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Hindu gods forgotten in India, treasured in Japan: filmmaker Benoy Behl

Hindu gods forgotten in India, treasured in Japan: filmmaker Benoy Behl

New Delhi, Jul 8 (UNI) Scores of Hindu deities relegated to oblivion in India are actively worshipped in Japan, which is popularly known as the Land of the Rising Sun, filmmaker Benoy Behl has said. Behl, along with the Japan Foundation, has collaborated to conduct the exhibition of rare photographs of Hindu deities worshipped in Japan. The exhibition on "Indian Deities Worshipped in Japan" was held by the Japan Foundation at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum from July 1 to 7, as part of the Indo-Japan Year of Friendly Exchanges 2017. Minister of State for External Affairs General V K Singh inaugurated the show. The Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Japan and the Director General of the Japan Foundation were also present on the occasion. Most of the photographs in the exhibition were taken by Benoy with the support of a Japan Foundation Fellowship. Buddhism being the major religion of the Japan, the country is dotted with temples and shrines that have been conditioned by geographical and topographical features as much as by cultural and religious factors. In a statement, Behl said ,"The Director of the Japan Foundation very kindly appreciated my exhibition and film on 'Hindu Deities Worshipped in Japan' and said it has taken Indo-Japan relations on to a new plane altogether." The photographer said that it was a game-changer in the diplomatic relations. "The deities we have practically forgotten in India, such as Vayu and Varuna are still worshipped in Japan. In fact, there are hundreds of shrines to Saraswati alone and innumerable representations of Lakshmi, Indra, Brahma, Ganesha and Garuda among other gods," the film-maker said. 'There are deep meanings in Japanese practices which takes us back to early developments of philosophy in India. In many ways, the philosophic understanding is even better preserved in Japan,' he said. Mr Behl said,"Our relationship with Japan is far closer than Indians seem to be aware of. It is time to understand this and to build upon it." "In 1,200 temples in Japan ‘homa’ (goma in Japan) is performed every day, along with Sanskrit chanting. In many ways, I find that Japan has preserved ancient Hindu traditions, even when they may have changed here in India," he said. Benoy, who began his career as a photographer, has made 130 documentary films in the past and his exhibition reveals startling facts about the importance of Indian heritage in Japan. "For instance, the 6th century Siddham script is preserved in Japan, though it has disappeared from India. 'Beejaksharas' (or etymology of alphabets) of Sanskrit in this script are regarded as holy and given great importance. Each deity has a 'Beejakshara' and these are venerated by the people, even though most of them cannot read it. Some Japanese tombs are adorned with the Sanskrit alphabet," he said. Mr Behl said that in many ways, this philosophic understanding is most well preserved in Japan. Japan has not had the breakdown of cultural norms which India suffered when a colonial education system was created. Throwing light on the country's long lost history that survives in a foreign land, Mr Behl said,"The deep-rooted spirit of the Buddha's teachings energises the Japanese people. Buddhist temples are numerous and vast numbers of people visit these every day. Besides the Buddha, many ancient Indian deities and practices (prevail) in their temples. An Indian feels quite at home in Japan." “Japan is the one country where Buddhism is flourishing in all its facets. Here, technology and transcendence are living together. The deep-rooted spirit of Buddha's teachings energises the Japanese people," he added. UNI PY/AR RSA 1545

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