Colors and Sounds

One of the amazing things about Hinduism, like many faiths, is the way that its rituals and practices awaken the senses. I’ve found a couple of good video resources that help share the sights and sounds of the religion, injecting a human presence into our study of its beliefs and practices.

The New York Times produces a variety of beautiful short videos that are great for lessons. My favorite for teaching about Hinduism is this one about the sadhus, or holy men, at the Kumbh Mela festival (which is an enormous Hindu religious gathering). Not only are the sadhus visually arresting–as they shed their clothes and paint their faces out of reverence for the gods–but the video hints at their controversial position in Indian society as either revered men or crazies on the fringe.

Another great video for teaching about India is from the series Around the World in 80 Faiths. This BBC show traces the path of an Anglican vicar, Peter Owen-Jones, as he travels the world to learn about other religions. He’s a perceptive and sensitive host, and in each episode he really works to understand the people he encounters. He doesn’t shy away from stating his own biases or skepticism, which I think is part of why he is relatable. In the India episode, for example, he questions how men really walk on hot coals and is just impolite enough to ask them if he can check out the soles of their feet. He also finds some amazing rituals and experiences, from talking with an aghori who lives in a cemetary to visiting with an ascetic Jain nun, they are opportunities that many of us are unlikely to have first-hand.

The series has eight episodes, and I show clips from it throughout the year, but I take the time to show the entire one on India. It is great for the diversity it reflects while still focusing on religions that developed on the subcontinent. The shows are all available on Youtube, although I would gladly buy it if I could find it on DVD (are you listening, BBC?). It makes me want to take a similar journey!

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2 thoughts on “Colors and Sounds

  1. Great post! Thanks for the link to the film about the Kumbh Mehla. I came across a trailer recently about another film set there called “Faith Connections.” A link to the trailer is here:

    http://www.tricycle.com/community/faith-connections

    There’s so much of Hinduism to be engaged with through the senses! Whenever we study it, I really try to make sure we are seeing and listening as often as we can. Do you know the book “Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion” by Stephen Huyler? I’ve used pictures from there in the past.

    Another great collection of photos is here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/09/hindu-festivals/100154/

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    • Thanks for the links to these resources! I have not read that book but will definitely look into it, as well as that trailer. The photos in the Atlantic are gorgeous!

      This is definitely one of those units where I wish we had easier access to a Hindu temple, but I’ve brought in guest speakers in the past and that’s been a big help in terms of bringing to life the practices of worship.

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