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 03 Jun 2015

Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles one of the most beguiling intellectual figures of his age, a man whose story resonates today as one of India's great 'what if' moments. Dara Shikoh was the scholar and heir to the Mughal throne whose war against his brother Aurangzeb ended in humiliation, the prince condemned to death and paraded through the streets of Delhi on a miserable, worn-out elephant. Dara was the eldest - and favourite - son of Emperor Shah Jahan. He became known in the Mughal court as Baba Dara - a Mughal Daddy's Boy - and spent his princely allowance pursuing his passion for religious ideas and translating scriptures. In doing so he opened a door to Indian religion and philosophy for later Western scholars. Dara believed that all religions converged to a single monotheistic truth, like rivers meeting together in the ocean. This was enough for his brother to label him an apostate and to wage a war of succession for the Mughal throne. Sunil Khilnani is in Delhi where, after his capture, Dara Shikoh's public humiliation and execution were played out. He considers how different the course of Indian history might have been if Dara had been victorious and Aurangzeb had been the one paraded through the city dressed in rags. Producer: Jeremy Grange.. . .