Growing up one of my favorite movies was “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” If you haven’t seen it (has anyone not seen it?) or if it’s been too long for you to recall, I will remind you that the movie revolves around a Thuggee cult led by the villainous Mola Ram, who steals a village’s lingam stones, a most sacred item in any Shaivite temple.
Long before I began to identify as Hindu I had begun to understand why many felt the movie painted an unflattering picture of the Eternal Dharma. But I see things differently (chilled monkey brains, notwithstanding).
At the outset of the quest Indy is told about the theft, and the word “shankara” is used. Asked by his young sidekick, Short-Round what “Shankara” means, Indy responds with the famous line “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” Perhaps this is just a quest at this point for Indy, or perhaps Indy is a bit jaded by his many adventures, because “Shankara” in fact means “Dispeller of doubt”, Giver of Bliss” or “Doer of Good Deeds” and is a name referring to Lord Shiva or Shiva’s activities, the way I understand it. Either way it has very little to do with fortune and glory.
However, by the end of the film, after seeing the true depth of the evil done by the miscreant Thuggee band, Indy’s outlook is expanded. So much so that when he comes into hand-to-hand combat with Mola Ram, he delivers the stern rebuke: “You’ve betrayed Shiva!”
Clearly Indy has by now learned the import of these sacred lingams, and had, just maybe, received a bit of the gift of Shankara, himself.