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, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life and legacy of Panini, a master of the ancient Sanskrit language who lived around two and a half thousand years ago. His grammar, known as the Astadhyayi, had a lasting impact and helped to make Sanskrit the lingua franca of much of Asia for more than a thousand years - not through conquest or colonisation but because it served a purpose. Panini's grammar relied on a system that functioned like a powerful algorithm, or a computer programme today. He created, "in a mere forty-pages, the most complete linguistic system in history and helped to make Sanskrit the lingua franca of much of Asia for more than a thousand years".
Produced by Mark Savage
With incidental music by 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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