Fujisan's Kyareng

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Prem Sanyas: The Light of Asia



Prem Sagar: This may be the first film on Buddha made in India in 1925. The film is based on Edwin Arnold's book on Buddha, The Light of Asia. The book was published in 1879 and was said to be the first book which introduced Buddha and his life to the Western world. It is an hour and half silent film in black and white.

The story line is almost same as what is widely known about Buddha these days. Some points to be noted are that the King Suddhodana had only Maya as his queen. When she could not bear a son, at the request of public, the King sent a sacred elephant to select a boy as his crown prince. The elephant did select one boy, but returned him back to the mother. However, Queen Maya later gives birth to Prince Siddhartha.

Yashodhara's name was Gopa. When the King's effort to tie the prince to worldly life was failing, he took the prince to one of the neighboring kings' place. That king's daughter, Gopa, was renowned for her beauty. The trick worked, both Siddharth and Gopa fell in love with each other. But to win a Kashtriya's daughter, it was a norm to challenge other suitors. Devadatta, Siddhartha's cousin, was also one of the suitors. Three contests were done:

First, it was to cut or pick up the cactus leaf at the ground from a galloping horse. Second, to shoot a drum on hearing the drum's sound blind folded. Lastly, it was to unsaddle the opponent from his horse without harming him. Buddha wins the contest.

After having witness the three sorrowful aspect of life, Siddhartha renounces the home and his wife. The son Rahula was not there. Gopa goes in search of Siddhartha here and there. Siddhartha's six years of struggle and asceticism are covered briefly only. Finally, she finds Siddhartha teaching a large number of people. She joins the teaching and says inwardly:

"In finding you I have found something which I never sought."

The film ends with the union of Siddhartha and Gopa, and the subtitle reads:

"And thus, with the passage of years the Prince, in tattered robe - with Gopa as his first convert - becomes one of the greatest teachers the world has ever known."

The film was directed by Himansu Rai and Franz Osten. The film gives us a good idea of how films were made and enjoyed in the early 1900s.

The movie's link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1JJW7nLGqA

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