History Hour 11 – “India: The Lotus and the Cross”, by Mr. Vishnu Mathur – 12th February 2005

Synopsis of the film: In this  92 minute film  we saw the phenomenon of  “Inculturation” – how Hindu rituals and symbols are intermingling into the practice of Christianity  in India.  Today Indian Catholic priests openly admit that they feel more comfortable celebrating the ‘Mass’ sitting on bare floors in simple shawls – and have devotional songs sung and dances to praise the Lord,  and rich sweets distributed as in Hindu temples during the Eucharist – than conducting rigid ritualism. The documentary also presents  a short history of Christianity since the arrival of the apostle St Thomas on Indian shores in 52 AD.  The film goes on  highlighting the important institutional and field work of some dynamic Christian priests and nuns who, inspired by Mother Theresa and Christ’s message of peace and love, have devoted themselves wholeheartedly to the alleviation of poverty and diseases in India.

An “Indian Rite Mass” more appealing to simple village folk, which incorporates their songs and dances, was shown; we also saw the Indian classical music and dance converted into Biblical stories for stage dramas;   we can appreciate the new trends in Indian Christian Art, where “Jesus is painted as an easterner” and Mary a bejewelled Indian lady. Finally, we heard the views of some Indian priests on issues like celibacy, conversion, freedom of the Human Will. They strongly believe that Christianity has to adapt and change if necessary to the needs of people in the context of culture and modern trends.

Vishnu Mathur has produced and directed films independently for the CBC’s Nature of Things programme for the last 20 years. Most of these films have been shown on Discovery Channel, as Nature ofThings and Discovery have co-production arrangements. He has also worked for BBC, London, for prestigious shows like Panorama and Disappearing World.  Furthermore, he travelled extensively around the world for the NBC network, New York, for which he made films on political and cultural subjects.

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