Story of India: Beginnings and The Power of Ideas
Michael Wood presents a series of
documentaries about India in The Story of
India. The series begins with the episode titled Beginnings. This introductory episode briefly explores how people
first arrived in India, and some of the languages used in Indian history. Wood
begins the first part of his series by stating that it is believed that “the
first humans came from a golden egg laid by the king of the gods” (Story). Some of the traditions of the
ancient people are still practiced today.
For example, Brahmans are taught
what to say and how to act during religious rituals which have been handed down
orally for thousands of years. It is noted that the ancient chants that have
been handed down have “rules and patterns” that is understood to the modern
person, but it could be possible that these chants came from “bird song” (Story). Some Indians still also practice
inter-marriage which allows a family to pass down genetics.
When it comes to Indian religion,
it is commented that it is ever changing. It is changing in the sense that
there are thousands of divinities within Indian religion, though one of the
popular religions that seems to stay mostly the same is Buddhism.
Wood continues his presentation
with the episode titled The Power of
Ideas. In this episode, the Buddhist religion is briefly discussed, along
with the story of two of India’s influential leaders, Chandragupta
Maurya and Ashoka. It is believed that the Buddha, the founder of
Buddhism, was once a prince who renounced his status and traveled to “find the
truth” (Story). While sitting under a
Bodhi tree, the Buddha had an enlightenment on what the Four Truths were and
that “you can become a liberated being” by freeing yourself from desire (Story). Chandragupta
Maurya was an Indian king who successfully drove out Alexander the Great’s
successors and gained control of modern India. But he renounced his kingdom to
grandson) started out as a cruel ruler but after his war with Kalinga, he
stumbled across “one of the most dangerous ideas in history…non-violence” (Story). Two of his ideas that still
exist today include both human and animal rights. Wood concludes The Power of Ideas with Ashoka’s urging
for religious tolerance.
The documentary series The Story of India, presented by Michael
Wood provides an insight of Indian history and culture. One of the interesting
things that audiences learned from this presentation is that one of the reasons
why some of the ancient cities declined was due to “the change of climate and
the environment” caused by the “ramming” of India into Asia (Story). Another thing the audience
learned was that Sanskrit is considered to be the “ancestor of all the modern
dialects spoken in India.” (Story)
As far as the how the documentary
itself was presented, there are wonderful shoots of the Indian landscape and
sunrises and sunsets. Wood is clearly interested in the Indian culture, which
helps the presentation of this documentary. Though there are periodic film
clips to help elaborate on different topics, it felt as if the clips were more
used to make sure the film had a certain amount of minutes than to elaborate.
The score of The Story of India is
relaxing to listen to, and perhaps meant to help emphasize to recurring theme
of non-violence that is recurring throughout these two episodes.
The Story of India. By Michael Wood. Dir.
Jeremy Jeffs. Prod. Rebecca Dobbs. Perf. Michael Wood. 2009. DVD.