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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Professor Sunil Khilnani looks at the contribution Sir William Jones made to our understanding of Indian history and culture. Jones set sail for India at the end of the 18th century where he became one of the greatest advocates for studying the glories of India's past. Already a master of many languages, he learned Sanskrit which he declared "more perfect than the Greeks, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either". He introduced a radical idea: that Sanskrit and Europe's classical languages were all tributaries of a single, lost linguistic river. Professor Khilnani describes Jones as "a man who arrived in India and studied its culture with humility and then sought to awaken the West to its riches. The irony is that he also awakened the East". Produced by Mark Savage
Researcher: Manu Pillai With a recital of an Indian composition on harpsichord, from the Oriental Miscellany by Jane Chapman. Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured in the series on the Radio 4 website.. . .
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