Indian director plans movie on Buddhist Patriarch Bodhidharma

Digital Journal
07 June 2014

bodhidharmaMovie director S. Haricharan has been invited to China to make a film on the life of Bodhidharma, the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism.

Haricharan, a director from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has been granted access to shoot within the precincts of a Shaolin temple. According to legend, it was Bodhidharma who introduced Kung Fu to the monks of Shaolin. Today, the Shaolin monastery is among the most famous in the world, the Kung Fu skills of its monks portrayed in various documentaries and films. The director will be accompanied by cinematographer Sharon and will receive assistance from a Chinese crew during the temple shoot.

“Is the blue-eyed barbarian, as he is referred to in Chinese texts, a myth or real?” Haricharan asks. “I consider this a rare privilege and an even greater honour that I have been given access to shoot inside the Shaolin temple at Mount Song in the Henan Province of China. It is probably the first time that a film director from Tamil Nadu will have access to shoot inside the Shaolin temple.”

Bodhidharma’s “India connection” arises from legends that say Bodhidharma was a prince of the Pallava kingdom in South India, born in the town of Kanchipuram in the 5th or 6th century AD. Bodhidharma became a Buddhist monk and traveled to China, taking with him the technique of Dhyana or meditation. Dhyana became Chan in China, and Zen in Japan. Bodhidharma thus became the first Patriarch of Chinese Buddhism and the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism as a whole. A Patriarch was a teacher who lineage extended unbroken to Gautama the Buddha.

Haricharan has already visited an archaeological site near Kanchipuram to check an inscription available with the Archaeological Survey of India which states that a Pallava prince named Bodhivarman existed around the same time that Bodhidharma surfaced in China. “Did Bodhivarman, on embracing Buddhism and fearing persecution, flee from Kanchi via the Palar river to Mammalapuram and then board a ship to China? Did his father, the king, aid him in his efforts to leave Kanchi in search of a forefather who was already in China spreading Buddhism? There are many such unanswered questions. With hope in my heart and filled with pride and enthusiasm, I am on the way to China in an effort to try and unravel the mystery surrounding Bodhidharma,” says Haricharan.

A Tamil film depicting the life Bodhidharma was a hit at the box office in 2011, though critics were unhappy about the dramatization and distortion of certain historical details.

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