Buddha on Screen! Propagating Buddhism in India through digital media

Buddhistdoor International
BD Dipananda
2014-06-05

Siddhartha attains enlightenment in Zee TV’s Buddha. Source: http://www.tellychakkar.com/

A popular television series about the Buddha’s life is being broadcast to a growing audience across India and South Asia. The latest, 39th episode was shown on May 25, 2014.
Buddha (TV series) is a historical and mythological drama produced by B.K. Modi, global chairman of Spice Global. The creative episodes were first broadcast on Zee TV and Doordarshan in India from September 8, 2013.

When shooting began, many in Nepal opposed the film and shared their disapproval on social media. The reason? The serial portrayed the Buddha being born in India. Nepal’s Cable TV Association banned the screening of the inaugural episode on Zee TV, and later on the producers corrected their mistake by releasing a statement that the Buddha was born in Nepal not in India (an Indologist might note the dubious historical claim to this assertion by pointing out that Nepal did not exist then).
The series is a charming show that features the Bodhisattva Siddhartha’s illustrious journey of being born in the lap of luxury as a prince. It then depicts his growing years and the renunciation of his home and living the life of an ascetic, before finally attaining Buddhahood.
After producing the 30th episode, the team met with the Tibetan spiritual leader-in-exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, where he asked them to make sure the serial covers the Buddha’s message of the Middle Way, interconnectedness and informed decision-making. Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the former Tibetan Prime Minister, said in the meeting: “It is not an easy task to make a serial on Buddha, it must have been very difficult. As a friend, I was supposed to encourage him but rather I had discouraged him saying that it was very difficult and how people would react. But he stood firm and it’s been more than a decade now since he told me about it. And he did it. His dream came true and I congratulate him.
The first shot was taken on the occasion of Buddha Purnima at Film City in Mumbai, and started to exhibit on TV from September 8, 2013. It will be spread over 52 episodes of one hour. It casted actors Kabor Bedi as Asit Muni, Sameer Dharmadhikari as the Buddha’s father, Deepika Upadhyay as Buddha’s mother Mahamaya, Kajal Jain as Siddhatha’s wife, and Himanshi Soni, as Siddhartha and Buddha. Himanshu Soni said: I started doing meditation, went through books about Buddha, read his preaching. Then, one day I was called for the look test and got selected. It was a dream come true and I feel I have been able to do justice to my character.
 
Lord Buddha TV Channel
 
Lord Buddha Channel is India’s first religious channel on Buddhism. Lord Buddha TV, launched on November 26, 2010. Currently there are around 25 million viewers enjoying the Life and teachings of Lord Buddha, the Enlightened and the life and mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Sachin Moon, the director and content manager of the channel, says,: The mainstream media since the time of Doordarshan [India’s public service broadcaster] does not say much about the majority lower castes in the country. This channel is not only a tool to propagate Buddhism but also a platform for all things progressive and anti-caste. It will be a reflection and transformation of the Ambedkarite movement.
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