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 15 May 2015

Professor Sunil Khilnani of the King's India Institute in London looks at the life and legacy of the emperor Ashoka, who ruled over a large part of the Indian sub-continent. He came to power around the time the Romans were fighting Carthage and the Chinese were building their Great Wall but faded from view over time. Rediscovered by the British, he went on to become an inspiration to India's nationalists. Ashoka's symbol of four lions, each facing in a different direction, can be found on official Indian documents and the nation's currency. His most remarkable legacy is the rock edicts, public instructions to his people on correct behaviour - including religious tolerance and his own principle of Dhamma. "Dhamma described the ruler's duty to interest himself in the welfare of his people, their health and happiness. It even committed him to planting banyan trees and mango groves along the roads, to provide water and resting places for travellers . . an early statement about the private faith of a leader and the responsibilities of public office" 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.. . .