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 07 Mar 2016

Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the painter Amrita Sher-Gil - 20th century India's first art star - who died under shrouded circumstances in 1941 at the age of just 28. Sher-Gil left a vortex of stories behind her: about her narcissism and her love affairs. But even more compelling than the stories are the canvasses she left behind. Drawing from European artists like Cezanne, Gauguin, and Brancusi, and from Indian ones - the makers of the Buddhist wall paintings in the caves of Ajanta, and the miniature painters of the Pahari tradition - Amrita Sher-Gil managed to do something radical within Indian culture: to declare her own vision - a woman's vision - vital in the history of art. She endowed successive generations of Indians with something scarce in the culture: an example of an autonomous, creative female. Featuring interviews with artists Bharti Kher and Vivan Sundaram. Readings by Sheenu Das. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.. . .