issue 25 Winter/Spring 05
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Evoking devotion

Many of Asia's key Buddhist pilgrimage sites retain the sense of mystery and the sacred that has drawn travellers to them for thousands of years. Yatra is a series of three lovingly made films about sites that have preserved their sanctity (while others have become tourist destinations). In some cases these places have remained unspoilt because, ironically, they have been secreted behind repressive regimes.

Dharma River follows a journey through Thailand, Laos and Burma, along the Irawaddy and Mekong rivers, ending in the remains of the lost Buddhist civilisation of Pagan in Burma - city of endless pagoda spires. Prajna Earth travels through Cambodia, Bali and Java, the highlights of which are the vast deserted temple complexes of Angkor Wat and Borobudur. And Vajra Sky depicts the remarkably vibrant life of Buddhist pilgrims in numerous shrines across Tibet.

The slow pace of the films, the beauty of the imagery, the absence of commentary, and mesmerising soundtrack enable them to evoke the power of the monuments they depict and the devotion of the pilgrims visiting them.

Yatra wraps its subjects in a romantic atmosphere, but their unspoilt, timeless quality is today under threat. As the director John Bush comments, 'They are on the brink of dissolving. But right now at these pilgrimage centres we have the privilege of almost going backwards in time. They are rare glimpses of a vanishing world.'