well-known publications including Business Today, Indian Review of Books, Travel & Leisure South Asia, The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Pioneer, and the Asian Age.

On the eve of the apocalyptic battle of Mahabharata, the immense Sanskrit epic, when Arjuna hesitates to kill his family and friends, troubled by the thought of the deaths to come, asks his charioteer, Bhagwan Krishna, to stop between the armies while he wrestles with his conscience. Bhagwan Krishna manifests his universal form and discusses what is right and proper. He navigates through contending paths on how to reach such a state of enlightenment and finally persuades Arjuna to fight by giving his most compelling argument in the form of a violent divine revelation that Arjuna will merely be killing bodies, not immortal souls, and as long as he is indifferent to the outcome of his death or others, he commits no fault.

The Gita occupies 18 chapters of book six of the 1,00,000 couplet Sanskrit epic poem Mahabharata. The text in the form of a conversation between Bhagwan Krishna and his friend Arjuna, begins with confusion and despair, dropping weapons, but ends with Arjuna picking up his bow, all doubts resolved and ready for battle. It qualifies this belief that action without desire for the fruits of action leaves the soul unstained by karmic residues. And actually, it provides a way to connect to Hinduism, its original philosophy, and real culture. It is a powerful reminder of our forgotten basics, and what must be done to stick to righteousness.

Author Roopa Pai, in order to make our children aware of this, has proficiently translated or reproduced the Bhagavad-Gita as a story that will be accessible to children and attached with their area of interest. It’s very skillfully translated version of one of the world’s most important book of universal Self-realization, introducing the man to his true Self, the soul showing him how he has evolved from Spirit, how he may fulfill on earth his righteous duties, and how he may return to God. The transmigrating soul is stained by a force called karma, consisting of the residues of actions committed within the past life and influencing the subsequent life.

The relevance of Gita is for every new generation as it teaches how to face the battles of life. These battles have been there ever since man appeared, and will continue as long as the human race exists. The Gita has been understood and applied to all levels of human endeavor and spiritual striving, sheltering a vast spectrum of human beings with their disparate natures and needs. Wherever one is on the way back to God, the Gita will shed its light on that segment of the journey. Indeed, the battles have become fiercer these days. The path shown by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is the moderate, medium, golden path, both for the busy man of the world and for the highest spiritual aspirant. To follow the path shown by the Bhagavad Gita would be their salvation.

The book explains concepts with contemporary examples making it very relevant to today’s world. The gems of wisdom contained in the Gita are useful to the young and old alike. The language is lucid, simple and supported with umpteen illustrations and examples. Children will find stories of Krishna’s divinity, Arjuna’s dedication, Bhima’s strength, Yudhishtira’s righteousness through shlokas interweaved with their favourate characters like Harry Potter and Batman. Liberties taken in the presentation, especially in the use of the current idioms, war games, roller coaster, stories intermingled with science examples would be fully justified if the message gets across.

Ignorance of the basics today despite the tremendous progress in science and technology and the very high standard of living available, life has become more difficult all around, including to the people at the top of the material totem pole. The Gita is a powerful reminder of those forgotten basics, and what must be done to stick to them and Roopa succeedes in playfully depicting the value of forgotten basics. Her approach is the need of the present age and will give a profound insight of the concepts of Gita to the children. It would definitely help in unleashing the divine knowledge to many, which otherwise seems abstruse.

Image result for Krishna Arjuna

Krishna and Arjuna. Photo sourced from Google

“The Gita for Children” is short, crisp and to the point. The most interesting part is the approach which the author has taken towards this book. Rather than the verse by verse commentary that is usually seen in other books on the Gita, the author pointwise wrapped the essence under the headings like, Echoes of the Gita, Lessons from the Gita, remember to remember, blast from the past and many more. It skips irrelevant revelations and non-practical preaching. Instead, it has realistic and clear answers supported by examples and facts making it easier to understand for the readers. The book is more like a reference on basic points of Bhagavad Gita.

What is most appreciable about the book is the fact that to make it convenient for the readers to decipher, the author has not written long paragraphs of description that might lead to confusion. And the tip of the iceberg is shlokas in Sanskrit pasted here in the Devanagari script.

Shloka chanting is a great stepping stone for children’s future connection with their culture. In general, it improves their memory and concentration, thereby making them better students at the school. Chanting also improves their voice culture and overall lung capacity. The Sanskrit language has pronunciations such that can stimulate nadis and chakras, enhancing the overall health of the child.

In about 250 pages and 18 chapters gives a clear explanation about oneself, creation, God and the Ultimate Truth, the purpose of life, the method to achieve it, Dharma, Viveka, various yogas like Karmayoga, Jnanayoga, Dhyanayoga, Bhaktiyoga and their role in one’s evolution. She set a powerful reminder of the importance of time, practice, yoga and will power in fighting difficulties of life with ease.

The book can help children in learning meditation and improve memory too. It further instills pride in their culture and they develop as strong minded Hindu peer which ultimately transforms into a heathier community.

Excellent examples made this book fairly easy to read. One can strongly recommend this book to each person seeking answers to doubts around what is pure knowledge, how to go for it, how to behave in tricky situations in day-to-day life, what is right and what is wrong.

Today, more than 300 English translations of the Gita have been published and it’s been translated into more than 75 languages worldwide reading some of the available books on Gita including the well-known ones earlier except Amar Chitra Katha are not so easy. A child could not proceed beyond few pages, maybe, because generally they are made cryptic by the usage of complex language. Roopa Pai makes it reading interesting for children by taking it to a world very familiar for them. Her absolutely fresh approach makes it just lovable reading every bit of it. They will enjoy the reading of this book because the subject is not presented in an alien philosophical way. She surpasses here any comparison and reached beyond emulation.

The Message of the Gita is relevant for all. It is very important to reach out to the young in all lands. Spiritual hunger is worldwide, though people may not realize it. Prolonged physical hunger leads to death by starvation. Prolonged spiritual hunger would likewise lead to the death of humanness. Written simply, illustrated beautifully and supported by interesting examples and stories which drive home the point, “The Gita for Children” is a very lucid and illustrative exposition of the philosophy of the Bhagwad Gita. Concepts are explained with clarity and ease. There are numerous analogies so that they get an intuitive grasp of the subject effortlessly. Hence even a completely uninitiated reader, children, would be delighted to read it and subsequently forms a generation with the gist.


Amrita Prakash
A daughter, a wife, above all a mother of two daughters, nurturing Hindutwa in next generation, a reader and passionate lawyer working at Patna High Court many a times on women’s rights, often involving criminal cases.