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 14 May 2015

Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life and legacy of Kautilya, whose treatise on political power dates back at least two thousand years. The Indian political strategist has been compared to Machiavelli. Some say he is more ruthless. Kautilya's text, written on dried palm leaves, lay forgotten for more than a millennium until it turned up at a library in Mysore at the turn of the twentieth century, providing inspiration for early Indian nationalists. "The discovery summarily exploded a Western cliché: that Indians were primarily ethereal, spiritual thinkers," observes Professor Khilnani. "Here was a strategic text--focused on worldly ends, advocating ruthless means to achieve power." Producer: 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.. . .