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 25 Feb 2016

Sunil Khilnani explores the journey of Annie Besant, from late Victorian campaigner and social reformer in England to leader of India's Congress Party. Possessed of a self-belief some thought inappropriate for a woman, Annie Besant's struggle against convention would make her an object of ridicule to many of her compatriots. So she escaped them: embarking on a life that would ultimately stretch across three continents and leave a mark on each of them She became a polemicist for an array of ideas that challenged the complacencies of the Victorian age: atheism, the rights of workers and of women, birth control, free speech, Fabian socialism, Irish Home Rule. She became the first woman to study for a science degree at University College, London. She organized an infamous match girls strike. She advocated for more women in local government. By the time she was forty, critics were calling her "Red Annie" and admirers were calling her one of the most remarkable women in nineteenth-century Britain. By the time she had reached eighty, she had become one of the most remarkable women in twentieth-century India. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.. . .