New Movie “Avatar” Shines Light On A Hindu WordDecember 20th, 2009 Source: www.chron.com
UNITED STATES, December 18, 2009: In James Cameron’s new film, Avatar, the Titanic director creates a world where humans take on the form of what the characters call avatars to exist on a planet called Pandora. Humans control the avatars through technology, but some use their powerful avatar bodies for evil as they try to ruin the resources of the planet.
The term “avatar” might already be familiar to those who play virtual reality games where avatars are movable images representing real people, or navigate through internet’s forums. Essentially, it is something that represents a person in a small micro-universe — cyberspace, for example. The word avatar’s origins, however, come from the Sanskrit language in sacred Hindu texts, and it’s a term for divine beings sent to restore goodness to Earth.
Hindu theology names 10 numbered avatars. Two of the most important from Hindu scripture are Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu and written about in the Ramayana; and Lord Krishna, written about in the Mahabharata. Illustrations of these Hindu avatars, which are magnificently detailed and reflect an aura of divinity, are in stark contrast to Cameron’s alien-meets-robot-warrior look in the film. Despite the very different avatar interpretations, local Hindus’ reverence for specific avatars from their scripture does not conflict with how they are seeing the modern usage of the term.
[HPI note: This belief is particular to some denominations of Hinduism. Vaishnavas and Smartas believe in avatars of the Supreme God, while Saivites and Shaktas traditionally do not.]
“The way the term is now being used is not a distortion of my beliefs,” said Anil Dandona, a practicing Hindu. “It is just a term. We believe the Supreme Being sent humans to create righteousness. These messengers of God take a human form, but they have godlike qualities, and they are delegates sent to do a task.”
Local filmmaker Ashok Rao is looking forward to Cameron’s film, and he feels that as long as filmmakers do not insult the sensitivities of a particular religion, then artistic license can be used. “The film’s use of avatar is a close relationship to the original meaning. It is a word meaning reincarnation and isn’t meant to always mean a representative of God on Earth. It simply means one being in another form.”