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Hinduism and Media – How Hindu Religion is Facing the Challenges of New Media

Internet and mobile have made it easy for people to convey their ideas and messages to the world without much censorship. But the retelling of stories associated with religion and creating new images and graphics of symbols associated with religion sometimes causes unwanted situations. Vamsee Juluri, Author, Professor of Media Studies, University of San Francisco, writes about this topic in an article titled – Mythology, Media and the Future of Hinduism in Huffington Post.

The gods of Hinduism have never been up there in some cold palace playing cruel whimsical games of fate with us humans. Instead, they have taken their place among us. They have let us call them friend, cousin, son, mother, teacher, and adore them as such. For it is only in relationships that we humans adore, and it is only in adoration that we learn the lessons of the gods: to live in friendship with ourselves and others, to attain a sense of justice in our actions, and to surrender to serenity. That is the story about our gods, and it is a story that has been told countless times over the millennia in words, songs, gestures, sculpture, and art.

At present, Hindu mythology is under strain from two opposite tendencies that are not entirely unrelated to broader debates about religion and politics in India and the diaspora. There seems to be a "didactic" extreme and an "experimental" extreme in present approaches to the tales of the gods. The didactic tendency views mythology as a litany of facts about history and geography. It shows up in some of the recent animated mythological movies. The gods are depicted like pop culture superhero figures while a pedantic voice lists facts about them. The experimental tendency, on the other hand, sees mythology as open to virtually any sort of reinterpretation without regard to virtue or intent. Some artists and intellectuals espouse this view, and end up assuming that any imputation of sanctity to mythology is inherently fundamentalist.

Despite these unfortunate extremes, it is my belief that the tales of the gods, like the philosophy that is infused in them, like Hinduism as a whole, are deeper and more resilient than any constraint that our era can put on them.

Commercialism may have turned mythology into a media formula, with virtually any movie being cited as a retelling of the Ramayana and Mahabharata; politics may have rubbed the stories of the gods the wrong way, from Right and from Left, leaving out the greatness of heart in them altogether.

But when we look at the history of our "myths" more accurately, we will surely find what it was about them that made them both timeless and timely for so many generations. After all, even in the relatively short span that these tales have appeared in the media, there are great contributions only beginning to be acknowledged. For instance, long before mythologicals allegedly provoked religious extremism by turning up on Indian television in the 1980s, they were sparking the spirit of Gandhi, social reform, and Indian independence in the stages and cinema halls of early 20th century India (seen in the work of film pioneers Phalke and Nagiah). The question for us to ask now is what the tales of the gods need to liberate us from in the future.

In an age of terrorism, wars, environmental degradation, financial hoaxes and mass mediated delusions, the need for the tales of the gods is stronger than ever. The challenge for us is simply to tell them better.

You can read the entire article here at the Huffington Post