So it’s no secret that I take yoga very seriously, but I have a lighter side too. Recent headlines are causing the yogi and the cheeseball in me to clash. I admit that I’m a fan of Julia Roberts, and I also deeply loved the book, Eat, Pray, Love, so when I found out that Ms. Roberts would be playing the part of Elizabeth Gilbert in the movie based on the book, I was elated. Then, the headlines hit that the crew had taken over a Hindu temple in Mirzapur Village, just south of New Delhi in India during the Holy Festival of Navaratri and were refusing to allow devotees to enter. For a brief moment, I was torn and shocked.
Swami Dharam Dev offered blessings at the start of the filming, but no one seemed to recognize that the dates were highly conflicting to the culture into which they had entered. Navaratri, one of the holiest festivals on the Hindu calendar, celebrates the goddess and lasts for nine nights, culminating in a tenth day celebration. Devotees offer twice daily prayers during this time to the goddesses in hopes of an abundant year to come. According to dozens of reports, the temple in which devotees pray was barred. Reports of the level of security range anywhere from 50 to 350 guards, armed and unarmed, helicopters and bamboo sticks prevented local villagers from entering into the temple to pray.
So how does my yogi side feel about these reports? First, I feel certain that they are egregiously over exaggerated, but I still feel that if a temple was closed during Navaratri, then it was also very disrespectful. It is the job of very well paid filmmakers to choose locations with full knowledge of the cultural implications that they may have. Maybe that is not always the case, especially in Hollywood, but incredibly important when choosing to alight on a culture that is not your own.
But, could such an outrageous oversight actually happen? Even the sometimes grossly unaware American film industry could be attentive to one of the largest religious festivals in the country in which they are visiting, right? Well, after hundreds of news stories from all over the world proclaiming the oversight and an entire country angered, the news is now out that all of the reports were misleading and blatantly false.
An unverified post to the Huffington Post article on the subject, quotes an anonymous member of the Eat, Pray, Love crew who says all of the allegations are bogus. Other, much less apparent reports speak to the misinformation that has been portrayed in the media. Whew, now I can continue to be a cheeseball who is completely overjoyed about my favorite actress playing the lead in the movie version of one of my favorite books, and not feel torn over the thought that anyone knowingly exploited a culture from which they are borrowing a great deal of artistic license.