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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Rajaraja was not the first of the Chola dynasty but he took their empire to its zenith - from a relatively small kingdom to the dominant empire in India. Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, visits Tamil Nadu where he finds modern day connections with the ruler whose name means 'king of kings'. Professor Khilnani visits the temple at Thanjavur which Rajaraja built a thousand years ago and named after himself, utilising the profits of trade. "For Raja Raja had pulled off something that no Indian ruler before him seems to have done," says Professor Khilnani. "He'd commandeered trading boats, timber sailed craft and launched maritime expeditions, bringing far flung wealth back home." The king was lavish with his gifts and used his wealth to capture the imaginations of those he ruled. His most important gift to art history came at the temple's consecration: 60 portable icons of Lord Shiva, the Hindu deity. Producer: Mark Savage
Researcher: Manu Pillai
With incidental music by the composer Talvin Singh
Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.. . .
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