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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A portrait of Basavana, the radical poet and religious guru from the 12th century, whose words have inspired many other Indian poets, writers and dramatists. Professor Sunil Khilnani tells the story of a man whose deceptively simple verses protest against the immorality of the caste system and proclaim the intrinsic value of people who happen to be born poor. "His verses ... are what best explain him. They have a directness that reveals to us a free thinker, social reformer and religious evangelist who sometimes struggled to resist worldly temptations," says Professor Khilnani. Basavana was an inspiration to his followers yet his life came to a bitter end. His teachings are kept alive by a substantial religious community called the Lingayats who are concentrated in Northern Karnataka. Produced by Mark Savage
Researcher: Manu Pillai
Readings by Sagar Arya
Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.. . .
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