Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg


hind.; 2007

Dharm (English: Religion) is a Hindi film directed by Bhavna Talwar and starring Pankaj Kapoor and Supriya Pathak in lead roles. This debut film of the director is based around the theme of communal harmony. Most of it is shot in Varanasi.

Youtube: part 1 of 7, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7

"Sant Dnyaneshwar"
Marathi with eng. captions; 1940

A film about the life of Dnyaneshwar (1275 - 1296), a 13th century Maharashtrian Hindu saint (Sant - a title by which he is often referred), poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition.

"Adi Shankaracharya"
1983; sans.

The first and only Indian movie to be made in Sanskrit. The movie follows the life and times of Sankara.
130 minutes

"Agni Varsha"
eng.; 2002
Regisseur: Arjun Sajnani

This sets off an irrevocable chain of events that lead to Aravasu losing his love, Paravasu desecrating the great sacrifice, the creation of a demon and the deaths of Yavakri and Raibhya. Finally, the purity of Arvasu and Nittilai's love brings salvation to the land. This film is adapted from the play The Fire and the Rain by one of India's foremost playwrights, Girish Karnad. The story is derived from the myth of Yavakri, which is a part of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata.
126 minutes

"Altar of Fire"
eng.; 1976

Regisseur: Robert Gardner and J. F. Staal

Now almost 40 years old, may still be recommended to introduce aspects of Brahmanical traditions. This film records a 12 day ritual performed by Mambudiri Brahmins in Kerala, southwest India, in April 1975.
58 minutes

Interesting preview (9 min) on youtube
"Amar, Akbar, Anthony"
eng.; 1977
directed by Manmohan Desai

Three brothers are separated and united after many years - one is brought up a Hindu, another a Muslim and the last (and most memorable) a Christian. Hilarity and adventure ensues.
184 minutes

Preview (17 min) on youtube
"Between the Lines"
eng., dt.; 2005

A superb documentary on the hijras (transvestites and eunuchs) of the Bombay area, with some very good coverage of the religious aspects of their world.

"Dans les brumes de Majuli"

About the monastic communities in Assam founded by the 15th c. bhakti teacher Sankaradeva is excellent.

"Devi, The Godess"
eng., 1960
Regisseur: Satyajit Ray

The classical (and marvelous) Satyajit Ray's Devi, The Godess, that find it very good to illustrate darsana. Devi focuses on a young woman, who is deemed a goddess when her father-in-law, a rich feudal landlord, envisions her as the Goddess Kali.
93 minutes

eng.; 1935
Director: Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram

This film is ostensibly about the Marathi Varkari sant Eknath (16th Century), but with a heavy Gandhian critique of casteism.
152 minutes

eng.; 2007
directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra

George Pati reports using this to illustrate problems with dharma. As the kingdom of Devigarh comes apart at the seams, an aging bodyguard attempts to protect the Royal Family, as well as keep its darkest secrets from ever coming to light.
105 minutes

Father, Son, and Holy War. Directed by Anand Patwardhan. Mackenzie Brown uses it "in relation to contemporary Hindutva politics."
Documentary, 120 minutes

eng.; 1996

Mackenzie Brown uses it "in conjunction with the Ramayana and the contemporary issue of colonialism, suttee, etc." At first glance, you see a happy middle-class family going through the normal paces of everyday life. However, as the layers are slowly peeled back, we find a simmering cauldron of discontent within the family, with almost every family member living a lie.
104 minutes

Youtube: part 1 of 8, part 2, part 3, part 4,   part 5, part 6, part 7,  part 8
"Forest of Bliss"
eng.; 1986

Bruce Sullivan says "No narration, it's like being parachuted into Benares by the ghats and learning by observation." Documentary about life and death in Varanasi.
90 minutes


"The Fourth Stage: A Hindu's Quest for Release"
eng.; 1985

the BBC film "The Fourth Stage" documents the deliberations of a retired Deccan Herald editor as he tries to decide whether he should follow a family tradition and take samnyasa in his old age.  Included is his pilgrimage to Srngeri (where he has an interview the Sankaracarya) and Banaras (where he observes a ritual initiation into samnyasa), as well as a fascinating discussion with his family ("We're all against your idea!").

"Getting Married"
Getting Married. Hindu and Buddhist Marriage Rituals Among the Newars of Bhaktapur and Patan, Nepal

eng.; 2012

By Axel Michaels. With Contributions by, Manik Bajracacharya, Christiane Brosius and Tessa Pariyar and a Film on DVD by Christian Bau. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag (Ethno-Indology; 13)
"Growing up"
Growing up. Hindu and Buddhist Initiation Rituals among Newar Children in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

By Axel Michaels. With a Film on DVD by Christian Bau. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag (Ethno-Indology; 6).
"The God with a Green Face"

A wonderful classic is "The God with a Green Face" which centers upon a Kathakali performance of the Ramayana in Kerala. Besides providing many insights into the training and techniques of this performance tradition, the film provides one of the most compelling representations of bhakti on the visual record, especially in the look on the face of the young tabla player in the course of the performance. Unfortunately, copies of the film are now scarce (and in bad shape) and something needs to be done to digitize a decent copy before they have all disappeared.
"The Great Tales in Asian Art"
1995; eng.

Filmed on location, four beloved stories of India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan are told through the masterpieces of visual art and the stirring performances these tales have inspired for centuries. The Ramayana, the epic adventure of India's legendary hero, is illustrated with Indonesian sculpture and Javanese shadow play. In the Korean Masked Dance Drama, told by actors wearing audaciously conceived masks, social satire is masked by bold humor and comic dance. Gita Govinda, India's great erotic poem, is interpreted by a beautiful dancer and celebrated in lyrical painted images. In The Tale of Genji, the amorous adventures of Prince Genji are told by a Japanese woman in period costume, as colorful paintings from scrolls and screens illustrate Japan's most famous romantic novel. Combining the visual arts with performance in a new original format, Great Tales in Asian Art is an imaginative and entertaining introduction to the art of Asia.
82 minutes
1965; eng.
directed by Vijay Anand

He is mistaken for a Saint, and asked to preside over a temple in a region that is stricken by severe drought. Raju must offer prayers for rain and appease the people, or else they will expose him for fooling them. The question remains will he succeed in conning devotees that have come far and wide to watch him perform a miracle?
183 minutes, with a U. S. A. version, 120 minutes

"Handling Death"
Handling Death. The Dynamics of Death and Ancestor Rituals Among the Newars of Bhaktapur, Nepal.
by Axel Michaels and Christian Bau
2005, eng.

With Contributions by Johanna Buss and Nutan Sharma and a Film on DVD by Christian Bau. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag (Ethno-Indology; 3)
"L'Inde des jours & des hommes / Daily life & people in India"
fre; eng.

A very good film series (12 documentaries) in English and French.
A golden mine of visual information about India and Hinduism!

"Jai Santoshi Maa"
hind.; eng.

Herman Tull: "Also, not on the plane of a documentary, but the most successful film showing I ever had in a South Asian studies class was the 1975 film "Jai Santoshi Maa."  I intended to show just a bit of it, but the students were captivated, and so we watched the entire film.  It also led to a tremendous discussion... She refuses to believe her husband is dead, also refuses to behave like a widow, and steadfastly starts sixteen weeks of fasting and devotion to appease Devi Maa Santoshi - little knowing that her very own plight is due to three jealous Devi Maa's' - Gauri, Lakshmi, and Parvati - the spouses of Bhagwan Shri Brahmaji, Vishnuji, and Shivji - and there is no power on Earth that can save her from their wrath."
145 minutes

"Loving Krishna"

From the der Website: Loving Krishna is about the worship of Krishna and the meaning of devotion. It explores the rural and urban character of the town of Vishnapur in West Bengal by examining the royal past, everyday life, work in traditional arts and crafts, bazaar exchange, and sacred rituals and festivals. Public and private devotional life is represented by detailed visual narratives of the Chariot Journey of Krishna, celebrated by the whole town, and the Birthday Festival commemorated on a much smaller scale of intimate family worship.
37 minutes

"On the road with the red god: MACHHENDRANATH"
Regisseur: Kesang Tseten

This doumentary shows the rowdy, interreligious side of the rath yatra, along with the touching story of a Newari Buddhist priest who was separated from his mother as a baby. This is tied to the traditional narrative of the theft of a god from a demoness to save the Kathmandu Valley. Kapil Muni's ritual duties include warding off the goddess once a year as she tries to recover her son.
75 minutes

"The Mahabharata"
eng.; 1989
Written by Peter Brook, et al.

Ellen Goldberg shows the Bhagavadgita portion and the dice scene. Originally in a 318 minute version (6 55-episodes), there is also a 171-minute U. S. A. theatrical version.

eng.; 1991

Five years ago, under the watchful eye of the great god Krishna, a plane of Indians returning to the homeland exploded in Canadian skies. A mortal also named Krishna lost his family in that crash. In the present, this mortal Krishna has found himself a former heroin addict with a nebulous past, and has returned to his mother's family: an aunt who married a sari dealer. He becomes involved in their lives, as they deal with their cultural identity with a fawning Canada, eager to patronize their Indian subjects when convenient, but willing to be aggressive when they need to, as when Mr. Tikkoo wants to keep a rare stamp he found for his collection but which the Canadian authorities determine is of historical interest. In all of this, the mighty god Krishna moves, increasingly troubled by his lack of relevancy in this alien land.
106 minutes
"Naked in Ashes"
eng.; 2005

Documentary on sadhus at the Kumbh Mela.
103 minutes


From the Freer and Sackler Galleries Web site: Puja: Expressions of Hindu Devotion introduces viewers to one of the basic elements of Hinduism, the world's third-largest religion. In puja, Hindus honor gods and goddesses through rituals focused on objects that are believed to be filled with the divine being's spirit. On this videotape American Hindus discus puja and what it means to them and devotees offer food, water, and flowers during worship seeking to make a spiritual connection with the gods.
29 minutes


The Traditional Performance of the Ramayana. Shaman Hatley shows this in connection with: Linda Hess. "An Open-Air Ramayana: Ramlila, the Audience Experience," pp. 115-139 in The Life of Hinduism, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Vasudha Narayanan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
117 minutes

"Religion in Hindu India"

Produced by Films in the Humanities and Sciences. Michael Baltutis says he uses the Holi sections for his classes on Krishna.  From ritual ablutions to ceremonial cremation, the religious life of a Hindu is intimately associated with the spiritual properties of water and fire. This program steps off the beaten path for a journey with two sadhus as they visit holy locales, witness religious rites, and, in general, immerse themselves in Hindu culture as it is exists in the religion's motherland, India. The Festival of Shivaratri, in Benares, and the Festival of Holi, in Mathura, are featured, along with devotional and secular activities in Allahabad that follow the official conclusion of the Kumbh Mela. Contains nudity associated with Nagas, male warrior ascetics.
52 minutes

"Sadhus: India's Holy Men"

Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1995). Three documentaries: Living with the Dead, The Living God, and Lotan Baba The Rolling Saint. I break the trilogy up and use it across three different courses, but they would certainly work well in a single introductory course.
"Sant Tukaram"

This classic film chronicles the life of Tukaram (17th C.), one of Maharashtra's most popular saint poets.
131 minutes

"Scientific Verification of Vedic Knowledge in Hinduism 1, 2, and 3"
"Serpent Mother"

Serpent Mother is about devotion to the Goddess of Snakes and the importance of divine female power in West Bengal Indian life. The film's focus is the Jhapan Festival, the great celebration of snakes. Shown are festival preparations, the role of traditional arts and crafts in the worship of the Goddess, devotional singing, and an exposition of ritual action. The difficult and complex symbolism of the ritual is explained by the participants themselves. In addition to the commentary, this makes accessible what is, at first glance, exotic and inexplicable behavior.
28 minutes

Regisseur: Ramesh Sippy
eng; 1975

After his family is murdered by a notorious and ruthless bandit, a former police officer enlists the services of two outlaws to capture him. Jim Lochtefeld reports the film has a song/scene about Holi, and a bit about vrats.
188 minutes, but with several versions/running times.

"Sita Sings the Blues"

An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw.
82 minutes

"Sons of Shiva"

"Sons of Shiva" is a sustained attempt to film a four-day ceremony concerned with the worship of Shiva. Devotees of the God Shiva are shown from the initial taking of the Sacred Thread through gradually intensifying action to a culmination in a variety of ascetic and self denying practices. Devotees are also shown in informal activities such as preparing food and listening to recitals of devotional songs by the famous mendicant Bauls of Bengal.
29 minutes


"The Story of India"

Nice series. Good to use in lessons.

"Vari - An Indian Pilgrimage"
eng.; 1989
Regisseur: Guenther Sontheimer and Henning Stegmueller

It is one of the most fascinating and moving - in the best sense of the word - documentaries.

"The Wages of Action, Religion in a Hindu village"
eng.; 1979

A great film on popular Hinduism in a village of Uttar Pradesh. It is easily divided into different section, which is useful when teaching.
47 minutes

Regisseur: Deepa Mehta

The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from the highest caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Mackenzie Brown uses it "in in conjunction with Manu."
117 minutes

"Weird Weekends"
TV documentary series by Louis Theroux

Episode about going to India in search of enlightenment.
Clips available on Youtube.

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