Die Leuchte Asiens

The Light of Asia / Prem sanyas
The framework story of the film is an old Buddhist monk telling English tourists the life story of the Buddha Gautama, who was born Siddhartha Gautama, son of a king, in the sixth century BCE. In fear of a prophecy that he would renounce all worldly things, his father surrounded him with riches and beautiful women. But Gautama’s favour belonged solely to the princess Gopa. His rival for her affections is his cousin Devadatta, but Gautama wins her as his wife and the couple lives in seclusion on an idyllic island. However, when he leaves the island and is confronted with aging, illness, and death, he faces a choice between wealth and inner greatness … India, on the threshold of modernity, affirms its spiritual roots with the help of a director from Germany – this magnificent, monumental film is a combination of oriental fairytale and religious Passion Play, an early form of the Hindu cinema that would later become Bollywood. Embedded in a documentary travelogue, cinema makes an appearance alongside older, magical practices. People no longer hope for enlightenment under the bodhi tree, but rather from a film projector.
by Franz Osten
with Himansu Rai, Seeta Devi, Sarada Ukil, Rani Bala, Prafulla Roy, Sunit Mitter, Jagit Mathur, Sundar Rayam, Profulla Chandra
Germany / India 1925 English intertitles 98’ Black/White


  • Himansu Rai
  • Seeta Devi
  • Sarada Ukil
  • Rani Bala
  • Prafulla Roy
  • Sunit Mitter
  • Jagit Mathur
  • Sundar Rayam
  • Profulla Chandra


Director Franz Osten
Screenplay Robert Menasse based on the epic poem “The Light of Asia” (1879) by Sir Edwin Arnold
Cinematography Wilhelm Kiermeier, Josef Wirsching
Costumes Charu Roy
Producers Peter Ostermayer, Himansu Rai

Produced by

Münchner Lichtspielkunst AG (Emelka)

Great Eastern Film Corp.

Himansu Rai Film

Additional information

DCP: Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt am Main