‘Avatar’: Heavenly Descent

By Indira Y. Junghare.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The film “Avatar,” which means “descent” of a heavenly being to help humans in troubled times, derives its name from Sanskrit. Since Sanskrit is an Indo-European language, the film reflects socio-cultural ideology of Indo-European people, including Indians of ancient/Vedic times. The paper will analyze the film and compare it with Indian thought. By drawing an analogy between the effective application of the concept of the “Avatar” in a modern and futuristic setting and its importance to one of the oldest civilizations, the paper will conclude that problems of modernity have roots in historical traditions, despite the advancement of civilizations. Given the film’s relation to ancient Indian civilization and Western interpretation of its culture, the paper suggests the need for social change and attempts to provide an innovative philosophy of diversity and difference for attaining that goal.

Keywords: Avatar, Heavenly, Descent, Sanskrit, Philosophy, Tradition, Advancement, Diversity, Difference

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp.121-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.467MB).

Dr. Indira Y. Junghare

Professor, South Asian Languages, Literatures, & Cultures, Institute of Linguistics, ESL, & Slavic Languages & Literatures, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Dr. Indira Junghare completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Texas-Austin. Since 1971 she has been teaching at the University of Minnesota. Her areas of expertise include South Asian languages (Marathi, Hindi, & Sanskrit), South Asian linguistics (Marathi-Hindi-Indian linguistics), sociolinguistics, pragmatics, language variation and change, bilingualism, language and ethnicity, anthropological linguistics, literature (Marathi, Hindi, classical and modern Indian), and South Asian culture (Indian Philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism and Comparative Religions). She has published extensively in the fields of linguistics, literature, philosophy and religions of India. Junghare’s most outstanding contribution to Indian Studies lies in her tremendous efforts to preserve the South Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures programmatic curriculum at the University of Minnesota. She served as chair of the Department of South Asian Languages and Cultures and as director of its graduate and undergraduate programs. She co-founded the School of Indian Languages and Cultures in the Twin Cities. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the CLA Distinguished Teacher Award, Outstanding Faculty Award, Gordon L. Starr Award, the University of Minnesota Outstanding Community Service Award, and the Council of Asian-Pacific Minnesotans-Leadership Award. She has served on the Screening Panel of the Fulbright Scholarship Awards for India Studies in 2002, 2003, & 2004. Drawing on the philosophies of India, her present projects are to create a scholastic discipline of Diversity-Ethics-Peace, offer curriculum and academic programs in the discipline, and establish the Institute of Diversity, Ethics, and Peace Studies at the University of Minnesota. Diversity-Ethics-Peace studies received a Tony Diggs’ Excellence Award for Innovation in April 2006.

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