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'Umadevi - Polish theosophist who made India her home, icon for tolerance'

IANS  |  Kolkata 

Screened at the 21st Kolkata International Film Festival, a documentary on the life and works of Wanda Dynowska, the Polish theosophist who made India her home, has lifted the veil of obscurity shrouding the social activist's contribution to fostering unity amid the debate over intolerance in India.

Shot in India and Poland, "Enlightened Soul: The Three Names of Umadevi" revolves around Dynowska, known as Umadevi to some and Tenzin Chodon to others. Dynowska was a Polish writer, translator, poet, philosopher, spiritualist and mystic.

Directed by Tonmoy Das, the documentary was screened for President Pranab Mukherjee in September this year. It unravels her life through interviews of people - both in India and Poland - who remember her, including Tibetan spiritual leader thed Dalai Lama.

"Mahatma Gandhi honoured her with the title of 'Umadevi'. She also wholeheartedly supported the Dalai Lama and his people's cause and even convinced him to adopt vegetarianism for a time," producer Sujata Sett told the media here.

"Very little is recorded about her in India. She was an exceptionally active promoter of Polish culture and history in India. We hope the documentary can bring the two nations closer through the shared legacy of Umadevi," Sett said.

Sett said over the course of her extraordinary life, Dynowska befriended some of the most important people of the time (including Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama) and became involved in various endeavours of humanity and spirituality.

Dynowska translated important works of Polish poets from Polish to English, Tamil, and Hindi and published these works in India.

"She combined Catholicism, Hinduism and Budhhism with consummate ease. Even though she adopted Indian (Umadevi) and Tibetan identities (Tenzin Chodon) identities, she remained a Polish patriot," added Sett.

Born in Saint Petersburg (Russia) into a family of Polish nobility, Dynowska studied in Krakow and Lausanne. From 1919, she became an active promoter of theosophy in Poland. She was general secretary for the Theosophical Society in Poland.

She travelled to India in 1935 and made the country her second home, staying on until her death in 1971.

Both Das and Sett say that remembering her contribution is important now since "these are times of religious conflicts and divisions" and Umadevi embraced all and "stands as an icon of tolerance and unity".

The film will be shown on Doordarshan on December 22.

First Published: Fri, November 20 2015. 14:08 IST