To be honest, choosing the first book to talk about was not as easy as I thought it would be. And that’s because I have a huge list that I’m dying to share with you and also because I don’t want to unwillingly create a hierarchy among books. I truly believe that each book is a journey in itself and from each of them we can learn something.
People Trees: Worship of Trees in Northern India by David L. Haberman is one book that was literally glued to my hand. One reason for this is the fact that I read it not long before our adventure in India. I cannot say I’d heard about it and that is why I was dead keen on reading it. I simply browsed holy Amazon, looking for a book about trees. I was looking for something not so much scientific as more reader friendly. I actually chose People Trees because I found the title captivating and because I was actually curious to see what lies beneath trees’ worship in India.
I should tell you that my fascination with the people-trees relationship began when we went to Thailand. It was there that I first saw trees dresses in colorful fabrics, trees enveloped in multiple threads, trees given the same respect as holy beings. Also in Thailand, I was surprised to see how some locals would speak to trees as if they were human beings.
In my culture and religion (Orthodox up until the wedding and Roman-Catholic after), I was raised with the common belief that trees are inanimate beings, not persons. But there are religions that consider trees beings, admitting that they have a soul, feelings and even powers. Don’t be naïve in thinking that people worshiping trees are animists. No, they can, for example, be Hindu, Buddhists, or Jains, who deeply believe in the souls and divine powers of trees. People Trees made me more aware of the cultural differences relates to trees’ perception by people.
8 Reasons to Read People Trees
- For a journey inside the magical world of trees in Northern India. Even the title of People Trees is a carefully chosen wordplay. The three types of trees considered holy in India and upon which the book focuses, are the pipal, the banyan and the neem. The pipal is the most important one; it embodies Hindu Gods. Pipal is pronounced in the same manner as People and therefore the title manages to catch the whole essence of the book – the relationship between man and tree;
- You learn about the circumambulation of the pipal tree;
- You get the opportunity to sneak a peak inside the culture, traditions and customs of Varanasi, India’s holy city. It was here that Haberman spent almost a year trying to understand the secrets behind trees worshiping;
- If you are actually preparing to embark on a journey in northern India, this book will help you get the feeling of Indian spirituality;
- Aside from tree worship, Haberman touches subjects related to the Hindu religion and its philosophy. The book will help you understand the basic elements of Hinduism, guides you among the endless number of gods and helps you understand the most important ones;
- If you are a sucker for legends (as yours truly over here), stories and myths, this book cannot possibly disappoint you;
- It isn’t a book full of scientific terms; it never gets dull or repetitive. It is fluent and I think can float pretty much every bookworm’s boat;
- If you love trees, you should watch out for this book. It’s highly likely that after reading it you will look at trees differently, you will start enjoying their presence more and you will learn to appreciate a few moments spent under a tree. Because the relationship that you develop with a tree can only be beneficial for you and it can even bring you peace of mind.
I wanted to share with you a quote from the book, which I think we should all have in our mind. Because it renders the belief that trees are animate beings and not things. The words belong to an Indian who worshiped daily a tree in Varanasi:
“This tree is a man, who can speak and think like you and me. This tree is talking all the time, but since our hearts are not clean, but full of impurities, we cannot hear it. Only people with very clean hearts can hear the tree. These are special people; they can hear it.”
Disclaimer: This article represents my opinion on the book People Trees by David L. Haberman and it was not influenced by any third parties. I wasn’t asked or paid to write about it, I just share with you the books that I read and enjoy.