Revered in China, Okinawa and Japan as the founder of Zen and the martial arts, the Indian monk Bodhidharma was, till the writing, performance and publication of this play, almost totally forgotten in his homeland India.
Zen Katha tells the story of how Bodhidharma, born a price in the south Indian kingdom of Kanchipuram in the fifth century, had to discover ways to excel at unarmed combat because the royal Pallavas prided themselves on their wrestling skills. The Prince became a monk and travelled to China. There, his strange, and somewhat eccentric behaviour led to various piquant situations. He became not only the Founding Patriarch of Zen but also the first peaceful fighting monk. As Chief About of the Monastery of Shaolin, he initiated the tradition that now makes it unique.
Aldous Huxley has said of the martial arts devised by Bodhidharma: "Movements intrinsically beautiful and at the same time charged with symbolic meaning. The whole body transformed into a hieroglyphic, a succession of hieroglyphics, of attitudes modulating form significance to significance like a poem or a piece of music. Movements of the muscles representing movements of consciousness. It's meditation in action."
Partap Sharma is a playwright, novelist (Days of the Turban) and author of four books for children. His best known plays, A Touch of Brightness and Begum Sumroo, have been staged in various counties. His books have been published in India, England, USA, France, Denmark, Holland and Canada. As an actor, he has played the lead in five Hindi feature films and won the National Award in 1971 for his performance in Phir Bhi. He has also played the role of Nehru in the film Nehru: Jewel of India. In the year 2003, he spent three months in China to take part, again as Nehru, in an international film titled Chou-en-lai in Bandung. He has directed a number of documentary films, including a historical series for Channel Four Television, London, titled The Raj Through Indian Eyes. As a result, England's Museum of the British Empire & Commonwealth, in Bristol, now has a permanent section devoted to film clips and interviews titled The Partap Sharma Archive on the British Raj. His voice is well-known to cinema, TV and radio audiences as he is one of India's foremost commentators and narrators. He is the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
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