As the release of Christopher Nolan's new film, Oppenheimer, approaches, fans in India are eagerly anticipating its arrival.
Many have taken the opportunity to revisit the renowned nuclear physicist's famous reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Oppenheimer frequently quoted from this sacred text, and his words have become synonymous with his remarkable achievements.
Oppenheimer's groundbreaking research led to the development of the first nuclear bombs.
Upon witnessing the successful test of the bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945, he immediately grasped the immense gravity of what he had contributed to.
It is often recounted that the first words that crossed his mind after the test were from the Gita: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I become death, the shatterer of worlds."
Early reactions to Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan's latest film, have described it as one of his best works. Some viewers have even admitted to being moved to tears throughout the film's entirety.
According to Time Magazine, Oppenheimer would read the Gita for personal enjoyment in the evenings and occasionally to entertain friends.
He kept a copy of the sacred text, bound in pink and held together with scotch tape, in his Princeton study. Additionally, he took Sanskrit lessons from Professor Arthur W Ryder at Berkeley, making it his eighth language of study.
Oppenheimer's colleague, Nobel Prize winner Isidor Rabi, believed that he had an "overeducation" in areas outside the scientific realm, including his fascination with Hinduism.
Rabi noted that Oppenheimer had a clear understanding of physics and its accomplishments, but at times, he veered towards a mystical realm of intuition when exploring the unknown.
According to a 1948 report from Time Magazine, Brigadier General Thomas F Farrell described Oppenheimer's demeanor on the day of the atomic bomb test.
As the seconds ticked away, Oppenheimer grew increasingly tense. He held onto a post to steady himself and barely breathed.
When the announcer shouted "Now!" and the explosion occurred, Oppenheimer's face relaxed, showing a tremendous sense of relief.
The ethical complexities of creating a bomb with such destructive power continued to impact Oppenheimer for years to come. The deployment of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively ended World War-II, but it also confirmed Oppenheimer's fears.
In an obituary published by the New York Times in 1967, Oppenheimer was quoted as telling fellow physicists that the bomb had mercilessly showcased the inhumanity and evil of modern war.
He believed that physicists, including himself, had gained a knowledge of sin that could not be lost.
In a news interview after the bombings in Japan, Oppenheimer recalled the emotions felt in the control room during the test. He described how the world would never be the same again. Some people laughed, some cried, but most were silent.
Oppenheimer referenced a line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, where Vishnu takes on a multi-armed form to persuade the Prince to do his duty and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Oppenheimer believed that everyone present that day shared this sentiment in some way.
Oppenheimer later took steps to regulate atomic energy by leading the Atomic Energy Commission's general advisory committee of top nuclear scientists. He also served on the atomic committee of the research and development board, providing advice to the military.
To prepare for his role as Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy reportedly studied the Bhagavad Gita.
The upcoming film Oppenheimer will prominently feature the 1945 test, as shown in the trailers. One of the most striking images from the trailer is Oppenheimer's face illuminated by the explosion.
The film is set to release worldwide on 21 July, with advance bookings available three weeks prior to the release date.
However, there were temporary halts in advance bookings due to the film receiving an 'A certificate' from the Central Board of Film Certification.
Oppenheimer, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and the late Martin J Sherwin, stars Cillian Murphy in the lead role, alongside Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, and others.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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