Hindus upset over denial of temple access caused by Julia Roberts shooting in India

Access to Hindu temple in the India ashram (hermitage) has been denied to area villagers who regularly came there to pray to give way to Oscar winner Julia Roberts’ (Pretty Woman) shooting, according to reports.

Hindus are upset. Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged the filmmakers to immediately make arrangements to let the area devotees at least visit the temple before and after the shooting daily.

How can one deny entry to the devotees to the hermitage, especially during the holy days of Navaratras, which they have been visiting since 1948, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, asked. According to reports, women of the village, when they went to the usual darshan (view) of their deities and offer prayers on Sunday morning, were refused entry. The shooting is expected to last about 2-3 weeks and it was insensitive to keep the devotees away from their deities for such a long period, Zed argued.

Moreover, Hindus are also concerned about the authenticity of the depiction of Hinduism objects-rituals-beliefs-concepts-traditions-philosophy in this upcoming Hollywood movie “Eat, Pray, Love”.

Rajan Zed stated that Hinduism and its belief system were quite often incorrectly depicted outside India and urged the filmmakers to stick to authentic traditions in order to avoid misrepresenting the already misunderstood religion, which was oldest and third largest in the world. Film, being a powerful medium, misrepresentation would not be fair to Hindus and Hinduism.

Zed stressed that Hindus welcomed Hollywood to explore the spirituality and rich philosophical thought of Hinduism but taking it seriously and depicting it authentically. Refashioning it for mercantile greed or to fit the Hollywood machine created more confusion and hurt the Hindu sentiments.

Based on Pushcart Prize winner Elizabeth Gilbert’s spirituality/travel memoir (played by Roberts), “Eat, Pray, Love” is about her self-discovery and soul-searching after her nasty divorce, exploring through India, Italy, and Indonesia. A critic has defined it as “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture”. Gilbert reportedly spent four months in an India ashram few years back, trying to find her spirituality.

People of India will be anxious to see how perfectly Roberts does her job of cleaning ashram (hermitage) floors as a part of her devotional duty, trying to recite 182-verse Sanskrit chant, and going through grueling hours of meditation while being feasted on by mosquitoes as mentioned in the memoir.

Although Gilbert did not disclose the name of the guru or the ashram where she stayed in her book, but it is widely guessed that she stayed at Gurudev Siddha Peeth at Ganeshpuri (Thane district) in Maharashtra and her guru was Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, a Siddha guru. But Roberts will be shooting at Ashram Harimandir, spread over 28 acres in Haryana and founded by ascetic Swami Amardev in 1920. Currently headed by Swami Dharam Dev, it has its own consecrated temple and gaushala (cowshed) and offers “spiritual development” and runs a Sanskrit learning center.

Roberts started shooting at Ashram Harimandir in Pataudi, about 60 kilometers from India’s capital Delhi, on Sunday for “Eat, Pray, Love”, along with Oscar nominated Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Directed by Emmy nominated Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck), it is aimed at a release in 2011.

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