This film joins Panchu Maharaj, a classical drummer and musical instructor at Banaras Hindu University, in his village home to witness the more private aspects of his life. While performing everyday activities, Panchu describes his approach to life and musical perfection. He and his sons and nephews conduct a late-night practice session, where music is played in the casual atmosphere in which it is most frequently heard, and where musical techniques are mastered under the eye of the expert. This film provides an unusually human view of an Indian master musician transmitting a musical tradition to the younger members of his family.
This film traces the history of the city as Hindu rulers were replaced by Muslim rulers, who in turn were replaced by British rulers. Under the British, Ahmedabad became a major industrial center. Differences between laborers and mill-owners flared into industrial disputes. Gandhi, from his ashram in Ahmedabad, led a textile union in its successful non-violent struggle for fair wages. The film shows Ahmedabad today as a modern industrial and administrative center, containing, in addition to squatters and laborers, a growing middle class of clerks, civil servants, and entrepreneurs generating their own artistic and consumer cultures.
This film introduces a troupe of popular entertainers in North India. Performing in private compounds, factory yards, and mango groves, they stage a type of theatre known as Nautanki, an amalgam of music, dance, comedy routines, and drama. Nautanki draws as easily from the arts of the royal courts as it does from the latest Bombay feature films. The film allows viewers to see the performers in their everyday lives, meet Bhaggal, the director, travel with his Ajuba troupe, watch them rehearse their lines and put on their make-up, and finally, under the stars, witness a Nautanki performance itself, with dance, song, color, and romance.
This film provides the background of Allahabads January 2001 great pot (or pitcher) fair (maha-kumbha-mela), offers interviews with Hindu holy men and some of the millions of lay devotees who come to live in a tent city and bathe where the Ganges, Jamuna and invisible Saraswati Rivers meet, and talks with Muslims and members of different occupations about tolerance, justice, and the melas culture . (Edited by Joseph Elder from Sudheer Guptas original 89-minute film SEARCHING FOR SARASWATI)"
This film shows four highly-regarded astrologers in Varanasi (Banaras) practicing a discipline in which they have all received extensive academic training. The film also presents some of the people who come to these astrologers for personal consultations: a woman whose husband has been missing for over a year, an actor confronting a major law suit, a young woman whose marriage arrangements have been broken off three times because of her horoscope, the Maharaja of Banaras who needs to know auspicious times to sign important documents, a politician trying to determine whether or not to stand in a forthcoming election, a young man who wants a second opinion on his arranged marriage, and a rickshaw driver who wants to cure his suicide-prone son. Through observing the astrologers responses to their clients needs, one sees present-day applications of classical astrological training.
This film follows two Telugu-speaking Brahmans and their wives who come from South India to the sacred city of Kashi (Banaras, Varanasi) on the Ganges River to perform classical rites of feeding balls of rice to their ancestors. They are instructed in the correct performance of these rites by a Brahman Telugu-speaking priest who depends for his livelihood on providing services to pilgrims such as these. The pilgrims supplement their orthodox ritual activities with shopping in the bazaars, bathing at five special points along the Ganges, and visiting Kashis tourist attractions. They explain in their own words their reasons for making the pilgrimage and their pleasure at having finally seen Kashi.
This film follows a group of Hindus on a folk pilgrimage to the grave of Ramdev, a medieval martial hero and saint of Rajasthan. In a folk pilgrimage, devotion rather than ritual is emphasized, and pilgrims are free to worship in their own ways with a minimum of priestly intermediaries. At Ramdevs grave the Bombay pilgrims make their collective offering, including martial flags and a statue of a horse. One of the women goes into a trance as the spirit of Ramdev "enters" her. Outside the shrine, the pilgrims mingle with the crowds of shoppers at the fair, observe other pilgrims, and listen to preachers, hawkers, and devotional singers who throng the Ramdevra festival.
This film presents the currents and moods of the city through a series of strikingly common and uncommon visual images. It captures the pulse of daily life that returns again and again to the Ganges River and its sacred waters. The film explores the citys shrines, its crowded lanes, its roadside stalls, its cremation-wood cutters, its funeral processions, its young, and its old. The film gives the viewer a feeling for the people of Banaras - their faces, their periods of activity, and their moments of public worship and private reflection.
In Banaras the annual Muharram festival recalls Imam Husayn, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, his horse, and his followers who died in the battle at Karbala (in present-day Iraq) in 680 CE. In Banaras homes and courtyards Muslim women slap their chests and chant the names of the martyrs. Through Banaras streets Shia and Sunni men join in processions slapping their chests, singing songs praising the martyrs, and vowing, "Never again shall we raise our hands against our brethren. Never again Karbala!" During the night Shia and Sunni men, together with many of their Hindu friends, run across prepared beds of glowing coals, demonstrating their fearlessness. The Muharram message is one of peace, brotherhood, resoluteness, and community harmony.
This film presents the struggle of a new nation, Bangladesh, to define itself. Filmed one and a half years after Bangladeshs independence in 1971, and completed a few months before the assassination of Sheikh Mujib, "Father of the Nation," this film presents a series of interviews with peasants, students, businessmen, and religious and political leaders that reveal those conflicts within Bangladesh society that both defined and limited Sheikh Mujibs years in power. This is a film about the uses of political symbols, and about the myths and ideals that shape political processes.
This film presents wide-ranging ways devotees worship the Mother Goddess in South India. These include carrying fire pots, becoming possessed, feeding young girls or old women, worshipping female ancestors, dancing, drumming, exorcising, tongue-trilling, darshan (seeing the auspicious divine), wearing the preferred color yellow, waving burning camphor before the Goddess, prasad (receiving sacred gifts from the divine), body piercing, singing devotional hymns, and assuming the appearance of the Mother Goddess. Human suffering and pain are conceived of as heat. Devotees transfer their heat to the Mother Goddess, then lovingly cool her (with such substances as milk, lemons, and coconut water), and worship her.
this film presents the basic teachings of Islam and introduces Qasim, a devout Sunni Muslim and successful businessman, who lives in Lucknow. The film does not show Qasims first wife, who has been observing seclusion since she was six. But it does introduce his other two wives: Dawn, who is Irish and is a convert from Christianity, and Aktar, who gave up a teaching career to join Qasims family and administer his tobacco business. Dawn and Aktar describe their relationships toward Qasim, each other, and each others children, as well as their roles in the extended family. The film concludes with the family celebration of a bismillah ceremony, when Qasims granddaughter recites the basic tenets of Islam and begins her formal study of the Quran.
This film documents the final stages in the 1977 dedication of a new Hindu temple to Lord Venkateshvara (a representation of Vishnu) on a hillside near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The film tells two stories: (1) It shows the intricate Vedic rituals whereby the temple, its shrines, and its statues are converted into a sacred devotional center by pouring sacralized water over the temple spires. (2) It presents a portrait of the American immigrant community from India that raised the funds to build the temple and to bring from India the necessary craftsmen and priests to consecrate the temples deities. Through interviews with members of the Indian community, the film captures their hopes that the temple may help preserve and transmit to their children their Indian languages and traditions.
Although it continues to be performed with one or both of the other trittico operas, Gianni Schicchi is now more frequently staged either alone or with short operas by other composers. Gianni Schicchi, a comedy, completes the triptych by combining elements of Puccini's modern style of harmonic dissonance with lyrical passages described as reminiscent of Rossini.
This film focuses on a grandmother (Dadi) in a Jat farm family in Haryana. Dadi is committed to preserving her family consisting of her husband, her sons, her daughters-in-law, and her grandchildren, all sharing their incomes and expenses. During the film Dadi contrasts the behavior of daughters-in-law today with daughters-in-law in her day, organizes household work as well as celebrations, and describes the ultimate dependence of women on the men to whom they are given in marriage. Dadi and her family recognize, but cannot fully control, the constantly changing forces holding the family together as well as threatening to break up the family and to divide and separate the family property.
Four (three shown above) striking wooden figures occupy the central shrine of the magnificent temple to Lord Jagannath ("Lord of the Universe") in Puri, Orissa, India. Periodically, as these four wooden figures die, they are re-created from four trees selected from the Orissa countryside by Daita tribal priests. This film describes the legend linking the Daita tribal priests to the king of Puri and the brahman priests who serve in the Puri temple. Viewers follow the priests as they select the trees, supervise their cutting, their transportation to Puri, the transfer of souls from the four dying figures to the four newly-created figures, and the installation of the new figures in the gigantic Jagannath festival carts that are pulled by thousands of devotes through the streets of Puri. The film captures many shades of devotion, tradition and ritual that accompany the periodic re-creation of Lord Jagannath and his three companions from the trees of Orissa.
This film focuses on four different individual sadhus or sannyasins (holy men): (1) the administrator of a Ramakrishna Mission hospital, (2) a traditional guru who heads a monastery and instructs disciples, (3) a recluse with no organizational ties, and (4) a scholar who is also a founder of a national political party. Although each sadhu has severed his ties with the secular world in an effort to achieve moksha (release from reincarnation), each still maintains sacredly-articulated relationships with the secular world. Interviews with the sadhus and with lay people reveal a wide range of opinions on the roles of sadhus in contemporary Hindu society.
This film deals with Odissi dance, associated with the temple of Lord Jagganath in Puri, Orissa. In the past, a few families ritually married their young daughters to Lord Jagganath. Their daughters then trained as devadasis (female servants of the Lord, supported by the temple) to sing and dance in the temple. The British colonial administrators mistakenly labeled the devadasis "temple prostitutes." The film interviews the last of the devadasis as they describe dancing for the Lord. We meet gotipuas, boys dressed as girls who provide a more popular form of the dance outside the temple. And we meet contemporary performers of Odissi dance, who attend workshops and talk about dancing for self-fulfillment. The film captures the dynamics of an elaborate dance tradition undergoing not one--but two--reinterpretations.
This film shows how the annual north-Indian Spring festival of Holi is celebrated in the city of Banaras (Varanasi, Kashi). A respected Banaras brahman, Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, recounts several explanations for the Holi festival. These include the story of the devout youth, Prahlad, whose trust in God led to the flaming end of his wicked aunt Holika (recalled in the Holi bonfire); and the story of Krishna and his romantic encounters with Radha and the village cowgirls (reflected in the exhuberant color spraying/dousing of Holi). The film dramatizes how once each year the Holi festival unites neighborhoods, breaches the barriers of age, caste, social rank, and religious afiliations, and calls on all to share in unity and merriment.
This film observes the working women of a slum neighborhood in Ahmedabad and their growing involvement in SEWA, the Self-Employed Womens Association. The film depicts the struggle of these women to support their families by supplementing or replacing their husbands income. Kamala, a former bidi (cheap cigarette) maker who has joined the staff of SEWA, describes her commitment to help women obtain better wages and conditions. Raji, a vegetable seller, tells of her confrontations with the municipality, the police, and moneylenders. By observing Kamala and Raji, the film provides insights into the changing attitudes of poor, urban Indian women.
This film describes a Draupadi festival in Tamilnadu (South India). The main celebrations occur in Melacceri, a village in what was once the Nayak kingdom of Gingee. The celebrations open with flag-hoisting and wristlet-tying, continue with bardic recitations of the Tamil Mahabharata (in which Draupadi is a heroine), and include Terukuttu ("village" or "street" dramas), village hero-cult rituals (including "possession"), the construction of large effigies representing sacrifical events from the Mahabharata, and village participation in fire-walking.
This film shows how south-Indian Dravidian civilization has engaged for centuries with Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu ideas from northern India, including debates between those who believe in God and those who do not. Lord, Murugan, who emerged in the hills of south India, flourishes today as a major Hindu deity in six sacred sites in Tamil-speaking south India. Pilgrims walk barefoot for days, carry heavy peacock-feathered kavadis on their shoulders, and perform voluntary austerities while they ask for Murugans blessings on themselves and their loved ones.
This film focuses on five village painters: four women (including two Brahmans, a Kayastha, and a low-caste Dusadh) and one man (the son of a tantric priest), living in the Mithila-speaking region of northern Bihar and eastern Nepal. All five follow the main conventions of Mithila painting. Yet each one has favorite themes and stories (such as the story of the young wife whose adopted father was a cobra, or the story of a boys murder in the village), and each one paints them in unique, individual styles and colors. Accounts of their lives, highlighted by samples of their paintings, illustrate how selling their paintings has affected the lives of villagers --especially women-- in Mithila.
This film describes two middle-class brahman marriages in Mysore, South India in 1983. The parents of Vinuta (a secretary) and Lokesh (a technician in a tire factory) arranged an entirely "traditional" marriage, complete with dowry and horoscope-matching. The parents of Geetha (a medical student) and Raghu (a fellow doctor) proceeded with the marriage arrangements only after they were informed by the two that they wished to marry each other (i.e., to have a "love-marriage"). Through interviews with the brides, the grooms, and other members of their families, the film presents the important ingredients of a "good marriage" that include the families reputations and the willingness of all parties to adjust.
This film follows the life of Munni (meaning little girl), an eleven-year-old growing up in the Mithila-speaking region of northeastern India. For many years, village women in this region have painted figures and ceremonial designs on the walls and floors of their homes. Recently, some women have sold their paintings for income. The film shows Munni eating breakfast, going to school with her friends, fetching water in a bucket, swimming in the village pond, and playing (and arguing) with her friends. The film also shows Munni learning those skills that may enable her too, someday, to be a Mithila artist: watching her older sister paint figures from a Mithila legend, and adding red-powder dots to the white flour-paste designs on a courtyard floor.
This film revisits the Sri Venkatesvara temple near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1987 to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Week-long ceremonies involving 1,001 copper pots sacralize the water they contain, water that has been collected from the Ganges river in India (as well as from the nearby Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers). At the weeks end, priests reconsecrate the temples deities with the sacred water. Interviews with members of the Indian community, as well as with their teen-age children, illustrate the many ways in which the temple brings together Indians living in America and imparts cultural awareness to their children.
The Goddess Sitala (the "Cool One") controls infectious diseases such as smallpox. She is frequently the "mother" goddess of an entire village. Villagers who have moved into the industrial-residential Calcutta suburb of Salkia (where the film was made) continue to support numerous neighborhood Sitala temples. On the first day of the Spring festival, the Sitala images in the many Salkia temples are decorated and joyously carried in separate processions to the Hooghly river for bathing. During the processions, devotees may actually touch the Sitala images. The film concentrates on the rites in the largest Sitala temple, including the sacrifice of goats.
This film accompanies retired newspaper editor, E.R. Seturam, as he wrestle with the decision whether or not to abandon all of his possessions and become a wandering sannyasin in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. Hes recently retired and is at an age when orthodox men traditionally have begun preparation for the fourth stage of life as a sannysin. As he says, "It is one thing to be an arm-chair philosopher and quite another to experience these truths for yourself. Now that I have some time at my disposal, Im going on a quest for that experience."
We follow Seturam to the Deccan Herald office where he tells old friends: "If theres one thing that Ive learned from 35 years of journalism, its that no two men will report a single event in the same way. All truth of this world is only relatively real. But now at 64, I feel the need to seek for a different kind of truth, which is more abiding, more real. Old age is not the end; it can be a new beginning."
This film explores Jainism by showing the interrelationship between all four elements of the "Sangh" or community of monks, nuns, laymen. Set in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the film first establishes the central religious tenets of the religion, impure actions prevent the soul from achieving Liberation, and Liberation can only be achieved by practicing ahimsa [non-violence]. We then explore the implications of these assumptions for each element of the Jain community.
This film documents Shia and Sunni Muslims in Hyderabad, Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 as they mourn the death of Muhammads grandson Hussein at Karbala (in present-day Iraq) on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram in 680 CE. The film highlights important aspects of Muharrams ten-day ritual observances of Husseins martyrdom, elements of which are regionally-distinct music, drumming, and bodily performances that are linked with the constructed history, knowledge, and images of the past.
This film focuses on everyday religious practices in the village of Soyepur, near Banaras. The film observes young men praying to Lord Hanuman before a wrestling match, a grandmother offering water to a sacred tulsi plant, a Brahman priest conducting a Satyanarayan puja, low-caste ojhas exorcising spirits from the ill, and a Soyepur couple making a one-day pilgrimage to a shrine by the Ganges river. The film shows villagers describing ghosts and their placation, a brahman housewife explaining how she maintains her kitchens ritual purity, and an itinerant holy man teaching through song the oneness of God and the inevitability of receiving the wages of ones actions.
Filmed in Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (India), this film illustrates the symbiotic relationships between a Tibetan Buddhist lay community and its related monastery. Lay families contribute grain and other produce to support the monastery. One of the male or female members of most families is expected to enter the monastery for life. In return, the monastery educates the laitys children, its monks enter lay homes to care for the sick and perform life-cycle rituals, and its monks perform rituals in the fields to improve the harvest. The film concludes with the annual winter festival, when families from the entire valley gather in the monastery courtyard to witness masked and costumed monks invoke the protector deities to insure the survival of the valley, the people, and the monastery.
This film focuses on the traditional monastic career preserved by Tibetan Buddhist monks of Sera Monastery in Karnataka, South India.The film documents a boys ordination and observes daily activities of cooking, cleaning, building, farming, printing scriptures from wood blocks, painting thankas and molding food offerings. The film illustrates Seras scholarly curriculum including memorizing, analyzing and debating six subjects: Logic, Epistemology, the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Path and the Great Compassion. Mastery of these six subjects earns one the Geshe degree. The film concludes with observances of the Buddhist Tantras including: making a mandala, training in the tantric voice, taking an initiation, and holding a fire ceremony.
This film focuses on a Buddhist painting of a giant wheel, within the rims and spokes of which are colorful scenes illustrating Buddhisms major teachings. These include Buddhisms Four Noble Truths: (1) Suffering, (2) the Cause of Suffering, (3) the Cessation of Suffering, and (4) the Path to the Cessation of Suffering. On the axle of the Wheel are depicted a pig, rooster, and snake (representing ignorance, attachment, and hatred--the three central causes of suffering). The Wheel itself is typically shown clenched in the jaws of Death, dramatizing how sentient beings are bound to the cycle of rebirth, re-suffering, and re-death. The film itself, with its narration, demonstrates the ways in which an artistic representation can be used to teach complete philosophical lessons.
In this film, Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, the spiritual leader of the famous temple of Sankat Mochan Hanuman in the Holy City of Banaras, explains the symbolism of the performance of Yagya (the Vedic fire sacrifice). He illuminates the threads of Indian tradition which bind together the rituals of the Veda and the performances of Bhakti: the Katha story-telling, the chanting of texts, Bhajan and Kirtan, and the Lila dramas of the Avatar Ram and Krishna. The film also documents the performance of Sat Chandi Maha Yagya held at the Sankat Mochan Temple of Banaras in July-August 1999.
This film shows the life a young mill worker in an industrial section of Delhi and follows him on a return visit to his village in Uttar Pradesh. Changes and continuities in his life are documented by his conversations with his friends at the mill and by observations of how he works and spends his leisure time in both city and village. The traditional religious singing in the city and the new land consolidation in the village suggest that dichotomous "modern-traditional" models of change do not necessarily apply in the Indian context. And the question of whether this mill worker is a village man or city man remains unanswered.
This film describes the press censorship, outlawing ofpublic gatherings, and jailings of tens of thousands of citizens including "J.P." (Jayaprakash Narayan, a leader in Indias struggle for independence) following Indira Gandhis 1975 declaration of a national "Emergency." Indira Gandhis 1977 announcement that the postponed national elections would be held within two months galvanized her fragmented opposition to form a united Janata (Peoples) Party. This film illustrates the Janata Partys efforts to mobilize public-support efforts that culminated in the Partys stunning victory over Indira Gandhis Congress Party in the 1977 elections.
Part One provides the historical background for the annual Chittirai festival in the South Indian city of Madurai. With tales from medieval Tamil poems, and paintings and sculptures from local temples, the film illustrates how the city, the main temple, the goddess Minakshi and the god Sundareshvara have evolved, and how the reenactment of the marriage of the god and goddess has become the most important annual festival of Madurai. The film shows the basic process of exchange between the temple deities and their worshippers and the importance of festivals in reestablishing cosmic order. The film also illustrates the ways in which kings, priests, and lay people contribute to the definitions and redefinitions of the festivals many layers of meaning.
Part Two places the viewer in the midst of the annual Chittirai festival, providing an intimate picture of the day-and-night proceedings of the nineteen-day festival. The film shows brahman priests tracing the initial sacred diagram on the temple floor, the colorful reenactment of the goddesss coronation and marriage, the circumambulation of the medieval city by deities in giant carts, a neighboring gods journey to Madurai, and a cult initiation and spirit possession, as the festival unites gods and humans from all walks of life. Through interviews with participants, the film gives an unusual glimpse of the continually-changing patterns of festival celebration.
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