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 09 Jun 2015

Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles Rammohan Roy, the Bengali scholar and reformer who became a worldwide intellectual celebrity and campaigned against Sati, the suicide of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres. Rammohan Roy was part of an international set of radicals and reformers attacking established religion and ruling despots in the early 19th century, including the East India Company. He urged Indians to judge their society and behaviour by universal values at the very moment these values were emerging in the Enlightenment West. "And ever since Roy," Sunil Khilnani says, "Indians have been part of the global argument about the nature of justice, rights and freedom" He is best known for his advocacy for women and his opposition to Sati, the Hindu rite in which widows died on their husbands' funeral pyres. His campaign converged with the birth of an international concern with human rights. With contributions from Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and from the late Prof. Christopher Bayly, Sunil Khilnani's examination of Rammohan Roy's life takes him from the Sati ghats of Calcutta to a quiet cemetery on the outskirts of Bristol, Roy's last resting place. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original Music composed by Talvin Singh.. . .