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 24 Feb 2016

Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of Swami Vivekananda, a social and religious reformer who became India's first global guru, credited with introducing yoga to the west. Vivekananda was a restless, baby-faced monk from Calcutta. And his image - arms defiantly folded, soft features hardened by a Napoleonic gaze - can be found all over that city today - on t-shirts, murals, posters and sculptures. It's a ubiquity that is testament to both his contemporary influence - and to the way his essential message has been transformed. In his lifetime, Vivekananda was a reformer who insisted that Hinduism's moral force rested on its capacity to meet society's practical needs. In order to meet those needs Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission, which had no precedent among Indian religious institutions, and continues all across the country as a dispenser of education, health and social welfare. But despite his practical, critical, universalist thinking, Vivekananda has today become one of Hindu nationalism's leading spiritual lights. Featuring Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith.. . .