What do you think when you hear the name Julia Roberts? An Oscar winning actress? The charming face in films like Pretty Woman, Erin Brockovich, Eat Pray Love, right? But what if I tell you that above all these achievements; she is also a devout believer of Hinduism, a religion or a cult [whichever way you wish to interpret] which is certainly sacrilegious for a liberal, especially a celebrity to even study, forget practicing the religion at all.
Yes, this story is at least 7 years old, but there’s an equally intriguing story as to how Julia Roberts, who had a Catholic mother, and a Baptist father, turned to Hinduism.
What attracted her towards this deeply spiritual religion? What made her think that this religion can provide an answer to most of her questions, which in turn could give her inner peace, and above all, what made her boldly accept in front of the world, that she accepts and practices Hinduism, and she is not doing this for some cheap publicity? This journey that you, dear readers, will now take up, is bound to enthrall you all, and possibly attract you more towards the deeply spiritual and peaceful way of life that is Sanatan Dharma, or what the world knows it as, Hinduism.
Born on Saturday, 28th October 1967, to Betty Lou Bredemus and Walter Grady Roberts, Julia has a varied descent of UK, Germany and Sweden. She had a troubled childhood; her parents filed for divorce when she was only five. 5 years later, her father succumbed to cancer. When five, her mother married Michael Motes, who was often unemployed, and to the chagrin of Julia, abusive and despicable. Even after a while, Betty had to divorce him, citing the marriage between them as one of the ‘biggest mistakes of her life’.
Despite such a tumultuous background, Julia Roberts made herself count, and succeeded against all odds. Initially having blink a miss moments with her films, her first major recognition was the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, where she beautifully portrayed the role of a young bride with diabetes. She was even nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the same, until her breakthrough moment came with the 1990 classic, ‘Pretty Woman’, which established Julia as a household name in Hollywood.
Even then, it took a decade for Julia Roberts to finally clinch her maiden Oscar, in the movie Erin Brockovich, where she won the Best Actress award for her supreme portrayal of Erin, an unemployed mother of three, who single handedly takes on an MNC for posing a significant threat to the environment.
By 2010, Julia Roberts was a star of her own class. Her powerful roles mesmerized the critics and masses alike, and keeping up with her versatility, she visited India, as a part of her film, Eat, Pray & Love’s shooting. This was the watershed moment, when Julia Roberts finally discovered her inclination towards the aura that is Hinduism.
It was during this visit that she was attracted towards the photo of a spiritual leader, Lakshmi Narayan Sharma, who was a popular name in both India and abroad. For your information, this Lakshmi Narayan Sharma is known as Neem Karoli Baba, and he is the same guy who was so much sought after by Steve Jobs, the founding father of Apple Inc. Though Neem Karoli Baba had died way back in 1973, it was his legacy that attracted Julia Roberts towards Hinduism. From exploring the divinity of the God who was Neem Karoli Baba’s favorite, Lord Hanuman, to finding peace through ancient Sanatan practices like yoga, Julia Roberts didn’t take long to accept her inclination and love for the Hinduism. In an interview anchor George Stephanopoulos for the news program, ‘Good Morning America’, broadcasted on ABC News on August 9, 2010, Roberts said her interest in Hinduism “came from seeing a picture of a guru called Neem Karoli Baba and I was so drawn to this picture of this person and I did not know who he was or what he was about but felt a very strong interest.”
The famous fashion magazine, Elle, which in the same time frame, had featured an edition with Julia as the cover girl, and also removed the doubts remaining on Julia’s ethnicity with Hinduism. In the words of the cover story, “……The September issue of women’s fashion magazine Elle, for which Roberts, 42, is the cover girl, adds: The entire Roberts-Moder family, she reveals, goes to the temple together to ‘chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practising Hindu,’ says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father…….”
Fun fact, post her conversion to Hinduism, Julia Roberts, with the blessings of Swami Dharm Dev of Ashram Hari Mandir in Pataudi, has christened her three children with Hindu names as well – Lakshmi for her daughter Hazel, Ganesh for Phineas and Krishna Balram for Henry.
Don’t be surprised. This is just the beginning. Even Robert Downey Jr, who has mesmerized us with his performances as Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes etc., has a sequence in Spider Man: the Homecoming, where he religiously attends a proper Hindu wedding. Besides, he is known for his growing affinity towards Hinduism as well.
For those, who think that conversion to Hinduism involves loads of money and complex processes, most of them either are completely ignorant or are really naïve. Forget conversion, even re-conversion to Hinduism is one of the simplest processes in the whole religious world. You only need to believe in your karma and the presence of the Ishwar in every element of the nature, that’s all.
When such icons know why Hinduism attracts them, we should not only be inspired by their affinity, but also carry forward the ideals of Sanatan Dharma, to make this world a better place, and certainly devoid of any malice like the one Islamic imperialism sponsors.