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 01 Mar 2016

Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore. Born in 1861 To a prosperous Bengal family, Rabindranath Tagore went on to win India's first Nobel Prize, for literature, in 1913. While India has often been framed in terms of competing groups - whether traditional institutions like caste, religion, and patriarchal families, or imperial subjecthood, or contemporary mass movements for nationalism - Tagore cut through these collectivities and tried to create a space for individual choice that stood apart from imposed groupings. In a nationalist age when many of his contemporaries were preoccupied with independence, Rabindranath Tagore preferred to speak of freedom. But he wasn't a radical individualist, his conception of freedom was related to expressivity, connection, and that deepest of human experience: love. Becoming who you are, he recognised, is not something you do on your own. Featuring Professor Supriya Chaudhuri. Readings by Sheenu Das. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.. . .