KESHAVA: A Magnificent Obsession (Book Excerpt) by Bhawana Somaaya

Keshava, A Magnificent Obsession are folklores associated with the legend of Lord Krishna. This is a book of all whom Krishna loved and imbibed life into, be it the Tulsi plant, the flute, the tree where he romanced with his beloved Radhe in Vrindavan. Lord Krishna loved the Lotus flower that remained fragrant and pure despite the muck surrounding it, which was Krishna’s message of life as well. The book also introduces us to Kamdhenu, better known as the wish fulfilling cow and a constant companion of Kaanha the cowherd, and the relevance of Shankh, the conch in Dwarikadish Krishna the emperor’s life.

Bhawana Somaaya has been writing about Hindi cinema for over 35 years. She is a film critic, columnist and author of 13 books which includes biographies of Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. Her books are a point of reference for students studying cinema at Whistling Woods, Manipal University, and now JNU, Delhi.

She has served on Advisory Panel of Film Certificate in India and is currently the Entertainment Editor at 92.7 Big FM Radio channel. Somaaya’s Krishna: The God who lived as Man released in 2008. Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession is her second offering to the deity.
Somaaya was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2017.


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.

The favours we receive from the universe are innumerable; in fact we breathe because nature exists. Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession is about Sri Krishna’s relationship with nature; the tree, the plant, the flower, the flute, the cow, and the conch, and inadvertently, with all of us breathing humans.

There’s something about Sri Krishna that makes everyone who comes into contact with him— consciously or subconsciously—become consumed by him. He becomes the centre of their existence.

This includes all the men who touched his life, beginning with his biological father Vasudeva, his surrogate father Nandlal, his brother Balarama, his sakha Sudama, his companion Uddhava, his uncle Kamsa, his protégée, Arjuna, and his sons Samba and Pradyumna.

All the women in his life, his mothers Devaki and Yashoda, all the gopikas, his beloved Radha, his innumerable wives, especially Rukmini and Satyabhama, his soul mate Draupadi, sister Subhadra, and aunts Kunti and Gandhari consistently look up to him for protection and guidance.

Each and every one associated with Sri Krishna believes that their relationship with the deity is unique, which explains why every gopika felt that the Lord was only dancing with her at the Maharaas.

That is Sri Krishna’s magic and also his power. He has that effect on not just humans but on everything on the planet—both living and non-living.

Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession is the story of these special bindings, stories of passion, stories of submission, stories of devotion, and of uncontainable desire.

संबाधे सुरभिणा-

मंबामायासयन्तमनुयान्तीम् ।


तं बालं तनुविलग्न जंबाळ्म् ॥

I rely entirely on that child Krishna who tires his

mother following him among the herd of cows

He has long hair and his body is covered with mud


वञ्चितसौजन्यवल्लवीवलयम् ।


बालं गोपालमनिशमवलम्बे ॥

I rely entirely on child Krishna who adorns

his head with peacock plumes

He is surrounded by loving cowherd belles

whom he dodges

And he plays the flute placing it on

his jewel-like lips


निगमहाद्रेर्गुहान्तराधेयम् ।


विबुधविधेयं ममानुसन्धेयम् ॥

I meditate on Krishna, who is the

good fortune of Prahlada

He is sought after in the caves of the Vedas which

are like huge mountains

He is named Narahari meaning having a form

which is part man part lion

And who helps devas

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