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 11 Jun 2015

A portrait of the social reformer and anti-caste campaigner. Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the India Institute, King's College London, visits Pune where Jyotirao Phule set out to educate women and promote the cause of the lower-caste members of Indian society. Phule and his wife were castigated for challenging the caste system. In a defiantly symbolic act, he allowed all comers to drink from the well at his house, in an age when members of the lower castes were barred from drinking water used by the upper castes. Today there are many government funding schemes for schools which bear either Phule's or his wife's name but discrimination against the Dalits, then known as Untouchables, hasn't gone away. "Phule wanted to rock the system," says Professor Khilnani "not just to create tiny islands of equality". Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured in the series on the Radio 4 website.. . .