I love watching documentaries. They keep me occupied no end. Especially, I love travelogues and historical ones. Was watching an episode of a documentary "Story of India" on PBS, a educational TV channel in the US. It was maybe on the lines of 'Discovery of India', the book by Jawaharlal Nehru, which was televised and telecast on DD sometime back as 'Discovery of India/Bharat, Ek Khoj', which I used to watch with awe and interest and the chants that started and concluded the episodes were so wonderful on the ears. (Starting chants of Bharat, Ek Khoj and Ending chants of Bharat, Ek Khoj)
The documentary started off with the silk route from China, the Kushanas and Kanishka, their ruler, probably the greatest ruler of northern India. It then moved to the spice route from the west (Greeks, Romans, Spain, Portugal) to lots of places on the west coast, which was famed for the spices, especially pepper, in exchange for our everlasting obsession from time immemorial, gold. Kerala is one of the key trading spots and they show how a big bowed ship is built with just wood and nails, in the backwaters, just the way it was done eons back. The topic moved to Buddhism in time of Kanishka which was a dominant religion at one time. It then goes searching for lost Stupas, of which one in Peshawar has been documented by the western travellers as having one of the largest ever known, but it doesn't exist now, with only a mound marking the place where it might have stood once. A brief vista into Samarkhand, in Uzbekistan which was the confluence of the east and west on the silk road. That scenery there is breathtaking.
Continuing on the spice route, the documentary moves to Madurai, famed for its temple and the trade in textiles that happened during that period, then to Thanjavur, for the big temple and the golden time of the Cholas with Raja Raja Chozhan (gee, they showed some clippings from the movie, 'Raja Raja Chozhan' enacted by Sivaji Ganesan). There is a dialogue with the Mahratta prince of Thanjavur. There is a short sequence about bronzes and how they are cast. Absolutely lovely and intricate moulds and into them are poured glowing hot melted bronze. The artisans use methods followed by their ancestors and do not use a metric scale for measurement even now. The landscape moves to Tiruvannamalai, where they show the Utsavar and the lighting of the Annamalai Deepam.
It was a nice weaving of historical facts with a good narrative.
That program was followed by another on an American moving around in Iran. There was a good discussion of the Shiite vs. Sunni conflict, the hatred towards America, the overthrowing of the Shah, the oil economy, key cities there, the universities in Iran, student culture and social morals there. They have some beautiful mosques there.
Oh! history and the documentaries. I can watch them forever, the travelogues, religious ones, doomsday conspiracies, nature and wildlife, art, sci-fiction and what not!!! It is a time that I feel as never wasted.