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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Sunil Khilnani tells the story of Mirabai, the 16th century mystic poet who is one of India's most revered saints. Mirabai was born into a conservative warrior caste in Rajastan but rejected traditional family life and became a wandering religious singer devoted to the Hindu god Krishna. "All this, of course, was scandalous behaviour," says Professor Sunil Khilnani "But Mira proved herself ungovernable in her spiritual zeal". Mirabai composed up to a hundred songs or bhajans which have been passed down through the centuries by oral tradition. Others have been added in her name over the centuries. Today some see Mirabai as a potent symbol of feminism and self-transformation, others as a passionate religious inspiration. With field recordings by Parita Mukta and readings by Sheenu Das Produced by Mark Savage
Researcher: Manu Pillai
Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.. . .
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