Bhagavad Gita Re-imagined In A Kid’s Book With Message On Mental Health
- IWB Post
- October 8, 2018
Regardless if we have read or not, all of us are acquainted with the Hindu mythological text Bhagavad Gita and that it is one of the finest references when it comes to the teachings of life. To make this knowledge accessible and simpler for children, philanthropist and author Sonal Sachdev Patel along with Jemma Wayne-Kattan has revisited the mythology with the book GITA: Battle of the Worlds.
In this children’s book by Sonal and Jemma, readers meet Dev, a young boy who has just lost his father and is embroiled in grief, anger, and frustration. He then meets a fairy-like creature named Sanjay, who explains that he can help Dev deal with these emotions. But to do so, he must enter Dev’s body and find Prince Arjun.
As he embarks on his quest, Sanjay travels up Dev’s spine, experiencing starving mobs, thieving gangs, water worlds, and lands of fire, until at last, he finds Arjun on the battlefield, ready to fight for Dev. The book is a re-imagination of the Bhagavad Gita as a children’s adventure story, with important messages about emotion, mental health and well-being, and the power of meditation weaved throughout.
In a conversation with Homegrown, author elaborated the concept of the book.
“In working on this book, I didn’t necessarily intend to use the Gita as a way to look at mental health – I wanted to bring out the teachings of the Gita and make this idea of ‘tackling the battle of life’ more understandable. And among the teachings of the Gita, there is a lot that can be helpful when it comes to dealing with mental health, so the discussion of mental health worked itself into the book on its own,” said Sonal. “I think the main idea of the Bhagavad Gita is that its teachings are meant to help people with the battle of life.”
Speaking on the key concept that the book centered around, she explained, “The key concept we kept in mind when adapting the Bhagavad Gita for this book was that we wanted to show the messages of the Gita instead of just telling them, and we wanted to create a story that was captivating by itself. We wanted to create a book that focussed on a story first, and message second. We didn’t want to preach the messages of the Gita, we just wanted to weave them into the book, so that it would be more interesting and accessible for children.”
She continued, “To illustrate the concept of this internal battle, we took the epic battlefield of the Kurukshetra and we placed it inside the body of a young child, so instantly the setting is different from the original, but the messages are still the same.”
On why did she think it’s important for the kids to enrich the teachings of the Gita, she said, “Because I feel the messages of the Gita are so important and helpful to our daily life, I think it’s important to give young children an understanding of in order to empower them with this knowledge.”
She added, “I also think, in part, that it’s important to change that relationship with texts like the Gita that young people have nowadays – they aren’t just irrelevant or boring, and they hold so much interesting and important knowledge. It’s been really great to go around to schools and see young children learning about meditation through this book and realising that it is something that they can use as a tool to improve their lives.”
Is the book restricted only to children? “I do think this is a book that anyone can enjoy. In fact, we’ve had so much interest from adults, who say, “You know, we’ve never read the Gita either and we want to learn its message for ourselves or to be able to help our children understand it and to be able to have a discussion about the Gita with them.” This book is also not just a retelling of the Gita – it’s a story, and that story is about this young boy who is dealing with a lot of emotional turmoil after the loss of his father, and this story is something that, independent of its message, anyone can appreciate and joy,” she said.
And, is it universal? She thinks, it is. Sonal explained, “I co-wrote this book with a friend who is not Hindu and was not familiar with the Bhagavad Gita prior to this book. I was speaking to her about the Gita, and she found that the Gita’s messages and teachings really resonated with her. That confirmed my belief that the Gita really is universal, and that it has so much to say about humanity. The Gita’s “battle of life” has got nothing to do with just Hindus, it’s an experience everyone goes through and it applies to everybody. Too often religion is appropriated to be exclusionary, but so much of religion has to do with the similarities we all have. My hope is that this book will be able to portray the Bhagavad Gita’s teachings with their true universality.”
On the number one lesson in this book and the original Gita, she stated, “Well, I think there are primarily two main lessons at the crux of the Bhagavad Gita, and this book. The story of the Gita, and of this book, is of an internal battle, an internal struggle that takes place within each of us every single day – the struggle between our good tendencies and our bad tendencies. This, I feel, is the first message of the Gita.”
She continued, “The second message the Gita has to offer is on how we can deal with this struggle, and that we can use yoga and meditation to help win this battle. Children probably won’t find it significant that the journey of Sanjay is up the spine, but adults may realise that the energy is meant to go up the spine in meditation. All these nuances are weaved throughout the book and are paralleled from the original translation or from the deeper meaning of the original Gita.”