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Upanishad Ganga Appreciation Thread: A MUST-WATCH!

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lola610

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Posted: 27 July 2013 at 12:09pm | IP Logged


Debi di was kind enough to introduce me to this show a few days ago and we've been discussing it non-stop ever since. Produced by the Chinmayananda mission and directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi (of Chanakya fame), the series aired on Doordarshan National last year and met with well-deserved critical appreciation and fanfare. It is both technically and conceptually brilliant; in my opinion it really stands out from the hordes of commercially-inclined mythos on television today in terms of its quality and spiritual resonance.

Here's a bit of insight on the story:
The series starts out with a frame story of a modern day Sanskrit scholar in Varanasi and his playwright son. They clash over the role of Vedic philosophies in modern society, leading the son to an epiphany - he decides to use his talents in the field of theater to present the relevance of those teachings to his generation. From then onwards, every episode is in the form of a short play at his theater which takes a particular teaching from the Upanishads and connects it to a mythological or historical story that demonstrates that teaching. Those stories include the dacoit Ratnaakar's transformation into Maharishi Valmiki, the trial of Raja Harischandra, the ill-fated romance between Devayani and Kach, the spiritual quest of Shah Jahan's son Dara Shikoh, tales from the lives of Meerabai and Sant Eknath, and many more.

As stated on the official website, this is the "concept flow" for how the show is structured:

The Vedic Culture is introduced in the initial episodes (1-4). Then cultural values at the levels of the individual and the society are presented in the following 18 episodes (5-22). After, thus establishing the cultural basis and ethos, the entire Upanishadic Wisdom is then presented in the next 20 episodes (2342). The practical steps that could be taken to actualize this wisdom in one's life are then elaborated in the next nine episodes (4351). The last episode is an expression of gratefulness for this Wisdom which has made India proud, noble, and admired the world over.

Known faces from Indian television and film - e.g. Jaya Bhattacharya, Sai Deodhar, Huma Qureshi, Mukesh Tiwari - portray the characters from these stories flawlessly, and at the end of each episode, they recite and give the reference for the shloka on which the episode is based.


The entire series is available on youtube, so please do watch it and share your views: http://www.youtube.com/user/upanishadganga

DVDs with subtitles are available as well. For more information on those as well as the series in general, here's the official website (beware, it uses a LOT of flash and will slow down your browser if you have it open along with several other tabs): http://www.upanishadganga.com/

And here's the Wikipedia entry on the show: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanishad_Ganga

So click on that youtube link and come back to this thread with thoughts to share; looking forward to many great discussions on this great show!

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AishuHiBawari

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Posted: 27 July 2013 at 7:45pm | IP Logged
Okay, so I am so surprised that I hadn't heard of this television series earlier. Guys, everyone go and and watch it, it's amazing! The dialogue is perfect, because it's shudh hindi but not overtly dramatized and effusive as we often see it on mytho shows. And the pronounciation and stressing and unstressing of certain words is spot on! Simply, you will understand the gist of what is being said even if you don't understand every specific word. I've seen a lot of these actors on screen, and this is just me, but their talents have never been utilized well before this. Like, it's not over the top, it's not cheesy, it's just good old fashioned hindu kathas shown on the stage.

I'm only on episode five right now, and they've covered the Kurukshetra battle scene, to Valmiki's transformation from the dacoit Ratnakar to the writer of the Ramayana, and the story of Ashtavakra. I grew up on these stories as a kid. I very clearly remember my mom telling me about Ratnakar (he's referred to as Valya Koli in most marathi versions). And the obvious lesson in this case is that anyone, no matter how far they've fallen, can pick themselves up and right their wrongs. I remember her telling me that he couldn't even pronounce "Raam" correctly when he first started chanting the holy name. He would chant "Mara, Mara, Mara" which literally means "Die, Die, Die." But over time he became so engrossed in his chanting, that the "Mara, Mara, Mara" became "Raam, Raam, Raam." So, if a sinner like Valya Koli, who couldn't even say Raam, can become the great sage, Valmiki, then anyone can make up for their wrongs. But in this example, they take a teaching from the Upanishads. In this particular episode it was that you are your own friend and your own enemy. And they applied it to this katha and how Ratnakar had the power to create his own family, he had the power to create enemies, and then he also had the power to also create his new life as a devotee of Shri Raam. Lol. I went waay too in detail with that example, but you get the point. Like Lola di said, they take one teaching from the Upanishad and apply it to a story and that becomes the episode.



Edited by AishuHiBawari - 29 July 2013 at 9:44pm

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Posted: 29 July 2013 at 6:29am | IP Logged
Cool! This show sounds really interesting. Are the episodes online available with english subtitles?

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Posted: 29 July 2013 at 3:40pm | IP Logged
^^ Nope, the DVDs have subtitles but the online vids do not. However, it's in totally shuddh Sanskritized Hindi, little to no Urdu influence (except for the Dara Shikoh storyline) so you might be able to figure out the meaning. It's worth the effort.

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Posted: 29 July 2013 at 10:27pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by AishuHiBawari

Okay, so I am so surprised that I hadn't heard of this television series earlier. Guys, everyone go and and watch it, it's amazing! The dialogue is perfect, because it's shudh hindi but not overtly dramatized and effusive as we often see it on mytho shows. And the pronounciation and stressing and unstressing of certain words is spot on! Simply, you will understand the gist of what is being said even if you don't understand every specific word. I've seen a lot of these actors on screen, and this is just me, but their talents have never been utilized well before this.
YES!!! SO MUCH YES Clap
ClapClapClapClap Like for instance we both knew Jaya Bhattacharya as a bright spot in several of Ekta's crapfests, but we didn't know she had THIS level of talent! It's an altogether different kind of subtlety and dedication they've elicited from each actor and actress in the show.
I'm only on episode five right now, and they've covered the Kurukshetra battle scene, to Valmiki's transformation from the dacoit Ratnakar to the writer of the Ramayana, and the story of Ashtavakra. I grew up on these stories as a kid. I very clearly remember my mom telling me about Ratnakar (he's referred to as Valya Koli in most marathi versions). And the obvious lesson in this case is that anyone, no matter how far they've fallen, can pick themselves up and right their wrongs. I remember her telling me that he couldn't even pronounce "Raam" correctly when he first started chanting the holy name. He would chant "Mara, Mara, Mara" which literally means "Die, Die, Die." But over time he became so engrossed in his chanting, that the "Mara, Mara, Mara" became "Raam, Raam, Raam." So, if a sinner like Valya Koli, who couldn't even say Raam, can become the great sage, Valmiki, then anyone can make up for their wrongs. But in this example, they take a teaching from the Upanishads. In this particular episode it was that you are your own friend and your own enemy. And they applied it to this katha and how Ratnakar had the power to create his own family, he had the power to create enemies, and then he also had the power to also create his new life as a devotee of Shri Raam. Lol. I went waay too in detail with that example, but you get the point. Like Lola di said, they take one teaching from the Upanishad and apply it to a story and that becomes the episode.
That's a great point dearie! Even when the story is a familiar one, they don't always present the moral of the story we would expect from it - further proving how universal our scriptures are, and how you can learn something different from the same story each time you reread it. Bottomless oceans, quite literally.

Speaking of the Valmiki episode, I really really LOVED their Narad! It was a different take on the character from what we're used to, a fully-realized version rather than a mastikhor. The Bhagavat and some other scriptures refer to Narad also as an avatar of Vishnu, and with this particular characterization, I would definitely believe that. To add to that, the actor sang so beautifully! Wish his little chants were longer so I could save them, the same old dhuns are so touching when sung without music <3

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Posted: 29 July 2013 at 11:12pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by lola610

Originally posted by AishuHiBawari

Okay, so I am so surprised that I hadn't heard of this television series earlier. Guys, everyone go and and watch it, it's amazing! The dialogue is perfect, because it's shudh hindi but not overtly dramatized and effusive as we often see it on mytho shows. And the pronounciation and stressing and unstressing of certain words is spot on! Simply, you will understand the gist of what is being said even if you don't understand every specific word. I've seen a lot of these actors on screen, and this is just me, but their talents have never been utilized well before this.
YES!!! SO MUCH YES Clap
ClapClapClapClap Like for instance we both knew Jaya Bhattacharya as a bright spot in several of Ekta's crapfests, but we didn't know she had THIS level of talent! It's an altogether different kind of subtlety and dedication they've elicited from each actor and actress in the show.
Lol, exactly! The big thing being that it's not over the top like the serials. LIke this is what natural acting is! It's so real, and subtle, and makes the beautiful stories we have come alive.
I'm only on episode five right now, and they've covered the Kurukshetra battle scene, to Valmiki's transformation from the dacoit Ratnakar to the writer of the Ramayana, and the story of Ashtavakra. I grew up on these stories as a kid. I very clearly remember my mom telling me about Ratnakar (he's referred to as Valya Koli in most marathi versions). And the obvious lesson in this case is that anyone, no matter how far they've fallen, can pick themselves up and right their wrongs. I remember her telling me that he couldn't even pronounce "Raam" correctly when he first started chanting the holy name. He would chant "Mara, Mara, Mara" which literally means "Die, Die, Die." But over time he became so engrossed in his chanting, that the "Mara, Mara, Mara" became "Raam, Raam, Raam." So, if a sinner like Valya Koli, who couldn't even say Raam, can become the great sage, Valmiki, then anyone can make up for their wrongs. But in this example, they take a teaching from the Upanishads. In this particular episode it was that you are your own friend and your own enemy. And they applied it to this katha and how Ratnakar had the power to create his own family, he had the power to create enemies, and then he also had the power to also create his new life as a devotee of Shri Raam. Lol. I went waay too in detail with that example, but you get the point. Like Lola di said, they take one teaching from the Upanishad and apply it to a story and that becomes the episode.
That's a great point dearie! Even when the story is a familiar one, they don't always present the moral of the story we would expect from it - further proving how universal our scriptures are, and how you can learn something different from the same story each time you reread it. Bottomless oceans, quite literally.
I know! Like I said earlier today, there are so many layers to all of our mythos, that you can read/watch/listen to them a million times and still get something new each time. And this kind of gives you a different outlook on them. A different lesson than the obvious one you might have picked up.
Speaking of the Valmiki episode, I really really LOVED their Narad! It was a different take on the character from what we're used to, a fully-realized version rather than a mastikhor. The Bhagavat and some other scriptures refer to Narad also as an avatar of Vishnu, and with this particular characterization, I would definitely believe that. To add to that, the actor sang so beautifully! Wish his little chants were longer so I could save them, the same old dhuns are so touching when sung without music <3
Lol, I loved Mastikhor Narad, tbqh, but this one is awesome too! And yes, he did have that divine aura about him to suggest that he was an incarnation of the divine. And agreed, the songs were beautiful! Idk if there's a downloadable version though.

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Posted: 30 July 2013 at 3:24am | IP Logged
I have watched it too. It's excellent. 

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Posted: 30 July 2013 at 6:36am | IP Logged
so happy to see this thread! Lola Hug 


Firstly I want to thank Chinmaya MIssion for their decision to show it on Doordarshan, which reaches every household Star which has a tv set. It is another thing that thse days we do not pay much atttention to national channel. I guess that is the reason most of us missed the show during its original telecast. 

the show is So UNIQUE in its concept, in its handling of the content material, that we all need to watch the show to experience it. Drama pattern, stage theatre, outdoor shooting and narration- all thsae techniques have been used perfectly to craete the desired effect (i.e.- to convey the messege of thet particular ep.). No words are enough to apprecite the work of the whole team of Upanishad Ganga. 

The beginning (i.e.- the first two episodes) , as mentioned by Lola, are really nice. The conflict of father and son, the position of Sanskrit in today's world Unhappy  ( and the ACTUAL VALUE of Sanskrit Star )- all have been shown in such a way that the audience can 'Relate' with the situation with the characters. This element is maintained throughout the whole series. each and every story is shown in such a  way  so as to make us feel 'one' with those characters, their situation. 


These episodes (ep 1 and 2) introduce us with the concept of Atma/ Brahma, with the concept of Soul- searching, it tells us about the journey 'within' to find out the answers of the question we face in our lives, just by changing our focus from outer world to inner world, we will be able to move towards the Truth.


Edited by Debipriya - 13 August 2013 at 4:59am

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