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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Professor Sunil Khilnani visits a modern-day clinic which follows the practices set out by Charaka, a medical pioneer whose handbook is still widely used in India today. His text, known as the Charaka Samhita or 'Compendium of Charaka', is an encyclopaedic work covering different aspects of health and how to live a good life. Ayurveda is the best known of the Indian subcontinent's three indigenous medical traditions and continues to be an important adjunct to India's national health system. Today, it is part of government policy and a ministry funds Ayurvedic training and care. Charaka believed that health depended on the balance of basic humours - wind, bile, phlegm - and that "if these elements are disturbed from their proper bodily locations, illness follows. Such disturbance often occurs through our own thoughtlessness, what Charaka calls 'violations of good judgement'." Produced by Mark Savage
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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