Category Archives: India

When India Made Its First Major Animation Movie With a Little Help From a Disney Expert

from The Better India, Sohini Dey April 18, 2017

Cartoons may have been traditionally meant for children, but the global success of animated movies show that their audience is diverse and not limited only to children. Today, Indian animators are highly prized in the global film industry, lending their expertise to movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek and even live-action movies like Life of Pi and Maleficent. But not many know that the country’s first tryst with animated movies goes back to the early decades of the 20th century.

India witnessed the release of its first animated movie in colour titled The Banyan Deer in the year 1957.

Though the movie is often hailed as the country’s very first animated movie, it’s only partly true. Hand-drawn, black and white movies had been made using elementary animation techniques in the earlier decades, such as The Pea Brothers by Gunamoy Banerjee and Jambu Kaka by Raghunath K Kelkar both released in 1934, Superman’s Myth (1939) by renowned animator and filmmaker GK Gokhale and Jumbo the Fox (1951) by Ranjit Movietone.

The Banyan Deer was the first major initiative undertaken by the Films Division of India to produce a full-fledged animated movie in colour format. FDI was established in 1948 to capture the stories of India on celluloid; less than a decade later, it began setting up its Cartoon Film Unit. Animation was considered a great medium to instruct children, and according to Year of Freedom: Vol 11, the unit was “set up to produce short films for children, instructional and educational films and films involving animation sequences.”

In setting up a quality cartoon unit, the Films Division hoped to present animated movies that would match up to international standards. The organisation sought the help of Clair Weeks, a Disney animator with deep ties to India. Clair was born in India in a missionary priest’s family, and went on to work for close to two decades on iconic Disney movies like Bambi and Peter Pan.

Clair arrived in Bombay, as Mumbai was then known, in 1956 on invitation from FDI to train those employed in the cartoon unit. He stayed on for close to 18 months, training the team that worked together to produce what is today acknowledged as India’s first serious foray in world-class, colour animation.

Produced in Eastman Color, The Banyan Deer was based on a popular tale from the Buddhist Jatakas.


The Jatakas are ancient tales, narrated to present the teachings of Gautam Buddha in a simplified manner. It is believed that the Buddha himself narrated these teachings to his disciples who, in turn, narrated them to the common people they encountered on their travels.

In this particular story, the banyan deer is a golden deer and the leader of his herd who steps into the execution altar to save a mother deer from being sacrificed for a human king who loves to hunt. His compassion pleases the king, who not only lets the banyan deer go, but also spares the lives of all the deer.

The FDI chose this particular story of the movie, perhaps in keeping with the moral values inherent in the story. Besides, Buddhism was after all rooted in India and the country boasted a long-standing legacy of exquisite art and heritage, which offered a wealth of inspiration for the team. Continue reading

Is it enough for Bojjannakonda to make it to World Heritage site list?


Times of India
, Mar 27, 2017, 01.03 PM IST

One reads in the newspapers that the Archaeological Survey of India plans to include Bojjannakonda Buddhist complex in the list seeking World Heritage status. There cannot be better news for the heritage lovers of the city. Such a move is long overdue for a state which has been actively promoting tourism. The cliche that comes to mind is, better late than never. However it is not enough to have grandiose plans, intentions of the government must be matched by its actions. It takes years of effort, preparation and sincerity of purpose to get on to UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites. Protection, management and authenticity of the site are major criteria for qualifying for the world heritage tag. On those conditions alone Bojjannakonda will fail to make it to the list, unless the state addresses them immediately.

Bojjannakonda site faces many man-made dangers. One very major threat is the relentless blasting that goes on in the nearby hills. Many letters and remonstrations later, the state government finally woke up to the irreparable damage caused to the ancient site and instituted enquiry. Experts from Andhra University gave a report that only detonators of a certain intensity should be allowed in the immediate neighborhood of the site. An insider informs me confidentially that the recommendations of the report are routinely defied and high intensity blasting goes on unchecked. The result is that the fragile carvings both on Bojjannakonda and Lingala mettta have developed cracks and are fast deteriorating. Continue reading

Centre to aid Buddhist corridor in Srikakulam

Buddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam districtBuddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam district

THE HANS INDIA | Mar 30,2017 , 04:42 AM IST

​Srikakulam: In a major boost to Buddhist corridor proposed by tourism and archaeology departments to protect ancient monuments, besides attracting tourists, the Central government reportedly will grant funds worth Rs 8 crore.

While the tourism and archaeology officials are busy preparing a detailed project report (DPR), a consultancy team from Central government visited Buddhist spots at Nagaralapeta village near Kalingapatnam and Salihundam in Gara mandal, Danthavarapukota in Sarubujjili and Jagathimettu in Polaki mandals. The team also held meeting with additional joint collector P Rajani Kantha Rao.

While Nagaralapeta and Shalihundam are under control of Central archaeology department, Danthavarapukota and Jagathimettu are under control of state archaeology department.

“In coordination with Central and state archaeology departments state tourism officials decided to develop these spots with Central government aid,” informed1 additional joint collector, P.Rajani Kantha Rao The Central team identified that an approach road and a garden are required at Nagaralapeta for which Rs 50 lakh is needed.

For developmental works like parks, rest houses, rest benches and toilets at Danthavarapukota, Shalihundam Rs 4 crore are required. To develop Jagathimettu another Rs 2 crore funds are needed. For other development works another Rs 1.50 crore funds needed.

“We visited four Buddhist spots along with consultancy team and identified required development works at all the locations to attract tourists,” said district tourism promotion officer (DTPO) Nadiminti Narayana Rao.

[link]

Man stumbles upon rare idol of female Buddha

Archaeology enthusiast R Rathnkar Reddy at the Buddhist idols at Ippagudem village in Station Ghanpur mandal of Jangaon district Open

Telangana Today, Friday, April 14, 2017

By P. Laxma Reddy | Published: 25th Mar 2017 11:00 pm

Jangaon: Much to the delight of archaeologists and historians, a rare idol of Tara – the female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism – was found at Ippagudem in Station Ghanpur mandal recently.

Archaeology and history enthusiast R Rathnakar Reddy found the black granite idol abandoned near the bund of a tank. He first mistook it for Yakshini of Jain mythology. But later, noted archaeologist and historian Emani Shivanagi Reddy confirmed it as Tara.

“It was Shivanagi Reddy who identified the idol as Tara. There is an engraved image of Buddha on the hair bun. The deity’s upper body is naked with large breasts, which is the most common description of Tara in Buddhist literature,” Rathnakar said.

Rathnakar also found a broken idol of Buddha near the black granite structure, which helped them confirm that it was Tara. Both the idols – three-ft-tall Tara and four-ft-tall Buddha – take historians and archeologists closer to the Buddhist era. It is believed that idol of Tara, which was damaged, belonged to 8th or 9th century AD.

Considering the value of the idol, Rathankar Reddy urged the State Archaeology and Museums to shift it to a museum at the earliest. He said Telangana had some followers of Buddha during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Telangana Jagruthi State secretary Sri Ramoju Haragopal visited the site at Ippaguem on Friday and urged the government to preserve the idols. Though Tara is said to be a tantric meditation deity mainly worshiped by the followers of Vajrayana Buddhism, there are several other stories about her. And some of them indicate that she belonged to Hindusim and seen as a form of Shakti.

[link]

Famous Thotlakonda Buddhist site cries for attention

Weeds grown around the cisterns (troughs) at Buddhist site near Mangamaripeta in Visakhapatnam | RVK Rao

By Express News Service | Published: 22nd February 2017 02:02 AM

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Thotlakonda Buddhist site at Mangamaripeta in the city is in sad state of affairs with negligence of officials concerned. Tourists visiting the historical site seek minimum facilities.

Said to be a sacred place of Buddhists during 300 BC to 300 AD, the place was discovered by the Indian Navy in 1976 during an aerial survey. The excavations conducted by the department of Archaeology and Museums from 1988 to 1992 revealed the ruins of a well-established Theravada (Hinayanana Buddhism) monastery. The tourists visiting the site express their displeasure over the maintenance and lack of amenities.

The tourist spot neither has any drinking water facility nor even toilets for visitors. A number of stupas and other excavations are ill-maintained. Unwanted plants are grown almost all over the area. The site which is famous for its cisterns (troughs), which were said to be used by the Buddhists for drinking water purpose are also neglected. Weeds and waste water can be seen.

“At least a small shop should have been set up. We do not even have water facility. If we need to spend some time, minimum facilities are required,” said Adarsh Babu, a tourist from Tenali, who came along with his family.

The premises is littered with liquor bottles. It was learnt that some unidentified persons had a booze party by breaking liquor bottles. Some persons expressed displeasure over the entry of couples, who disturb with their activities. Some places, which were said to be holy for the Buddhists are defaced with names of people written. The Maha stupas, cisterns, votive platforms, kitchen complex and dining hall are major attractions at the spot. The officials have recently put up sign boards describing the places and dustbins.

However, with thick growth of waste plants grown here and there, tourists are not able to view them.

“During winter season, there are around 100 tourist footfalls per day. Tourists also visit the place during summer vacation,” said Raju, the only guide at the site.

On the issue, a tourism official said that they had set up sign boards and dustbins. He said that a good footpath was also laid and direction boards were set up showing the path. “A hall is being constructed to house a museum. Pictures of stupas and other Buddhist monuments would be displayed in the museum,” he said. The official also said that a children’s park would also be developed.

[link]

EXHIBITION “Avalokitesvara/Guanyin: Feminine symbolism in Buddhist Art” a photography show at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), 1, Central Vista (CV) Mess, Janpath > 27th March to 10th April 2017

Entry : Free

Venue : Twin Art Gallery 2, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), 1, Central Vista (CV) Mess, Janpath, New Delhi-110001
Landmark : Opp. National Archives, adjoining India Gate Lawns
Venue Info : Events | About | Map
Metro : Nearest Metro Station – ‘Central Sectt.’ (Yellow Line and Violet Line)

Event Description : EXHIBITION “Avalokitesvara/Guanyin: Feminine symbolism in Buddhist Art” a photography show.

Avalokitesvara is the most popular Mahayana Bodhisattva and his cult has played an important role in the growth of Mahayana Buddhism and art. The images of Avalokitesvara in India are not feminine, although the body has a sensual form. The well known painting of Padmapani in Cave No.1 of Ajanta no doubt has a sensuous body, but taken as a whole, looks a male Bodhisattva. The paintings of the famous artist Ravi Varma, do not show Hindu Gods as strongly masculine. Essential features of manliness like muscles, broad shoulders are present but there is a touch of conspicuous feminine quality in the images.

It is not known exactly when the Guan-yin came to be regarded as female deity for the first time. Majority of the scholars are of the opinion that the transformation of Guan-yin into female deity took place about the 11th century A. D. But this seems to have been the product of a long process and this might have been influenced by many factors combined to bring the sexual transformation.

[link]

Where India and China Meet: Buddhist Art as Common Heritage

Stone tablet of the Buddha with two Bodhisattvas, 190cm by 100cm by 40cm, 582CE. Image courtesy of the Beijing Palace Museum.

Medium.com

Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, examines how an exhibition on Buddhist art at Beijing’s Palace Museum could establish the foundation for greater dialogue and understanding between India and China. This blog post first appeared in the Harvard University South Asia Institute’s “Faculty Voices” series, and has been lightly edited for the Fairbank Center blog by James Evans.

A first major loan exhibition of Indian art in Beijing was recently held in the majestic Meridian Gate tower of the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City (see a virtual tour of the exhibition here.) “Across the Silk Road: Gupta Sculptures and their Chinese Counterparts during 400 to 700CE” was an ambitious exhibition conceived by the senior curatorial fellow of the Palace Museum, Dr. Lou Wenhua, after his visit to India three years ago.

Fifty-six sculptures from nine Indian museums were on display against a red backdrop in one gallery, while two adjacent galleries were filled with over one hundred Chinese Buddhist sculptures against blue backdrop. Bringing this exhibition together was an impressive feat by the organizers in Beijing, which, of course, was not possible without collaborative efforts from many museum personnel and officers in India.


While the China-India bilateral relationship is not as rosy and warm as anticipated (i.e. India’s failed entry into the NSG at the Seoul plenary, as well as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor developments — part of President Xi Jinping’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road projects), the exhibition reminds us of the age-old connections between the two countries, notably activated and solidified through the transmission of Buddhism. It also opens up new possibilities for trans-regional connections in the future that may benefit tremendously from a mutual understanding of each other’s culture and history.

The time frame of the exhibition, from 400 to 700CE, is the period in which three Chinese monk-pilgrims, Faxian 法顯 (337-c.422CE), Xuanzang 陳褘 (602–664CE) and Yijing 義淨 (635–713CE), visited India. Their travelogues are enthusiastically mined as indispensable records for understanding the history of Indian Buddhism and the history of early medieval India, although they are at times unfortunately without any critical consideration of the Chinese monks’ own cultural prejudices and political motivations. The exhibition heralds “Gupta sculptures” as its main anchor perhaps unwittingly perpetuating a notion of the Gupta period (c. 320–550) as the “classical” or “golden” age of Indian Art, formulated during the early twentieth century. The selection is commendably wider in scope, however, in terms of the range of dates and the variety of iconography (from a circa third century Buddhist sculpture, to a circa fifth century Jaina stele, to circa seventh century Hindu sculptures).

The Palace Museum and the Forbidden City Cultural Heritage Conservation Foundation organized an international symposium to accompany the exhibition. I was invited to participate in it as an expert on Indian Buddhist art along with other foreign scholars from India and elsewhere (including the Fairbank Center’s Professor Leonard van der Kuijp). The three-day symposium was packed with speakers presenting on a variety of topics with about two thirds of papers on Chinese Buddhist sculptures of the period between 400 to 700CE. It was an exciting opportunity to learn about discoveries of new art historical materials from recent excavations.
On the India side, according to Dr. B. R. Mani, a respected archaeologist and the current director of India’s National Museum in New Delhi, a recent excavation at Sarnath, the celebrated pilgrimage site of Buddha’s first sermon, revealed material evidence for the hitherto-unnoticed existence of a sculptors’ workshop at the site. Many more new findings in China were shared with much enthusiasm and excitement. Chinese archaeologists seem to be discovering and excavating many more Buddhist sites and other related historical sites than ever before. The sheer amount of historical details and art historical evidence that emerge from these new excavations is incredible.

Continue reading