The religious backdrop to James Cameron's 'Avatar'

The religious backdrop to James Cameron's 'Avatar'

How the recent blockbuster could be borrowing from ancient Hindu philosophy
Avatar from a Hindu perspective
Lord Vishnu's avatar as Lord Rama, prince and king of Ayodhya, who appeared in the Treta Yuga age, according to Hindu texts.

It's one of the biggest movie hits of the decade and has revolutionized the use of technology in film. But James Cameron's 'Avatar' may also be a profound interpretation of one of humanity's oldest scriptures. That's according to writer and director Sudipto Chattopadhyay, who writes in the Passion for Cinema film blog that Cameron's choice of title was deeply thought out from the Hindu perspective.

"The ancient Hindu scriptures have forever reiterated that whenever the world would be on the brink of disaster and mankind faces extinction, whenever the vessel of sin is about to spill over to create death and destruction, the divine Lord Vishnu would consider it his duty to manifest himself in mortal, palpable form to save mankind from the impeding doomsday....In the larger perspective the Avatar is meant to be the savior, the messiah of his own race and people," says Chattopadhyay.

"Despite the fear of being lynched by Hindu Fundamentalists," Chattopadhyay continues, "I propose that Cameron is alluding to that tenth avatar of Vishnu becoming manifest as the US marine (the character played by Sam Worthington) in Pandora's universe. The deliberate choice of the blue skin instantly, magically and metaphorically relates our protagonist to two previous avatar’s namely Rama and Krishna."

Despite the film coming under criticism for a weak story line Chattopadhyay instead lauds Cameron's "Avatar" as "a truly post-structuralist, post-modern work of epic proportions both in terms of story telling and redefining how the human eye can perceive a constructed image in motion."

Perhaps then, all that mesmerizing computer graphic wizardry is meant to distract only those who cannot see, from the real Hindu philosophy hidden within. But whether you're a believer or not you will agree with Chattopadhyay when he says,

"After this, cinema will be divided into two eras — Before Avatar/After Avatar."

Sita Wadhwani is CNNGo City Editor in Mumbai.


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