Cosmopolitan India In Ancient and Medieval Times

Cosmopolitan India

This is a pair of documentaries made by one of my favourite Indian art critics and historians, Benoy K Behl, whose work I have featured many times on this site. As with a number of his films these were made for the Govt. of India’s Public Diplomacy Division, and is meant to project India in a favourable light to the world.

The films show how, throughout Indian history, tolerance and appreciation of others have been at the heart of Indian culture and civilisation, and people would travel from all over the world to study in India, and learned more than just book-knowledge while there.

During the Buddhist Emperor Asoka’s time he promoted Dharma, but also supported anyone living a righteous and harmless life. When power passed to Hindu devotees during the period of the Satavahanas and Guptas, they still promoted Buddhist work and buildings.

In the second of the two films we also see that this held true when the Muslim Moghuls were in power, and Hindus were honoured and protected; and various attempts were made at synchretic religions encompassing the best of both religions.

The films overlook some of the more contentious issues like the many times opposing religions and ideas have led to violence between communities, but still they are praiseworthy in attempting to show how different communities can live together and even profit from the interaction.

Please note there is an unfortunate break of about one minute at the end of the first film, but it does pick up again if you wait for it to run through, or move it forward for one minute.


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