One hand clapping

We return, briefly, to my favorite person, Rajan Zed — who seems afflicted these days by a combination of verbal diarrhea and chronic insomnia, judging by the velocity of his press statements. This morning, I got:

Hindu and Jewish leaders have urged Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) and makers of movie “Eat, Pray, Love” to immediately provide unconditional access to area devotees to the Hindu temple in Pataudi (India), which had been reportedly closed for shooting.

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a joint statement in Nevada today, said that it was very insensitive to keep the devotees away from their deities and worship place, which they had been reportedly visiting since 1948.

Moreover, due to Navaratri, a major ten-day Hindu holy festival connected with the autumnal equinox, which was currently underway, it was cruel to keep the worshippers away from their sacred temple. Various celebrations, like Durga-puja, Sri-panchami (Saraswati-puja), Lalita-panchami, Maha-navami, Amba-puja, Dussehra, formed part of this, during which Goddess Durga restored dharma (righteousness), and included mantra chanting and various other rituals, Rajan Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed.

According to reports, access to Hindu temple inside the Ashram Harimandir hermitage, about 60 kilometers from India’s capital Delhi, was reportedly denied and then conditions were put for area villagers who regularly came there to pray to give way to movie shooting of Roberts and others, thus upsetting the devotees. 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, which began Sunday, is expected to last about 2-3 weeks. This hermitage has its own consecrated temple and gaushala (cowshed) and offers “spiritual development” and runs a Sanskrit learning center.

Roberts started shooting at this Ashram on Sunday along with Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) and aimed at a release in 2011, “Eat, Pray, Love” also stars Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Viola Davis (Doubt), Billy Crudup (Almost Famous), James Franco (Pineapple Express), Luca Argentero (Lezioni di cioccolato).

A day earlier, the acclaimed statesman had for the nth time welcomed Roberts to India, from his base in Arizona. And now, some ten hours later, this:

Julia Roberts is “sadhavi” now and her children Mahalaxmi, Ganesh, & Krishna

Names of Oscar winner Julia Roberts’ (Pretty Woman) three children are Mahalaxmi, Ganesh, and Krishna Balram now, according to reports.

Before she landed in India on September 17, their names were reportedly Hazel Patricia (4.5 years), Phinnaeus Walter (4.5 years), and Henry Daniel Moder (two years) respectively.

Roberts is currently shooting at Ashram Harimandir hermitage, spread over 28 acres in Pataudi,  about 60 kilometers from India’s capital Delhi, for “Eat, Pray, Love” based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s spirituality/travel memoir of the same name. Founded by ascetic Swami Amardev in 1920, this Ashram is currently headed by Swami Dharam Dev, and it has its own consecrated temple and gaushala (cowshed) and offers “spiritual development” and runs a Sanskrit learning center. Gilbert reportedly spent four months in an India ashram few years back, trying to find her spirituality.

Welcoming Roberts to India, acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed urged her to explore Hinduism further. Deeper study of Hinduism would complement her interest in yoga and other things Indian, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, added. In January last, Roberts sported a “bindi” (vermillion mark on forehead) during her trip to India. She has a production company called “Red Om Films”, and “Om” in Hinduism is the mystical syllable containing the universe.

In published pictures, Roberts is seen sitting at Swami Dharam Dev’s feet looking like a “sadhavi” (virtuous woman).  When she reportedly went to seek his blessings, Swami was quoted as telling her to step into sadhvi’s role in her real life whenever she was in self doubt. Swami also reportedly suggested her to adopt prayers, meditation, sadhana (spiritual endeavor), and yoga in her real life and take all good things she learnt at Ashram back to USA. She reportedly introduced her children to Swami with the names of Mahalaxmi, Ganesh, and Krishna Balram, who said that Roberts was very impressed with Indian culture. Swami reportedly tied raksha-sutra (sacred protective thread) on their wrists.

For the success of the shooting and the film, Roberts reportedly launched the India leg of the shooting with a hawan (a fire sacrifice), which Rajan Zed says is central to Hinduism. She reportedly did puja (worship), cooked dal-roti (pulse-Indian thin bread) at langar (community lunch), performed kirtan (religious chanting), visited Hindu temple, offered prayers along with her children, learnt to say “namaskar” and “Hari-Om”,  was seen wearing ruddraksh (seeds of the tree Eleocarpus ganitrus) mala (rosary), ate with her bare hands, found Gulab-Jamun (an Indian sweetmeat) to be her favorite. She is said to have transliterated the 182-verse Sanskrit chant in English, which she has to recite as part of the script, and is said to be rehearsing it. Her living area in the nearby hotel has reportedly been furnished with a unique yoga center per her wishes. Roberts reportedly commented: “India is really amazing.”

Rajan Zed has applauded Roberts for launching the shooting with a hawan and actively participating in it with her three children, and showing keen interest in Hinduism.

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 Gilbert’s memoir. Although Gilbert did not disclose the name of 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 (India).

Directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck), “Eat, Pray, Love”, aimed at a release in 2011, also stars Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Viola Davis (Doubt), Billy Crudup (Almost Famous), James Franco (Pineapple Express), Luca Argentero (Lezioni di cioccolato), etc.

Just saying.


2 thoughts on “One hand clapping

  1. Just followed your series on Rajan Zed, and was rollicking along, till I got here, and went “huh?”

    What is so funny about protesting when devotees who have been worshipping at a temple for generations are blocked and restricted for 2-3 weeks for a film shoot.

    The second piece is funny alright but there is still no conflict with the first. Welcoming an “Athithi Deva” to “explore Hinduism” isnt at the cost of chucking the hosts out 🙂


    • What struck me as funny was [be glad I spared you the lot] the stream of Julia Roberts posts — there were some six of them in the space of five days. Guy couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether she was his hero or hate object.

      As to the chucking out, the people to blame would be the temple authorities — the crew obtained permission to cordon the area off for the shoot. If the host wants to be chucked out… 🙂

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