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 04 Jun 2015

Shivaji was the 17th century warrior-king who challenged the Muslim Moghul Empire and today stands as a symbol of Hindu pride. Prof. Sunil Khilnani explores Shivaji's multiple incarnations, the latest of which is as a role model for corporate networkers and deal-makers. Shivaji is the presiding spirit of the state of Maharashtra and its capital, Mumbai. The city's airport and main railway station are named after him and there are plans for a statue of Shivaji, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, to be built out to sea from the city. His martial image, sword in hand, is a symbol of regional and Hindu identity. But Sunil Khilnani argues that Shivaji was a self-made man, the product of relentless self-improvement: "From relatively small beginnings, he plotted, sweated, and traded up to glory." Prof. Khilnani discovers Shivaji's legacy in a gym in a working class neighbourhood of Mumbai and among career-minded pilgrims on a corporate bonding trip to the mountaintop site of Shivaji's coronation. Producer: Jeremy Grange Original music composed by Talvin Singh.. . .