“The Time of the Sages,” a documentary film currently in production, will aim to bring the same kind of worldwide recognition to the Srimad-Bhagavatam as is awarded to the Bhagavad-gita.
The hour-long film will follow scholar Krishna Kshetra Swami (Dr. Kenneth Valpey), a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, as he interviews fellow academics and visits key places in India relevant to the Bhagavatam.
“The Bhagavad-gita has become quite widely known – since it was first translated into English in 1785, it has had quite an impact in the intellectual world in Europe and America,” he says. “But although Prabhupada’s translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam has been distributed all over the world, the Bhagavatam is still not so well known in comparison to the Gita.”
Krishna Kshetra explains that the Bhagavatam begins where the Gita – dubbed ‘the ABCs of spiritual life’ – ends. So it’s the natural next step. He hopes that a film will be the perfect way to introduce modern audiences to the Bhagavatam, to show them that it belongs as world literature, and that it is serious philosophy and not just stories, and to inspire them to read it.
“We want to make viewers think and ask questions,” says director Citra Karuni Dasi. “ ‘Could there be a higher reality? What is Asian philosophy? Who are the avatars? Who am I? What is the purpose of life?’”
Citra Karuni, who started out as a professional designer, will be working with a crew of talented devotee professionals on the film. They include Gaura Govinda Das from Croatia, who was the cinematographer on the Yamuna-in-plight film “Rescuing the Stolen River,” and Shyam Gopal Das from Kazakhstan, whose film “Reconnection” won 15 international awards.
“The Time of the Sages” will explore what is so special about this ancient 18,000-verse work, and why it remains so popular in India with practices like the Bhagavat Saptaha, where it is spoken over seven days.
In the film Krishna Kshetra Swami will attend an international conference on the Bhagavata Purana at Madras University in Chennai, India and interview many of the scholars there.
These will include Dr McComas Taylor, who has led the South Asia Progam at the Australian National University in Canberra; Dr John Stratton Hawley, Professor of Religion at Columbia University; and Dr Barbara Holdrege, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Krishna Kshetra will also speak with Dr Graham M. Schweig, Professor of Religion at Christopher Newport University; Dr Ravi M. Gupta, Director of the Religious Studies Program at Utah State University; and Acharya Srivatsa Goswami from Vrindavana’s Radha-Ramana temple.
The filmmakers also hope to visit Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh to discuss the Nrsimhadeva avatar; Vrindavana Dhama to discuss Lord Krishna; and the astonishing Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram.
“The late Dr. Dennis Hudson wrote a full-length book about this one temple, showing how it is a three-dimensional Srimad-Bhagavatam,” says Krishna Kshetra Swami. “It has fifty-two bas-relief sculptures from many of the pastimes in the Bhagavatam, and he analyzes in great detail why these sculptures are in the particular positions they are. He spent twenty-five years studying it.”
The film will also discuss the history of the Bhagavatam’s migration beyond India, which Srila Prabhupada plays a prominent role in.
“The Time of the Sages” is being independently produced and is raising funds on Indiegogo.com. The makers hope to put it in circulation in the educational film distribution system, so that it will be shown at universities, colleges and libraries everywhere. They also want to translate it into multiple languages.
The film is part of a bigger Bhagavata Purana Research Project at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in the UK, led by Krishna Kshetra Swami and Radhika Ramana Das, that has published two academic books on the Bhagavatam so far. It also aims to bring together as many of the 80 existing Sanskrit commentaries on the Bhagavatam as possible.
“I’ve been reading, studying, and discussing the Srimad-Bhagavatam for the last more than forty years, and I haven’t tired of it,” says Krishna Kshetra Swami. “Because it’s so rich. It’s a kind of adventure story which brings you to the point of really inquiring about deeper matters – such as what’s the purpose of my life, and how can we live the best life possible.”
Krishna Kshetra feels that now is the perfect time to introduce people to the Bhagavatam, with its depth of thought.
“We’re living in a world fraught with troubles,” he says. “People are overcome by anxiety, by fear, by uncertainty. The Bhagavatam is a medicine for the disease of the heart. A medicine that is giving us a broader vision by which we can change ourselves individually, and the world.”
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To find out more and donate to make Time of the Sages a reality, please click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-time-of-the-sages-a-feature-documentary-india#/
To keep up to date on the project, visit www.facebook.com/thetimeofthesages
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org