Swami Abishktamnanda : An Interior Journey

Ashrams (Collections Spiritualites) (French Edition): Arnaud Desjardins

A film by Arnaud Desjardins released in 1961.

France 1959, Indian spirituality was known only within restricted circles. Arnaud Desjardins, director and Christian practitioner of yoga, travels to India by car. He intends to deepen his knowledge of yoga.

From ashram to ashram, he meets some of the greatest masters of the twentieth century: Swami Sivananda, Anandamayi Ma and Swami Ramdas. He returns with film and writes a book. These two works reveal to a whole generation that another world is possible.

Arnaud Desjardins (1925-2011) was a leading figure in introducing the broader French public to the philosophies and religious practices of Asia. His films devoted to Tibetan Buddhist leaders, Indian religious teachers, Japanese Zen philosophers, and Afghan Sufis were widely shown on French television in the 1960s and early 1970s, when such topics were largely unknown among non-specialists. His films were often accompanied by books and later radio interviews and talks.

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Click here for article excerpt from Enlightenment Magazine

Cave in the Snow : A Western Womans Quest for Enlightenmen: The story of Tenzin Palmo

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (born 1943) is a bhikṣuṇī in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is an author, teacher and founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India. She is best known for being one of the very few Western yoginis trained in the East, having spent twelve years living in a remote cave in the Himalayas, three of those years in strict meditation retreat.

Vicki Mackenzie, who wrote Cave in the Snow about her, relates that what inspired the writing of the book was reading Tenzin Palmo’s statement to a Buddhist magazine that “I have made a vow to attain Enlightenment in the female form – no matter how many lifetimes it takes.”

Ginsberg’s Karma

Ginsberg’s Karma is an insightful and entertaining look at a transformative phase in the poet Allen Ginsberg’s life — his first trip to India in 1962 would transform him into America’s first hippie. While in India, he experimented with mind-altering drugs, spiritualism, and became a political activist. The documentary follows poet Bob Holman as he travels to India to piece together Ginsberg’s life there, and interviews many of the writers who knew him during his trip. Ginsberg’s adventures and what he experienced in India are the bridge between the Beat generation of the 1950s to the hippie counterculture of the 1960s in America. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Distributed by Virginia Quarterly Review.

Can only be viewed on YouTube – copy link for YouTube –

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West meets East: BBC Documentary

West meets east when acclaimed actor Dominic West joins his childhood friend Sir James Mallinson on a pilgrimage to northern India and the biggest religious festival in the world, Kumbh Mela. Here, 100 million Hindus have gathered to wash away their sins in the holy rivers near Allahabad, on the banks of Sangam. Jim takes Dom to live with his own sect of holy men, or sadhus, and to witness his ordination as a mahant, a commander of his sect – the first time a westerner has received this honour in this ancient order of master yogis.

Richard Lannoy’s photos of Anandamayi Ma

Richard Lannoy presents and discusses some of his photographs of Anandamayi Ma.

Ma & Me: The Anandamayi Ma Documentary

A long-awaited documentary on the life of beloved Indian saint Anandamayi Ma (1896 -1982), known as the Bliss Permeated Mother. The film includes precious archival footage of Ma Herself, moving reminiscences from devotees who actually knew Ma, and personal stories from others who never met Ma but are deeply affected by Her. Most filming was done in 2011, with the exception of archival interviews and footage. Jai Ma!

Faces of India: Swami Chedananda: A Yogi from Rishikesh

A 1968 documentary by Yavar Abbas.

Rays of the Absolute (the Legacy of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj)

In 2006, Stephen Wolinsky proposed the idea of traveling to India to film Nisargadatta Maharaj’s translators and disciples to explore the legacy Maharaj left behind in his hometown, Mumbai.

In 2007 Zaya and Maurizio Benazzo together with Stephen Wolinsky, Philip Safarik and Fred Good traveled to India to shoot this film. The meeting with the old devotees was both illuminating as well as deeply touching.

Over the next seven and a half years, we all plugged away, going through mounds of material allowing this project to reach completion. The film you are about to see cannot demonstrate the amount of work that went into this project….but let’s simply say that finally it is complete…

Nisargadatta did not leave an ashram; he did not leave any teachings nor successors. This movie is a homage to him; a look at his unintended legacy from people that have been inspired by him more then words can express.

This film contains interviews with four of the old Nisargadatta’s translators: Ramesh Balsekar, S.K. Mullarpattan, Mohan and Jayashri Gaitonde,plus some old indian devotees and trustees, the publishers of “I Am That” and a visit to the old room in which Maharaj was holding his meetings, his Guru Samadhi Shrine and the place in which some of Maharaj ashes are preserved. In the footage are also presented exclusive photographs of Maharaji’s cremation ceremony.

Gods of the New Age

A 1984 documentary by Jeremiah Films that explores the frightening and strange world of new age gurus.

Best scientific video on the New Age Movement ever made. The definitive work on the New Age Movement. Explores its birth, its invasion, and its effect on western society. It explores the pagan roots of eastern mysticism, meditation, Yoga Conspiracy of the New Age Movement, and more.

An eye-opening expose of the New Age movement. Shows how it was conceived in the early 1960’s at a planning session by Hindu gurus in India as a means of converting Americans to Eastern mysticism. The seemingly innocuous devices used range from Yoga Conspiracy of the New Age Movement meditation to a belief in reincarnation. We are given an extraordinary inside glimpse into an eerie world of cult mentality and mindless obedience, and we see how an outright attack against traditional American beliefs has been successfully launched, not only from Hindu missionaries, but from unsuspecting Americans who have accepted the surface manifestations of this religion as trendy and fun. Many of these concepts, amazingly. have found their way into American churches which, themselves, are the very target of the attack. The film covers the chilling parallels between the belief structure in today’s New Age subculture and that in Hitler’s Third Reich two generations ago. This is a program you will not soon forget. 1 hour 43 minutes. Believe this is the most important Christian film of the decade. Give heed to its urgent warning.’

With explosive facts, it explains why 60 million Americans have been led to eastern mysticism’s “embrace that smothers:’ exchanging the certain hope of salvation for the hopeless cycle of reincarnation. Gods of the New Age reveals: Why-thousands of churchgoers have begun to believe the lies first told by – the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Why Yoga Conspiracy of the New Age Movement, meditation, psychological therapy and self-help are turning millions to a pagan worldview. How the west is being intentionally evangelised by eastern mystics and New Age visionaries.

This film explores the eerie world of ego-maniacal gurus and their western counterparts, New Agers. In a series of exclusive, candid interviews, we share the thoughts of “master” and witness the blind devotion and mindless obedience of “disciple.”

Gods of the New Age takes us from a clandestine, early sixties planning meeting held by Indian gurus to today’s dignified U.S corridors, American schoolrooms and Christian churches.

The film uncovers the chilling parallels between today’s Western culture. and the similar climate that bred Hitler’s Third Reich a generation ago!

“This is the most powerful Christian documentary I have ever seen!” Rabi Maharaj, author of The Death of a Guru.


The Sadhu who came to Varanasi from Italy

Varanasi has seen countless mornings over the last few thousand years. And on one of those mornings, Ayush Dinker met a man who was probably one of the most enlightened souls he had ever met and interviewed during his career as a filmmaker. His name was Baba Shiva Das. In 1974, at the age of 22 Baba Shiva Das arrived in India, he felt an attraction – so much so that he decided to spend the remainder of his life in this city. He passed away in May 2020.

A Spiritual Trip to Varanasi, a film by Marco Pino

A short film based on Marco’s trip to Varanasi beginning of 2020, before the quarantine. You’ll experience the beautiful Ganga Aarti, you’ll learn about the life of Indian yogis such as Lahiri Mahasaya, and more. The entire video was shot and edited on an iPhone 11 using LumaFusion. Shot at 4K resolution.

The video includes subtitles in English, Spanish and French. You just need to activate them on your YouTube video player by tapping/clicking on the “cc” and then you can choose your preferred language.

CONTENT 00:17 Intro 00:31 Varanasi small temple puja 01:15 Mantra recitation by the Ganges 01:44 Bathing ghats in Varanasi 02:01 Burning ghats in Varanasi 02:21 Evening Ganga Aarti in Varanasi 03:30 Swami Vishnudevananda talks about the Ganges 05:30 Stories of Indian yogis who lived in Varanasi 07:44 Lahiri Mahasaya Samadhi Mandir Temple in Varanasi 09:03 Visiting Sarnath, Buddhist pilgrimage site near Varanasi 10:11 Outro

Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1968

From a French documentary, with English subtitles, showing historic footage of the ashram.

Les itinéraires d’Ella Maillart (1973)

In this French-filmed interview at her Swiss Alps chalet in 1973, Ella talks about her time with Ramana Maharshi.

Read about this interview in part 2 of (Ella Maillart of Switzerland Parts 1,2 and 3) here;

Les itinéraires d’Ella Maillart (1973)
Die außergewöhnlichen Reisen von Ella Maillart Doku (2017)

Auroville: The Indian Paradise of Human Unity (2010)

Auroville (2010): Mirra Alfassa or ‘The Mother’ founded the ‘City of Dawn’ in Viluppuram in 1968. Her work within the experimental township has promoted a harmonious lifestyle to all who live there.

Meeting the Beatles in India Trailer #1 (2020) | Movieclips Indie

‘Meeting the Beatles in India’ A Fellow Seeker’s Documentary Blends Fab Four Lore and Gentle TM Proselytism.

Ashrams of India: Volume 2, Chapter 21 Uttarakhand.

Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh
Rishikesh – Beatles With The Maharishi (1968)
The Beatles in Inda (1968)

Rishikesh, where the Beatles learnt to meditate

The Ganges with Sue Perkins: Episode 1 – BBC One.

Sri Ramana Maharshi – JNANI The Silent Sage of Arunachala

The only way out is within.

JNANI is a feature-length documentary focussing on the life and teachings of the great Indian sage, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The film has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece of spiritual filmmaking.

More info:

Ashrams of India: Volume 2, Chapter 19 Tamil Nadu.

Arunachala Shiva – Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

Arunachala Shiva is a profound homage to the spiritual greatness of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi who is one of India’s most well-known Sages. The Film expresses the important aspects of Sri Ramana’s life and teachings. It presents the highlights of the thought provoking commentaries from David Godman, James Swartz and John David on Sri Ramana’s most important written works. Best Film Material of Sri Ramana, Ramana Ashram and Arunachala.

Blueprints for Awakening. Wisdom Of The Masters Interviews with 16 Indian Masters about the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. This unique film presents fresh, modern dialogues about ancient truth. Interviewer Premananda’s familiarity with this subject, combined with his many years of experience guiding spiritual seekers, create fascinating, lively interactions with each of the Masters. The questions relate to major topics which we meet on the spiritual journey, such as Enlightenment, Self-enquiry, the Nature of the Mind and the World, Guru and Devotion.

One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das

In 1970, Jeffrey Kagel walked away from the American dream of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, turning down the chance to record as lead singer for the band soon-to-be the Blue Oyster Cult. Instead, he sold all his possessions and moved from the suburbs of Long Island to the foothills of the Himalayas in search of happiness and a little-known saint named Neem Karoli Baba. One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das follows his journey to India and back, witnessing his struggles with depression and drug abuse, to his eventual emergence as Krishna Das, world-renowned spiritual teacher and Grammy nominated chant master.

Featuring interviews with Ram Dass (LSD Icon Richard Alpert), Rick Rubin (Grammy Award winning Producer), Sharon Salzberg (NY Times bestselling author), Daniel Goleman (two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee), and many others. Musical score by J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) & Devadas.

Breath of the Gods

A Jan Schmidt-Garre film journeying to the origins of modern yoga. Modern yoga, that is, the form practiced daily by tens of millions of people around the world, goes back directly to Lord Shiva according to Indian tradition. At the same time, however, modern yoga originated in the early 20th century, a creation of Indian savant T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). That story is far less known and is what this film is all about.

Krishnamacharya’s life and teachings are seen through the eyes of the director Jan Schmidt-Garre on his search for authentic yoga. His journey leads him from the legendary students and relatives of Krishnamacharya’s to the source of modern yoga, at the palace of the Maharaja of Mysore. From Pattabhi Jois Jan learns the “Sun salutation,” from Iyengar the “King of Asanas,” the headstand, and finally Sribhashyam reveals to him his father’s secret “Life Saving Yoga Session.”

A feature-length documentary including rare historical footage as well as lavish reenactments.

First Tribute to T Krishnamacharya

Película “100 Años de Gratitud”

Film made in commemoration of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya’s 100th birthday. Research and Commentary by Sarah Dars. This movie is a must see for every yoga practitioner. We hope you enjoy it as much or more than we do.

Awake: The Life of Yogananda

A documentary about the Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda who came to the West in the 1920s to teach yoga and meditation.

The film includes interviews with disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda, as well as with Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Krishna Das, and others. It was filmed over three years with the participation of thirty countries, including on pilgrimages in India, at Harvard Divinity School and its physics labs, the Centre for Science and Spirituality at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Chopra Centre in Carlsbad, California.

Ashrams of India: Volume 2.

Yogoda Satsanga Society Paramahansa Yogananda

Film shot by Richard Wright on tour in India with Paramahansa Yogananda during 1935 and 1936.

Puri – with the Kriya Yoga Ashram founded by Sri Yukteswar, India 1977

Jesus In Kashmir

A Documentary by the Indian Government.

Ashrams of India: Volume 1, Chapter 8 Jammu and Kashmir.

Out of India – Life & Teachings of Doubting Thomas – Documentary

This 2000 PBS documentary by William Dalrymple is of the life and teachings of the apostle Thomas, who spent over 30 years in India and established seven churches in Southern India (see Ashrams of India: Volume 1, Chaper 11 Kerala).

Thomas the Apostle also called Didymus (“twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. Thomas is commonly known as “Doubting Thomas” because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told of it (as related in the Gospel of John alone); later, he confessed his faith, “My Lord and my God,” on seeing Jesus’ crucifixion wounds.

According to traditional accounts of the Saint Thomas Christians of modern-day Kerala in India, Thomas is believed to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as the Malabar Coast which is in modern-day State of Kerala, India. According to their tradition, Thomas reached Muziris (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in Kerala) in 52 AD. In 1258, some of his relics were brought to Ortona, in Abruzzo, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is often regarded as the patron saint of India, and the name Thomas remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

By the early 7th century the Christian Roman Empire was beginning to crumble under a wave of attacks. The great classical cities slowly fell into decay as their library’s and university’s were burnt down or destroyed many of the most important manuscripts were preserved in a remote monastery in a desert on the Sinai Peninsula to try and save them from the shadows of the approaching dark ages. The monastery is called Saint Catherine’s (GPS 28.555556, 33.976111).

The great walls of Saint Catherine’s and its shear isolation in the rocky desert preserved it from attack for centuries. The monks were able to accumulate one of the greatest collections of icons and illuminated manuscripts in the entire Christian world. For over a thousand years many of their treasures remained hidden. When the first European travellers began arriving at the monastery in the 19th century, they found a library of unmatched richness containing lost works by great classical authors and the oldest extant copy of the new testament.

In the library is a 5th century manuscript entitled ‘The Acts of Saint Thomas.’ A previously unknown early Christian text which had long been suppressed as heretical by the Western church. The manuscript tells the forgotten story of a  remarkable missionary journey made all the way to India by one of Jesus’s twelve apostles, Saint Thomas. For the apostles in the days immediately after the crucifixion Jerusalem must have been a terrifying place. Neither the Roman occupiers or the religious authorities would have had much sympathy for the followers of what they saw as a dead revolutionary and heretic.

Dalrymple interviews Father Jerry Murphy-O’Conner in Jerusalem who says that Thomas is known as ‘Doubting Thomas’ and at the end of John’s gospel he symbolises disbelief first, and then he makes the first explicit confession of the humanity and divinity of Jesus (John 20:28 where Thomas says to Jesus) “My Lord and my God.”

Father Murphy-O’Conner goes on to say that he must have left a very great impression on the early church because several works are attributed to him – The Gospel of Thomas, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Apocalypse of Thomas, all of these would indicate that he was considered to be quite a remarkable figure and possibly because he was also nicknamed the “Twin” which meant he may have been the twin brother of Jesus, although this is not recognised in the gospels, only in non canonical documents, where he is clearly identified as the twin brother of Jesus. The twin of the Lord would mean high prestige within the church. Jesus had 4 brothers and 2 sisters according to the gospels and in his view they were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage, and that is why Jesus is identified as the son of Mary, meaning that the other six children were not children of Mary.

The Christianity of the early church in Jerusalem would have been chaotic for those few disciples of Jesus as after the resurrection they finally realise that he was alive as he had promised, they had not really believed what he was saying in his lifetime. This would have meant a tremendous surge of energy and courage which began to immediately spread out. Within 18 months of the resurrection there was a church in Damascus, as the project was then was to go from Jerusalem to Judea, to Sumer and to the ends of the world.

Father Murphy-O’Conner imagines that Thomas would have been one of those who went to the East, where we lost sight of him and his whereabouts. The others went on to Antioch, the bridgehead to the West, we have forgotten in the West all the great missionary’s who went to the East.

The room where the last supper took place is also where later the Pentecost took place, the moment when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles transforming them from frightened fugitives hiding from their enemies into determined and outspoken missionaries prepared to risk everything to spread their beliefs. What happened in this room is what gave Thomas the courage to set off on an epic journey east, beyond the boundaries of the Roman world.

The route would have been possibly overland to Eilat and then by sea to the Indian coast to the port of Cranganore, known at the time as Miziris, a thriving port city with warehouses and palaces of rich merchants. Here too was a synagogue for the Jews and a temple of Augustus for the expat Roman community and was where Thomas erected the first church in India. Very little remains today, other than a few remnants of walls and towers but 2000 years ago Cranganore was one of the biggest ports in the world at the time. All the spices of the Malabar coast, oils from the Himalayas and slave girls from Northern India were all brought here for trade.

Close by is a small fishing village where two fishermen, Peter and Thomas, are interviewed. They say that St. Thomas was a disciple of Jesus Christ, he came and preached the teaching of Jesus to the Local Hindus.

Peter and Thomas feel the connection all the way to Peter when they read in the gospels of the fishermen of Galilee. They are proud to be fishermen and believe in the connection, “and it is with that faith that we go out to sea. When the sea gets rough, it’s God’s name we call. The sea is very unpredictable, you never know when you will come back to shore.” “We pray to God of course, and to Jesus Christ. We pray to the Saints too. In a storm, to be honest, you don’t have time to think, you just call on everyone, but Christ is the real power, everyone else is secondary to him, even St. Thomas, they were after all his disciples.” “When we are in need, we pray first to Jesus, and only then to St. Thomas. Christ’s apostles underwent great hardship to take his word to people right around the world. Here in Kerala St. Thomas taught people the word of God.”

According to the fishermen, St Thomas travelled through the coastal towns and villages of this part of India, today called Kerala. As he went he erected crosses, converted people with the aid of miracles and building churches.

Some of the evidence that shows how Thomas could have made the epic journey from 1st century Roman Palestine to India can be seen by the coins depicting Nero and Augustus discovered in Kerala. Also, about the time of Christ, the Greeks discovered that they could sail a direct route from Yemen to the West coast of India on the back of the winter monsoon and would take about 40 days to complete, rather than the months long journey following the coast around. At this time, many traders were sailing ships of about 600 tons cargo carrying capacity, built on the Malabar coast. This period is when it would have been the easiest, most cost effective and safest sailing to India, until approximately 1500 years later when Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope.

The skills of the Malabar boat builders were prized for centuries by the medieval Arab spice traders, who so valued the combination of Indian craftsmanship and locally available teak, that they had many of their finest seagoing ships built here. At the time of filming, there was a boat yard still building traditional vessels for Arab merchants, but was at the point of closing down. The ships built here, known as Dhow’s, are approximately the same size as those built during St Thomas’s time. The size was suitable for the ocean crossing between the Arabian Peninsula and India, and for its cargo carrying capacity. The cargo carried outward bound to India of Arabian horses and slaves and on the return voyage, spices and cottons. The slaves sold in India were from the Balkans.

Muhammad, a Persian seafarer has for years sailed in Dhows taking cashew nuts from India to the Gulf and Iran says that the journey 2000 years ago was definitely possible to get from Palestine to Kerala, although difficult, and dependant on the wind. The journeys of those times are talked about matter-of-factly by the sailors who ply the route today. Other merchants today still carry the traditional Kerala cargoes of spices of pepper, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, to the Middle East. The spice trade not only provided a means of St. Thomas getting to India, it also provided him with a purpose. The lure of spice meant that there was a thriving expatriate community of Romans and Jews he could try to convert.

In the Bazaars one can still see the old method of bargaining used, the price is agreed by the squeezing of fingers under a towel, so that no one else can hold you to the same price. Spice is still the life blood of the markets of Kerala and is still heavily dominated by the St. Thomas Christians.

Kerala and its main port Cochin have built their fortune on the spices Arab and European gourmets wanted on their tables. For Thomas, this would have been a perfectly logical place to come. And with the spices, the traders brought their religions. Kerala become a melting pot for Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, all of which co-existed side by side. There was another ancient faith that arrived here, again, from the Middle East. It is thought that the Jewish community has been in Kerala for 2000 years. Copper plates in the synagogue on which state the rights of the Jewish settlers in Kerala the Raja of Cranganore gave them dates from around 379 AD, scholars put it at about 1000 AD. The Jews were trading between India, Yemen and the Middle East. There is no record of St. Thomas arriving in Cranganore in the Jewish archives.

Western academics have always been decidedly sceptical about the St. Thomas legend, treating it as thought it is little more than pious legend. But the more you examine the evidence, the more you are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that weather or not St. Thomas did visit India, he certainly could of done. And if there is no final documentary evidence proof to clinch the argument, there is at least a very good reason for its absence. The entire historical records of the St. Thomas Christians were burnt, not by Muslims or by Hindus, but by a newly arrived power who were themselves, ironically enough, Christian.

In 1498 Vasco de Gama discovered the sea route to the Indies. Soon the Portuguese were shelling the coastal cities of Kerala in an attempt to seize control of the spice trade. The Portuguese inquisition set about immediately destroying the St. Thomas churches and building their own. As far as the Portuguese were concerned, the Indian Christians were heretics, who among other things believed in reincarnation and astrology.

Despite burning all the existing copies of the Acts of Thomas, the inquisition never completely succeeded in erasing the history of the Indian Christian. Behind the Alter in the St. Thomas Cathedral Church in Pala (GPS 9.707205, 76.680125), you can see on the walls, images of the older tradition of St. Thomas that the Portuguese tried to cover up. Here, you can still find an image of St. Thomas with a dark skin and the features of a man from the East.

Kerela is crisscrossed by a network of lagoons, rivers and canals known as the Backwaters. To see quite how far the St. Thomas Christians have managed to maintain their independence and their traditions, you have to travel inland over the lakes and waterways past a trail of shines and churches that mark the way St. Thomas himself has supposed to have come. It’s still very much the deep south of India, hot and humid, somnambulant and brooding. The soil is so fertile, that as you images drift up the lotus choked waterways the trees close in around you, in twisting tropical fan bolts of bamboo and banyan arched together in the wards of the forest canopy. Mango trees hang heavy of the fishermen’s skiff’s, all is still, green and fertile.

It is here in the muggy jungles of the interior that the St. Thomas Christians held out most effectively against the Portuguese. After the burning of their libraries, they had to find a way to preserve their legends and the memories of their past. In songs and dance such as the ‘Rampan Pattu’ (handed down through generations and finally written down in 1601), the story of how the apostle Thomas brought Christianity to India was kept alive, locked in a place that the Inquisition could never touch, in the minds and the memories of the Christians of the Backwaters.

In the 1579 built St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Kottayam (GPS  9.597561, 76.50977), commonly known as Kottayam Cheriapally, the Christmas church service is like an extraordinary religious time capsule. To this day, the St. Thomas Christians follow the ancient liturgy of St. James, that once used by the early church in Jerusalem, which is still in part, chanted in Aramaic, the language of both St. Thomas and Jesus himself. Many of the congregation also celebrate the Passover Seder, the Jewish practice, undoubtedly followed by the earliest disciples of Jesus. The Christian presence makes the town fell quite unlike any other in India. For not only is Kottayam full of lay Christians, it is also packed with monasteries and seminaries, many of which claim to founded by the Apostle himself, and all of which are packed to bursting. And while the churches of Jerusalem and the West are slowly emptying, those in India are flourishing more than ever.

When Father K.M. George was asked “What would you say to cynical Western scholars who say that there is no evidence that St. Thomas ever came to India?” He replied “Well, I would say – we are the evidence for the coming of St. Thomas to India, because we have a very long unbroken tradition in the community which believes that St. Thomas was the founder of the church in India. For us that is the most important thing, and not something on paper or stone, which is secondary. We have a spirituality which is very close to the spirituality of the early church. We would say that we are as old as any Apostolic Church anywhere in the world.”

One ceremony held commemorates the feeding of the 5,000, the event that St. Thomas would have himself witnessed. While the original feeding of the 5,000 admitted everyone, some Christians are rigorously kept away from this celebration. For the converts to the St. Thomas churches retained many of their old Hindu traditions and never forgot their original caste. The Untouchable, or Dalits as they now preferred to be called, are very much segregated away from the big church. The Dalits worship in a different church nearby, built especially for them.

Professor Yesudasan says that this church for the Dalits was established 100 years ago by the upper caste Christians, to keep the Dalits out, as they would not take them in as part of their congregation. This was not the choice of the Dalits, as they would rather worship together, they would like to have fellowship and communion. Day to day being a Dalit, Professor Yesudasan says, is that you are made to feel your impurity, you are made a slave of impurity, a prisoner of this impurity. It is very clear and very obvious, and so very easy for people to ascertain your caste, the only question needed is “where do you come from, which place, which locality and which congregation do you belong to?” All the congregations are segregated. When asked “when you read in history books that St. Thomas came to India and converted exclusively the upper castes and the Brahmin priests, what do you think when you hear that ?” Professor Yesudasan says that personally he cannot subscribe to that belief, because Jesus Christ chose his disciples from the lowest, the fishermen, ordinary people, people on the margins. How can you believe that a disciple of Jesus came and chose disciples from the upper caste?

Speaking to author Arundhati Roy, who was born here and is herself a Thomas Christian, she says “In my book, most people say how can you say that a serious Christian woman and a Harijan who’s a untouchable, a Dalit, could have had a physical relationship because it’s simply not possible. They are two different species. That’s what they say, it’s unbelievable.

Dalrymple says “since we’ve been here we’ve talked to lots of St. Thomas Christian priests and bishops and they’ve all said unanimously that caste isn’t a problem and doesn’t exist in the Christian community. Is that true?”

“I can’t believe that they would say that, you know that’s it’s just that there’s no polite way of putting it, it is just complete crap. In a strange way it’s encouraging that they even think that is something to hide, because most people you know, wouldn’t deny it because they don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. They even have separate churches, they have a separate Harijan Bishop. There are people who still do not allow a Dalit person into their kitchen or into their house. You do find people that do allow this, but equally you’d find plenty that wouldn’t even consider it. I have had relatives who say “you know they smell different” and things like this. It’s barbaric, there’s no other word for it.”

Dalrymple asks “In your childhood, how were the Dalits treated?”

“My grandmother told me stories about how they would have to walk backwards and sweep away their footprints because somebody stepping into their footprints would be polluted. I know somebody who works in my mother’s school and he talks like this (covering where mouth with her hand) you know, it’s like he doesn’t want his breath to pollute the rest of the air. He does it instinctively. I think traditionally the Dalits are supposed to live downstream so that they don’t pollute the water. Of course there’s no question of intermarriage, I mean that’s the last straw.

Dalrymple says that talking to Arundhati and the professor made him realise how difficult it must have been for St. Thomas himself trying to make converts and a so complex and unchanging a country.

In the biggest Christian pilgrimage centre in Kerala, groups of pilgrims of every cast head up to the top of the hill called Malayattoor (Malayattoor Kurisumudi Church) every day. They carry wooden and chant hymns to Ponnum Kurishu Muthappo, the old man of the Cross as they call Saint Thomas. The reason they do so is that Thomas himself is said to have retreated up this mountain to hide from his Hindu enemies who’d been alarmed at the growing success of his mission. He had now been in the country twenty years.

As you rise up the hill you can see the whole of Kerala laid out like a table before you. After St. Thomas climbed up the hill he said to spent a month in prayer preparing for what he knew would be his martyrdom. At the end of this month he warned his followers that they would never see him again, but promised that he would watch over them forever. He looked out to the last time over the green fields of Kerala then picked up his staff and set off eastwards across the mountains and even further into India.

On the train from Kerala to Tamil Nadu, Dalrymple recalls that as an 18-year-old backpacker fresh from school this was one of the first parts of India that had ever travelled in and it was here he supposes that he first really fell in love with this astonishing, maddening country. Sitting on the running board of the train looking out over the planes he remembered that his first trip, and the degree to which that first glimpse of India thrilled excited and daunted him. Since then he has lived in India on and off for years, and it has never ceased to surprise him.

But Thomas though, it was a very different journey. He was travelling into what has always been the most Orthodox area of Hindu India. Tamil Nadu, so the Tamils will tell you, is a sacred landscape where Hinduism has been preserved in its purest form, untouched by the influence of Islam that has moulded its character in the North. Certainly, as St. Thomas headed eastwards encountered ever more resistance from the Hindu priestly caste, the Brahmins.

Madras, the capital of southern India, is a relatively modern city founded by the British in the late 17th century. On its edge, now absorbed into the sprawl of the city, lies the far more ancient temple town of Mylapore, the city of peacocks sacred to the great god Shiva and his son Murugan. St. Thomas spent four years here preaching to the people and debating with the Brahmins who then as now administer the Mylapore temples. Ultimately the refusal of Thomas to worship the Hindu gods made him enemies.

After four years the local Raja had had enough of this troublesome holy man converting his subjects and irritating the Brahmins of his temples, so he ordered Saint Thomas to be dragged from his cave. Then as the acts of Thomas puts it, he took Thomas and went without the city, and they came with him a few soldiers with weapons. He said to the soldiers go up on this mountain and stab him. And when he had ascended the mountain, Saint Thomas went to pray saying thus, my Lord and my God my guide in all the lands through which I’ve travelled guide me now that I may come unto thee. Then the soldiers came and struck him altogether and he fell down and died.

In his life, St. Thomas had travelled thousands of miles but it was after his death that the Saint, a carpenter from Roman Palestine made the strangest journey of all into the Hindu pantheon. On the face of it, Hinduism with his thousands of deities might seem to be an impossibly different religion to Christianity. What is surprising is that in the centuries after Thomas’s death, Christians did visit Hindu temples. Members of the two faiths did successfully live side-by-side mingling their beliefs. In many places, Christian images including those at St. Thomas were carried in temporal processions next to idols of Shiva and Murugan riding on his peacock. It was against this background that Thomas was slowly absorbed into Hindu cosmology in the somewhat surprising form of the sacred bird of Mylapore. A story of the travels of the Apostle was mingled with Hindu myths so the Saint Thomas was later understood to have met his end while hiding through his enemies the form of a peacock. Eventually prompted by a demon a lower caste huntsman shot and killed him.

The myths are the two traditions became so closely intertwined that the audience depending on their faith could understand this dance is telling either the death of Murugan or the martyrdom of St. Thomas. This is an extraordinary example of the ability India has always had of absorbing and transforming all the influences that come to it.  It is only recently that the close relationship between Hinduism and Christianity has begun to be threatened by vicious attacks on Christians by militant Hindu fundamentalists. But despite such reverses, Christianity survives here as does the cult of Saint Thomas. Hindus and Christians both still come here to pray to the saint for their most profound hopes and desires.

At the end of Dalrymple’s journey he climbs to the top of the hill outside Madras still known as St. Thomas’s Mount. This ancient chapel was built on the site of an even older monastery marking the place to the Saint’s martyrdom and visited by Marco Polo. It’s a quiet and peaceful place sanctified by the prayers of generations of pilgrims. It’s very smallness as well as it’s incredible antiquity, this Chapel is an oddly appropriate memorial to St. Thomas. While Christianity has never been a major faith in India, it is a religion with incredibly deep roots in the soil and one which has clung on with remarkable tenacity despite the odds. Above all the church here has remained faithful to the tradition of St. Thomas’s incredible journey from Palestine to southern India. A story long forgotten in the West which has come to regard itself as the home of Christianity, forgetting that Christianity isn’t its essence is not a Western, but an Eastern religion.

Sitting in the tiny chapel, it seemed a long way from the start of Dalrymple’s journey in the deserts of the Holy Land where St. Thomas had grown up and where Dalrymple had stumbled upon his story in the pages of the Acts. He could not help but think that for a man who was famous for having been a doubter, it showed a quite extraordinary leap of faith to have travelled quite so far with the seeds of a new religion, to have finally to have given up his life for his beliefs.

Clearer version

Lives of Jesus – Part 1 – A Mark Tully Documentary

Four-part series following Mark Tully as he explores and reassesses the life of Jesus. Tully explores in depth the diversity of portraits of Jesus which face us at the approach of the second Christian millennium. He travels to key sites in Israel, Rome and India, amongst others, and investigates the secret of Jesus’s abiding power to provoke and lead. Directed by Christopher Salt, fl. 1994-2002; produced by British Broadcasting Corporation, in Lives of Jesus (London, England: BBC Worldwide, 1994).

Sir William Mark Tully, KBE (born 24 October 1935) is the former Bureau Chief of BBC, New Delhi, a position he held for 20 years. He worked with the BBC for a total of 30 years before resigning in July 1994. The recipient of several awards, Tully has authored nine books. He is a member of the Oriental Club. Tully was born in Tollygunge in India. His father was a British businessman who was a partner in one of the leading managing agencies of the British Raj.

Les Chemins Du Possible – S01E03 – Indes : Les Gardiens De L’Eau

“Les chemins du possible” est une série documentaire dédiée à la présentation de différentes initiatives de développement durable à travers la planète. Priscilla Telmon, célèbre photographe et écrivain, prend une nouvelle fois la route pour emmener le téléspectateur sur tous les continents, partout où des hommes ont fait preuve d’ingéniosité pour mieux vivre tout en respectant leur environnement.

Qu’il s’agisse des infrastructures ultra-modernes d’une mégapole comme Tokyo ou du nouveau tourisme éthique développé au Bhoutan, Priscilla Telmon dresse le portrait de différents modes de vie en plein renouveau. Ses voyages l’entraînent également au Mali ou en Inde, où apparaissent de nouveaux modèles économiques fondés sur un commerce réellement équitable entre les peuples.

Grand reporter, photographe, écrivain-voyageur, membre de la Société des explorateurs français, Priscilla Telmon se consacre depuis 1999 à des expéditions de redécouverte qui mêlent l’histoire et l’aventure, dans l’esprit des explorateurs passés. Elle parcourt le globe à la rencontre de ceux qui oeuvrent pour l’environnement, le développement durable et proposent des alternatives concrètes.

Avec, comme toujours, l’écologie en ligne de mire, Priscilla Telmon centre son voyage sur une denrée en voie de disparition en Inde : l’eau.

Une traversée de l’Inde du Nord, du Gujarat jusqu’au golfe de Bengale, à la rencontre des hommes et des femmes qui se battent en faveur d’une meilleure utilisation de l’eau.

Priscilla arrive à Suthri, dans le Gujarat. Pendant quelques jours, elle apprend le fonctionnement du système de la récolte de la rosée dans cette région aride. Alignées sur les collines, les bâches qui condensent l’humidité dans l’air font désormais partie du paysage.

En route vers le Rajasthan : dans la province d’Alwar, elle rencontre Rajendra Singh qui lui parle de son projet de construction de réservoirs pour lutter contre la désertification de la région.

Haut lieu sur le cours du Gange, la ville de Varanassi accueille des pèlerins venus se baigner dans les eaux saintes mais très polluées du Gange. Priscilla rencontre Veer Bhadra Mishra, leader spirituel, grand prêtre de la ville ,mais aussi acteur principal pour le traitement des eaux usées qui tous les jours sont jetées au Gange.

A Bhubaneswar, Le Dr jena dirige un centre de traitement des eaux usées à travers la pisciculture. Avec ce projet, il contribue à désengorger les égoûts de sa ville et à créer des sources de revenus à quelques familles. Ce voyage se termine naturellement au bord de la mer, de la goutte d’eau sur les collines de Suthri à la mer du Golfe de Bengale.

Lonely Planet – South India 1996

The Yoga of Life – Documentary

‘The Yoga Of Life’ unravels ever evolving perspectives of several yoga students on a yoga teacher training held sweetly in the vibrant soul of South India, while being guided by mentor, Shelley Tomczyk.

God lives in India

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Who is Sai Baba ?

A 1990 documentary by Swiss film maker Victor J. Tognola.

Sathya Sai Baba His Life is His Message

Taken from a film by Richard Bock. This film gives a history of Sathya Sai Baba and explains his teachings, and talks about materialisations.

We see his ashrams Brindavan (Whitefield, Bangalore) and Prasanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi), as well as the vibhuthi abhishekam, the pouring of vibhuthi onto Shirdi Sai Baba’s statue, the amrita miracle at the Sri Ranga Patna Orphanage and excerpts of his famous 1968 birthday discourse.

This, the 5th film Bock made about Sathya Sai Baba, was filmed during a period from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

Swami Chidananda: A Yogi from Rishikesh

A 1968 documentary made by Yavar Abbas.

In this film, the Director depicts a day in the life of Swami Chidananda’s life in the ashram, and the time surrounding his departure on a world tour.

Cave in the Snow: A Western Woman’s Quest for Enlightenment: The story of Tenzin Palmo

The story of Tenzin Palmo, an Englishwoman, the daughter of a fishmonger from London’s East End, who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas and became a world-renowned spiritual leader and champion of the right of women to achieve spiritual enlightenment. At the age of 18, she read a book on Buddhism and realized that this might fill a long-sensed void in her life. In 1963, at the age of 20, she went to India, where she eventually entered a monastery. Being the only woman amongst hundreds of monks, she began her battle against the prejudice that has excluded women from enlightenment for thousands of years. In 1976 she secluded herself in a remote cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas, where she stayed for 12 years between the ages of 33 and 45. In this mountain hideaway she faced unimaginable cold, wild animals, floods, snow and rockfalls, grew her own food and slept in a traditional wooden meditation box, three feet square – she never lay down. In 1988 she emerged from the cave with a determination to build a convent in northern India to revive the Togdenma lineage, a long-forgotten female spiritual elite.

The Triumph, a Medjugorje documentary – Full Movie

Follow a young man’s journey to Medjugorje, where the Virgin Mary has reportedly been appearing since 1981, giving messages and prophecies about the world’s future. THE TRIUMPH is now being released online in hopes that the entire world can experience the miracles of Medjugorje firsthand. Please share, and follow the story in APPARITION HILL, the next film by director Sean Bloomfield.

Garabandal Unstoppable Waterfall

Mater Spei is proud to announce the production of “Garabandal, Unstoppable Waterfall.” This documentary will take us even further into Garabandal’s message of hope and conversion as we marvel at the incredible fruits that have come out of Garabandal ever since the apparitions took place. Garabandal, Uncontainable Cascade has located eyewitnesses of the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother in San Sebastian de #Garabandal , Spain and interviewed valuable experts on Marian apparitions in order to delve deeper into both the prophetic dimension of Garabandal as well as the question as to why Garabandal is still awaiting a definitive judgment by Church authorities.

This film told the story and spread the messages, but it also provoked many questions—questions that need answers. For the documentary, Garabandal, Unstoppable Waterfall, Mater Spei AIE interviewed a select group of experts and eyewitnesses of the apparitions.  We especially recognize the contribution of Father José Luis Saavedra, author of the first doctoral thesis on Garabandal, who in the documentary Garabandal, Unstoppable Waterfall affirms unequivocally that “the apparitions were not studied at any moment.” If Garabandal, Only God Knows demonstrated that the first episcopal commission did not carry out an authentic study of Garabandal, this new production offers unpublished and surprising facts about the second commission, thus proving that the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in Garabandal have yet to be studied. That is why Father Saavedra is able to affirm that “over fifty years after the apparitions, Garabandal still awaits a response.  We have a right to know what happened there.”

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