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Herbarium Somdeva
Vijaya Sharma
Gopal Singh Rawat
Dr. Anil K. Goel
Sachin Biswas
Dr. S. K. Upadhyaya
Arun Gupta
Dr. Wazahat Husain

Madhulika Choudhry
Dr. Govind. S. Rajwar
Dr. Ravindra Chibbar
Dr. Mahesh Bhandari
Surgeon Commodore (Retd.) Dr. A. K. Verma
Dr. M. A. Rau
Sandeep Puran Singh
Pradeep Sharma



Professor Som Deva -
A Botanist, Philospher and Perfectionist
Sachin Biswas

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" In taxonomy think twice before answering a question”. Those were the first words I heard in the class with roar of a lion and scold of my Godfather. In DAV Degree College, Dehradun where Prof. Som Deva, later respectably called 'Guruji' used to have our classes in the subject of Botany. Classes used to have house full sometimes noticeable with students taking down notes on his discourse, peeping through the windows. He was a charismatic teacher with pleasing personality.
He had wonderful dress code seen during winter bearing each day a new neck tie and shades of tweed coat. In fact I found in him God's perfect blending of a teacher and a philosopher. Among the class fellows in the college I learnt that many of them used to attend his classes to experience his voice, learn vocabulary and elegant style of teaching. He became my botanist model since I attended his first class in the year 1968. He always used to say that the teacher and students should freely interact and be friends after the class. Interesting part of accompanying with him on a botanical excursion was when he used to ask each of the students to keep individuals' eatables and tiffin at one place and partake collectively discussing on the days trails in the forest. This would help in developing bondage and association among the teachers and students. He used to believe that if fraternity lies because of any subject, it is botany.

In the year in 1970 when I got admitted in Post Graduate Degree course in Botany from DAV College, I got an ample opportunity to come closer (taxonomically) to Prof. Som Deva. Having become a favourite of him for my interest in the subject of plant taxonomy my class friends seemed envious. I still do vividly remember that particular moment when he called me one day in the class and showed me the taxonomic wonder of 'bearded filaments of Cynotis (Commelinaceae) and glandularly hairy glume of Cynodon arcuatus which otherwise resembles with common doob (Cynodon dactylon) of lawn. I was assigned a topic to work on the systematics of grasses of Haridwar Siwaliks in 1971.The devotion to study taxonomy of grasses made him to permit me to work in his private Herbarium and library at 13, Balbir Avenue, Dehradun.


His untimely loss on the 29th January 2005 is great loss to those who believe in the perfection of plant taxonomy through field studies and integration with modern trends. About the location of the plant sample or specimen he used to insist on its perfect address so much so that "if a letter is sent to the plant from which a collection of sample has been made, it should reach to that". One could see a testimony to this fact in the Herbarium Som Deva. Besides, it is relevant in present context to the use of RS/ GPS. He used to believe that the process involved in the correct identification and conformity of the identity of a plant is not lesser than worship in order to reveal the truth behind the mystery and whisper of nature. Often he used to quote from the inscription on the Humayuan's tomb "truth is the means of pleasing God, I have not seen a man lost on the right road".
While accompanying him on long field trips in Bhagirathi and Yamuna valleys, I found him very friendly with the locals, paandas, Nepali and Bhutia coolies. They used to bow with respect before him. Prof. Som Deva would ask them about the phenolgy of flora in his own way by asking to them, “Yatra kaisi chal rahi hai, kaun, kaun se pairo per phool hain" (How is the pilgrimage season going on? Which are those plants with flowering and foliage?). Besides, he would ask the locals about the welfare of their families, addition to the family, earning etc. He was very generous to them. In a Rest House in the interior of Himalaya, I found him removing the curtains in mid night to place on a coolie-engaged for changing plant presses, shivering from severe cold.
Critical philosophy of Prof. Som Deva on the physiographic and floristic circumscription of Doon valley and adjoining sub-Himalayan and Siwalik tracts removed the ambiguity over the botanical territory which helps in checking the prolific publications from the area having botanical history of over 150 years. He was a keen observer and recorder with sighting capacity of a tiger in woods, monitor lizard on bow of a tree and remote sensing satellite. Some of his published works are on Golatapper swamps, Mothronwala swamps, Cyperaceae, Eremostachys, orchids etc. Discovery of ban oak (Quercus leucotrichophora)in threatened swamps of Doon valley, Kadamb (Anthocephalus chinensis) in Golatapper swamp forests, presumably introduced by Nepali settlers long ago, rediscovery of Eremostachys superba in Doon siwaliks in 1960s and presently surviving by less than 25 individuals and many new records of occurrence of plants deserve worthy of mention for his scientific pursuits.
He can be referred to as “Prince of Indian Field Botany”, flora being his teacher and subjects.
Prof. Som Deva was a wonderful photographer, many of his slide film transparencies if converted in to CD, may reveal mystery and the beauty of Himalayan landscape and flora. He had artistic fingers and always insisted on supporting a description with well-tailored figures. One could see the marvels of such works in his famed Orchids of North West Himalayas, besides numerous such figures on the specimens preserved in his Herbarium. His artistic skills have contributed immensely towards better understanding of floral structure of grasses, sedges, bamboos, Scrophulariaceae, orchids etc. A species of bamboo named in his honour, Dendrocalamus somdevai, being a discovery to the science was mainly on account of its floral structure as dissected and illustrated by him.

Till his last few days despite his fragile health he kept him updated on the floristics and taxonomic botany of the country and out side. I found him totally transformed into the elements of botany. He used to say often that he loves to live closer to nature, even after his death. His attachment with the subject of botany and nature was supernatural. Right are the words of a proverb go "God does His biggest works through that person who does not care about taking credit". His magnus opus lies in his strength and spirit with which he developed a unique collection and treatise on significant species and instills inspiration to follow and impart his principles and teachings.

Sachin (Dr. Sas. Biswas)