Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

By Prof Sunil Khilnani

On Going since May 2015 • Updated weekly

Over the course of 50 episodes, Sunil Khilnani, director of the King's India Institute in London, takes listeners on a whirlwind journey from ancient India to the 21st century through the prism of the life stories of 50 remarkable individuals. He will also explore their surprising afterlives, which illuminate both the astonishments and urgent conflicts of India today.

He begins with the Buddha, exploring the story of his life and how he has been reinvented in modern India by those who oppose the caste system. "Buddha's solution to suffering lay in the individual mind. But he was also sketching a new form of society," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a moral meritocrat, and to an extent a social one too."

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  Direct Link   Download 0 Minutes 16 Mar 2016

Sunil Khilnani explores the life of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir. Born in Srinagar as a burden, Abdullah's father died before he was born. Dispossessed of their share of family property, Abdullah and his two elder brothers were expected to make the cheap cotton shawls on which their extended, devout family depended. But the young boy discovered he had a gift, for reciting the Koran, which allowed him to get out of darning. Eventually, it would help him see more of the world than his shabby corner of Srinagar. But his legacy today is an ambivalent one. For many he stands as the primary, powerful advocate of Kashmiri self-rule, who sacrificed his own freedom time after time in his attempts to secure representation and rights for his people. For others, especially younger Kashmiris today, he's the man who sold Kashmir out to India, first in the late-1940s and then again in the 1970s, in exchange for personal power. Producer: Martin Williams.. . .