00:00
00:00
0
share
add_circle Create Playlist
Raaga App
BBC Radio 4 - Raaga.com - A World of Music

BBC Radio 4

51

Episodes

51 Episodes Play All Episdoes
Dhirubhai Ambani: Fins
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani from the King's India Institute in London, on the life and legacy of the Indian business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance Industries. The son of a penurious schoolteacher, Ambani credited himself with an almost animal instinct for trading, coupled with a steel trap memory and an appetite for audacious risk. Today fifteen per cent of all India's exports go out in his company's name. It's the ultimate rag to riches story, mixed with street cunning and dazzling deals. In one case, which began with a tip from an underworld don, Ambani executives were accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by possessing sensitive Cabinet documents, including a draft national budget. A joke quickly did the Delhi rounds: the budget wasn't leaked to Reliance; Reliance had leaked the budget to the ministry. Producer: Mark Savage Editor: Hugh Levinson.
MF Husain: Hindustan Is Free
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at controversy over the Indian artist MF Husain, who spent the last days of his life in exile. Husain is considered by some to be the face of modern art in India but not necessarily by people in India itself. Husain died in his nineties having completed around ten thousand works. His paintings often attracted high prices but he became a target for mob anger over his portraits of Hindu goddesses and Indian feminine icons. Female deities had often shown nude in traditional art, but what enraged right-wing Hindus was that these images were created by a Muslim artist. "Had Husain been less popular beforehand, he probably would have been less hated." says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.
Charan Singh: A Common Cause
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, explores the life and legacy of Charan Singh, the lawyer turned politician who championed the cause of India's farmers. Singh is remembered today as the politician who took on Indira Gandhi in the Congress Party's heartland state. Uttar Pradesh. He redistributed power and altered the social structure of Northwest India, non violently. And he helped the world see the potential of the Indian farmer a bit more clearly. He succeeded in becoming India's first peasant prime minister but went from the highest office in a flash, replaced by his nemesis Indira Gandhi. Although today he is most often remembered for being a leader of his own caste, Professor Khilnani argues that Charan Singh has a unique status in Indian history. Producer: Mark Savage.
Satyajit Ray: India without Elephants
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of filmmaker Satyajit Ray. In the history of Indian cinema, there is a Before Ray, and an After. As Sunil Khilnani says, "he's the first truly modern filmmaker we have." But Satyajit Ray's career in India might not have continued past its first few films had he not been celebrated in the West. In his native Bengal, several of his films were popular. More were loathed. In today's thriving Bengali film culture, he's often held at arm's length: the guy who served it up for the West, and served it up a little sweet. But Ray's films made ideas hanging in the air feel fresh, for he brought to them an unusually large range of small gifts: psychological and sensory acuity, humour, humanism, a deep appreciation of family relationships, an ability to withhold judgement, an ear equally adept at dialogue and sound, and the visual imagination of a third-generation illustrator and photographer. These were sufficient to allow him, time and again, to achieve a realism few in Indian cinema wanted to meet. "It's the truth in a situation that attracts me," he told his actors. "And if I've been able to show it, that's enough for me." The result was a body of work of which the director Akira Kurosawa would remark, "Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon." Producer: Martin Williams.
Indira Gandhi: The Centre of Everything
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Indira Gandhi, India's first woman prime minister, whose darkest moment was a two year period known as "the emergency". Jails filled up with her critics while journalists and editors were detained alongside the political opposition. Those arrested could be held without trial and and she attempted to reduce the birth rate by offering men incentives to be sterilized. "Indira Gandhi in many ways issued the greatest threat to democracy in independent India's history," says Professor Khilnani, "weakening constitutional regularities established by her father. Yet the enduring effect of her rule was to open the state to a deeper and more accessible democracy". Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.
Subbulakshmi: Opening Rosebuds
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life of south Indian singer MS Subbulakshmi. Subbulakshmi's singing voice, striking from the start, would ultimately range three octaves. A perfectionist, she had the capacity to range across genres but narrowed over the years to what another connoisseur of her music has called a 'provokingly small' repertoire. In time, the ambitions of those who loved and profited from her combined with her gift to take her from the concert stage to film to the All-India Radio to near-official status as an icon of independent India. But, as Professor Khilnani says, "what was required of Subbulakshmi, in moving from South Indian musical celebrity to national cultural symbol, is deeply uncomfortable when considered through the prism of contemporary feminism." Producer: Martin Williams.
Krishna Menon: Sombre Porcupine
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khinani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life of Krishna Menon, the abrasive Indian diplomat and statesman who invented the concept of non-alignment. He was one of the most reviled figures of the Cold War era. The Americans regarded Menon as a "mischief maker"; the British thought he was in bed with the Soviets while the Soviets thought he was a lackey of the British; and the Chinese resented his attempts to school them in international affairs. The diplomat, who was the voice of India's foreign policy for almost two decades, pursued an agenda which deeply unsettled the superpowers. But, says Professor Khilnani, "Menon's approach helped give India an influential voice at the global diplomatic table, dominated by the big four powers." Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.
Sheikh Abdullah: Chains of Gold
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir. Born in Srinagar as a burden, Abdullah's father died before he was born. Dispossessed of their share of family property, Abdullah and his two elder brothers were expected to make the cheap cotton shawls on which their extended, devout family depended. But the young boy discovered he had a gift, for reciting the Koran, which allowed him to get out of darning. Eventually, it would help him see more of the world than his shabby corner of Srinagar. But his legacy today is an ambivalent one. For many he stands as the primary, powerful advocate of Kashmiri self-rule, who sacrificed his own freedom time after time in his attempts to secure representation and rights for his people. For others, especially younger Kashmiris today, he's the man who sold Kashmir out to India, first in the late-1940s and then again in the 1970s, in exchange for personal power. Producer: Martin Williams.
Raj Kapoor: The Politics of Love
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of the celebrated actor and movie director Raj Kapoor who attracted a huge following well before the term 'Bollywood' became known. Kapoor started making films, just as India became independent in 1947. Back then, the medium was more than mere entertainment. In a country where the literacy rate was 12 per cent, film was also a crucial medium of education and exposure. "Kapoor brought romance, sexuality, song and soul to Indian socialism," says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage.
Bhimrao Ambedkar: Building Palaces on Dung Heaps
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute, looks at the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar, champion of the community previously known as 'untouchables' whom he renamed as Dalits. Ambedkar, who was a Dalit himself and fought against caste discrimination. His face can be found on posters, paintings and coloured tiles in tens of millions of Dalit homes. To Indian schoolchildren, he is the man who wrote the country's constitution; and to India's politicians he is a public emblem of how far India has come in addressing the blight of caste. "Both readings simultaneously exaggerate and ghettoize Ambedkar's contribution," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a sophisticated, long-sighted Constitutional collaborator whose interests extended past caste to the very structure and psychology of Indian democracy." Producer: Mark Savage.
Manto: The Unsentimentalist
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of India's master of the short story, Saadat Hasan Manto. Manto didn't fuss much over his sentences. He wrote in a rush, at hack speed, for money - and often legless drunk. His raw, visceral, personal response to his experiences - including the massacre at Amritsar, cosmopolitan Bombay and the horror of Partition - matched a historical moment that needed a raw, human response. In a divided country that Manto thought possessed 'too few leaders, and two many stuntmen', his sentences asserted, plainly, the human facts - not the moral or political motives that produced them. As Professor Khilnani says, 'for all the velocity that his economy of language creates, the pressure of a story builds slowly. You're never quite prepared for the moment that blasts off the emotional roof. His sentences etch a groove in the mind not because he saturates his truths about atrocity in lurid color, but because he delivers them off-hand, even elliptically.' Readings by Sagar Arya. Producer: Martin Williams.
Jinnah: The Chess Player
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, looks at the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Descriptions of his early life do not sound like someone who would go on to lead India's Muslims: he spoke English, dressed impeccably in Western clothes from Savile Row, smoked cigarettes and, according to some accounts, consumed alcohol and ate pork. Yet it was Jinnah who, along with others, publicly assented to the partition of India which, carried out in haste, would give roughly half of India's Muslims political autonomy, cause around a million deaths, displace some 14 million people and transform the geopolitics of the world. Producer: Mark Savage Music: Talvin Singh.
Gandhi: In the Palm of Our Hands
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani explores the life and legacy of the Mahatma Gandhi: lawyer, politician and leader of the nationalist movement against British rule in India. He is generally admired outside India, but is the subject of heated debate and contention in his homeland. Some view him as an appeaser of Muslims, and blame him for India's partition. Others regret Gandhi's induction of Hindu rhetoric and symbols into Indian nationalism, revile him for his refusal to disavow caste, believe he betrayed the labouring classes, and are appalled at his views on women. "It's unsurprising that Gandhi provokes such a barrage of attacks," says Professor Khilnani. "His entire life was an argument - or rather, a series of arguments - with the world." Producer: Mark Savage.
Subhas Chandra Bose: A Touch of the Abnormal
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life of political leader and freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose. When Bose's father named his ninth child Subhas - "one of good speech" - he wasn't imagining the boy applying an oratorical gift to fervent radicalism. Just over forty years later - after numerous stays in British jails, a daring escape followed by appeals to ally his own forces with Nazi Germany and then Japan - George Orwell wrote that the world was well rid of him. Nonetheless, in India today he rates as a national hero, his name affixed to airports, schools, and stamps. The vitality of his hold on the national imagination is manifest in other ways too: after his death he was periodically "discovered" alive, as a prisoner in a Soviet concentration camp, as a Chinese military officer, or as an Indian sadhu, a holy man with miraculous powers. It took three official commissions, the last one in 2006, to certify that Subhas Chandra Bose actually died in 1945. His own life ended in failure, but his legacy would come to shape India's relationship with the world, in ways he could not have predicted. Producer: Martin Williams.
Amrita Sher-Gil: This Is Me
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the painter Amrita Sher-Gil - 20th century India's first art star - who died under shrouded circumstances in 1941 at the age of just 28. Sher-Gil left a vortex of stories behind her: about her narcissism and her love affairs. But even more compelling than the stories are the canvasses she left behind. Drawing from European artists like Cezanne, Gauguin, and Brancusi, and from Indian ones - the makers of the Buddhist wall paintings in the caves of Ajanta, and the miniature painters of the Pahari tradition - Amrita Sher-Gil managed to do something radical within Indian culture: to declare her own vision - a woman's vision - vital in the history of art. She endowed successive generations of Indians with something scarce in the culture: an example of an autonomous, creative female. Featuring interviews with artists Bharti Kher and Vivan Sundaram. Readings by Sheenu Das. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Amrita Sher-Gil: This Is Me
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the painter Amrita Sher-Gil - 20th century India's first art star - who died under shrouded circumstances in 1941 at the age of just 28. Sher-Gil left a vortex of stories behind her: about her narcissism and her love affairs. But even more compelling than the stories are the canvasses she left behind. Drawing from European artists like Cezanne, Gauguin, and Brancusi, and from Indian ones - the makers of the Buddhist wall paintings in the caves of Ajanta, and the miniature painters of the Pahari tradition - Amrita Sher-Gil managed to do something radical within Indian culture: to declare her own vision - a woman's vision - vital in the history of art. She endowed successive generations of Indians with something scarce in the culture: an example of an autonomous, creative female. Featuring interviews with artists Bharti Kher and Vivan Sundaram. Readings by Sheenu Das. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Iqbal: Death for Falcons
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the poet and philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal. One of India's most patriotic, eloquent writers, Iqbal is also celebrated as Pakistan's national poet. In his spare time, he wrote one of the first Urdu textbooks on economics; earned a doctorate in philosophy, which he studied for in Lahore, Cambridge and Germany; and became a barrister in London. It was during his time in the west that Iqbal formulated his Islamic critique of Western society that would eventually become famous in Europe, India and the larger Muslim world. To Iqbal, the West's problem was one of love and desire. Like the devil, the West seemed consumed with an insatiable appetite. But the devil's failing, like the failing of Milton's Satan, was that he 'declined to give absolute obedience to the Almighty Ruler of the Universe.' In the same way, the West, by turning away from God and the human brotherhood preached by Christ, had become a terrible inversion of the ideal society. Its desires, severed from the highest things, had become purely material. Iqbal's vision inevitably brought him to loggerheads with those, including the British government and the Congress movement, whose aspirations for India did not extend to an ideal Islamic polity. Partly as a result, although he died almost a decade before its creation, Iqbal's work has often been read as a forceful argument for Pakistan. Featuring Professor Javed Majeed. Readings by Sagar Arya. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith.
Periyar: Sniper of Sacred Cows
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of EV Ramaswamy Naicker, known to his followers as Thanthai Periyar: the Great Man - a self-conscious dig at his nemesis Gandhi, the Great Soul. Periyar is best known in India as an anti-Brahmin activist, a rationalist and a take-no-prisoners orator. He campaigned actively and energetically for decades against religion, against the caste system and for the equality of women. Where Gandhi and his followers wore white, Periyar instructed his supporters to dress in black. Where Gandhi massaged the religious beliefs of his audiences, Periyar called his listeners fools, insulted their beliefs and caste practices, and threatened to thwack their gods and idols with his slippers. And where Gandhi wanted to build a national Indian movement, Periyar revelled in the Dravidian south. 'I've got no personal problem with God," Periyar once said. "I've never even met him, not once". Occupying conventional political office never interested Periyar, but he left a massive imprint on modern south Indian politics. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith.
Visvesvaraya: Extracting Moonbeams from Cucumbers
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of engineer, planner and politician Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya. Visvesvaraya was a frail bureaucrat who walked hunched, as if the burden of state-building literally pressed down on his shoulders. But in the popular imagination he turned an engineering degree into a superhuman world-fashioning prowess. He changed the Indian nation with practical and enduring improvements for millions of people, including innovations in sanitation, statistics, flood control, drainage and irrigation. Austere to the point of dourness, but audaciously hopeful, Visvesvaraya sought to frog-march India into modernity. Featuring Bangalore-based social scientist Chandan Gowda. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith.
Tagore: Unlocking Cages
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore. Born in 1861 To a prosperous Bengal family, Rabindranath Tagore went on to win India's first Nobel Prize, for literature, in 1913. While India has often been framed in terms of competing groups - whether traditional institutions like caste, religion, and patriarchal families, or imperial subjecthood, or contemporary mass movements for nationalism - Tagore cut through these collectivities and tried to create a space for individual choice that stood apart from imposed groupings. In a nationalist age when many of his contemporaries were preoccupied with independence, Rabindranath Tagore preferred to speak of freedom. But he wasn't a radical individualist, his conception of freedom was related to expressivity, connection, and that deepest of human experience: love. Becoming who you are, he recognised, is not something you do on your own. Featuring Professor Supriya Chaudhuri. Readings by Sheenu Das. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Ramanujan: The Elbow of Genius
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. We are accustomed to mathematicians as enigmatic beings, but the case of Ramanujan, one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, is particularly mysterious. His life seems to be have been spun from the stuff of fiction and film. It's told most often as a tale of a deeply religious, largely self-taught savant, rescued from an obscure south Indian town and brought to Cambridge by a don - where, just as his world changing potential was being unlocked, he died at the age of 32, leaving his greatest insights still secret. This idealistic narrative - cut with various quantities of exoticism and the miraculous, depending on the teller - even involves some lost notebooks, dramatically rediscovered decades later, and a cryptic but ultimately revelatory deathbed letter. In most re-tellings, the maths are merely a backdrop to the drama and tragedy. But Ramanujan's theoretical discoveries are recognized today as being at the forefront of the discipline: with implications for scientists at the cutting edge of cancer research as well as physicists trying to understand the deepest structures of the universe. Featuring Professor Ken Ono. Readings by Sagar Arya. Producer: Martin Williams.
Chidambaram Pillai: Swadeshi Steam
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the thwarted revolutionary ambitions of Chidambaram Pillai. Chidambaram Pillai was a feisty baby-faced lawyer from Tuticorin in southern India. His is one of the many, largely forgotten stories of failure that litter the path to independence. But it's also a fascinating story, of an up-country lawyer without economic resource, social status or political power taking on the might of Empire. And he chose an unlikely way to resist the British: steam ships. Featuring historian David Washbrook. Producer: Martin Williams.
Annie Besant: An Indian Tomtom
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the journey of Annie Besant, from late Victorian campaigner and social reformer in England to leader of India's Congress Party. Possessed of a self-belief some thought inappropriate for a woman, Annie Besant's struggle against convention would make her an object of ridicule to many of her compatriots. So she escaped them: embarking on a life that would ultimately stretch across three continents and leave a mark on each of them She became a polemicist for an array of ideas that challenged the complacencies of the Victorian age: atheism, the rights of workers and of women, birth control, free speech, Fabian socialism, Irish Home Rule. She became the first woman to study for a science degree at University College, London. She organized an infamous match girls strike. She advocated for more women in local government. By the time she was forty, critics were calling her "Red Annie" and admirers were calling her one of the most remarkable women in nineteenth-century Britain. By the time she had reached eighty, she had become one of the most remarkable women in twentieth-century India. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Jamsetji Tata: Swadeshi Capitalist
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani explores the life and legacy of the industrialist Jamsetji Tata, one of a series of remarkable individuals who have made India what it is today. Tata played a vitally important role in establishing India's manufacturing base and went on to create the conditions for the country's future industrial development. Tata companies now constitute around five per cent of India's gross domestic product from hotels to power generation and IT. In the days of empire, the British dreamed of 'making the world England'; Tata helped to make the world more Indian. Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website. Producer: Mark Savage Readings: Sagar Arya.
Vivekananda: Bring All Together
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of Swami Vivekananda, a social and religious reformer who became India's first global guru, credited with introducing yoga to the west. Vivekananda was a restless, baby-faced monk from Calcutta. And his image - arms defiantly folded, soft features hardened by a Napoleonic gaze - can be found all over that city today - on t-shirts, murals, posters and sculptures. It's a ubiquity that is testament to both his contemporary influence - and to the way his essential message has been transformed. In his lifetime, Vivekananda was a reformer who insisted that Hinduism's moral force rested on its capacity to meet society's practical needs. In order to meet those needs Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission, which had no precedent among Indian religious institutions, and continues all across the country as a dispenser of education, health and social welfare. But despite his practical, critical, universalist thinking, Vivekananda has today become one of Hindu nationalism's leading spiritual lights. Featuring Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith.
Deen Dayal: Courtier with a Camera
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani returns with Incarnations. In the first programme he profiles the pioneering photographer Lala Deen Dayal. Born in 1844, Lala Deen Dayal would go on to become the court photographer for the fabulously wealthy sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, who dubbed him the "bold warrior of photography". Earlier in his career, his images of the historic monuments and architecture of India had become a sensation, and a means by which Indian landmarks could be appreciated in the West. Over subsequent decades, Deen Dayal's carefully arranged portraits would open a window on a second aspect of a splendid, idealized India: the lifestyles of the late nineteenth-century elite. Though India had at this high point of the Raj become the world's leading stage for status display, which often involved the shooting of tigers, a person's status wasn't quite fixed unless the moment itself was shot - ideally by Deen Dayal himself. "Deen Dayal captured a particular moment of elite indulgence and excess," says Sunil Khilnani. "Just before it was swept away." Like many successful artists, before him and since, Deen Dayal became adept at selling his patrons the images of themselves they most wanted to see, and share. And his story might be simply a portrait of an artist as a public relations man, if his artistry wasn't so compelling and historically revealing. Without him, we wouldn't understand so powerfully the moment when India became the world's exotic, wondrous playground for the wealthy, before the modern world got in the way. Featuring interviews with artist Dayanita Singh and art historian Deborah Hutton. Producer: Martin Williams Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Birsa Munda: Have You Been to Chalkad?
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles Birsa Munda, the young, charismatic healer who led his tribal community in revolt against the British and whose life, more than a century after his death, poses the question: 'Who owns India?' Scattered across the subcontinent, India's tribal peoples or Adivasis, match in size the populations of Germany or Vietnam. Yet the land rights of India's original inhabitants are regularly overridden in the name of development. One of history's great defenders of Adivasi rights was Birsa Munda, born in the late 19th century in what is now the north-eastern state of Jharkhand. At a time of famine and disease across northern India his community looked to the Birsa for healing and leadership. The young man who claimed he could turn bullets to water led a rebellion against the British, their Indian middlemen and Christian missionaries. The question 'Who owns India' takes Sunil Khilnani to a tribal community who are losing their land and access to food, fuel and water with the growing encroachment of luxury housing complexes - second homes for city dwellers. We also hear from author and political activist Arundhati Roy. "The fact that Adivasis still exist," she says, "is because people like Birsa Munda staged the beginnings of the battle against the takeover of their homeland. Though he died at the age of just 25, Birsa Munda has become a lasting symbol of tribal resistance. He's the only Adivasi whose portrait hangs in the Indian Parliament. "His was a firework of a life," says Sunil Khilnani, "but a life whose embers still burn". Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original Music composed by Talvin Singh.
Jyotirao Phule: The Open Well
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
A portrait of the social reformer and anti-caste campaigner. Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the India Institute, King's College London, visits Pune where Jyotirao Phule set out to educate women and promote the cause of the lower-caste members of Indian society. Phule and his wife were castigated for challenging the caste system. In a defiantly symbolic act, he allowed all comers to drink from the well at his house, in an age when members of the lower castes were barred from drinking water used by the upper castes. Today there are many government funding schemes for schools which bear either Phule's or his wife's name but discrimination against the Dalits, then known as Untouchables, hasn't gone away. "Phule wanted to rock the system," says Professor Khilnani "not just to create tiny islands of equality". Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured in the series on the Radio 4 website.
Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi: Badass Queen
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani explores the life of Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, the queen who fought against the British and became a heroine of India's 1857 Rebellion. "The Rani was certainly no ordinary queen," he says of the woman who was listed by Time magazine as one of its 'Top Ten Badass Wives'. A typical day for Lakshmibai involved weightlifting, wrestling and steeplechasing - all before breakfast. Yet, despite her physical prowess, she was a reluctant rebel. She was drawn into the uprising only when the British annexed Jhansi after her husband died. The legend goes that, when the Rani's fort was under siege from the British, she mounted her horse, her young son holding on tight behind her, and leapt to freedom from the ramparts. The most iconic image of the Rani of Jhansi is at her last stand, in battle: again on horseback with her sword held high and the reins of her horse between her teeth. It's an image that evokes powerful Hindu goddesses like Kali and Durga. However, Sunil Khilnani argues that, by ascribing its heroines extra-human powers, supposedly to celebrate them, India is in fact denying the reality of women's experience. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original Music composed by Talvin Singh.
Rammohan Roy: Humanity in General
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles Rammohan Roy, the Bengali scholar and reformer who became a worldwide intellectual celebrity and campaigned against Sati, the suicide of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres. Rammohan Roy was part of an international set of radicals and reformers attacking established religion and ruling despots in the early 19th century, including the East India Company. He urged Indians to judge their society and behaviour by universal values at the very moment these values were emerging in the Enlightenment West. "And ever since Roy," Sunil Khilnani says, "Indians have been part of the global argument about the nature of justice, rights and freedom" He is best known for his advocacy for women and his opposition to Sati, the Hindu rite in which widows died on their husbands' funeral pyres. His campaign converged with the birth of an international concern with human rights. With contributions from Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and from the late Prof. Christopher Bayly, Sunil Khilnani's examination of Rammohan Roy's life takes him from the Sati ghats of Calcutta to a quiet cemetery on the outskirts of Bristol, Roy's last resting place. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original Music composed by Talvin Singh.
William Jones: Enlightenment Moghul
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani looks at the contribution Sir William Jones made to our understanding of Indian history and culture. Jones set sail for India at the end of the 18th century where he became one of the greatest advocates for studying the glories of India's past. Already a master of many languages, he learned Sanskrit which he declared "more perfect than the Greeks, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either". He introduced a radical idea: that Sanskrit and Europe's classical languages were all tributaries of a single, lost linguistic river. Professor Khilnani describes Jones as "a man who arrived in India and studied its culture with humility and then sought to awaken the West to its riches. The irony is that he also awakened the East". Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai With a recital of an Indian composition on harpsichord, from the Oriental Miscellany by Jane Chapman. Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured in the series on the Radio 4 website.
Nainsukh: Owner Transfixed by Goose
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles Nainsukh, the 18th century artist whose intimate and engaging portraits of a prince's life created a new vision for Indian art. In his paintings of his patron, Balwant Singh, Nainsukh departed from the rigid formality of traditional Indian painting. Instead he showed the prince in his most unguarded moments: having his beard trimmed by a barber, being mimicked by a performer, huddled ill and depressed under a bulky quilt, and writing a letter bare-chested in his tent. "It's an almost modern, instagram-esque familiarity" says Sunil Khilnani. The artist Howard Hodgkin, an appreciator and collector of Nainsukh's work, describes Nainsukh as "the first great modern artist of India". In his favourite painting, Balwant Singh and his pet goose stare at each other, both bird and prince transfixed. Prof. Khilnani tells the story of two men: one a painter with a unique talent to express humanity and individuality, warmth and humour; the other a prince who unreservedly, unselfconsciously gave himself to the artist as subject. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith.
Shivaji: Dreaming Big
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Shivaji was the 17th century warrior-king who challenged the Muslim Moghul Empire and today stands as a symbol of Hindu pride. Prof. Sunil Khilnani explores Shivaji's multiple incarnations, the latest of which is as a role model for corporate networkers and deal-makers. Shivaji is the presiding spirit of the state of Maharashtra and its capital, Mumbai. The city's airport and main railway station are named after him and there are plans for a statue of Shivaji, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, to be built out to sea from the city. His martial image, sword in hand, is a symbol of regional and Hindu identity. But Sunil Khilnani argues that Shivaji was a self-made man, the product of relentless self-improvement: "From relatively small beginnings, he plotted, sweated, and traded up to glory." Prof. Khilnani discovers Shivaji's legacy in a gym in a working class neighbourhood of Mumbai and among career-minded pilgrims on a corporate bonding trip to the mountaintop site of Shivaji's coronation. Producer: Jeremy Grange Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Dara Shikoh: The Meeting Place of the Two Oceans
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles one of the most beguiling intellectual figures of his age, a man whose story resonates today as one of India's great 'what if' moments. Dara Shikoh was the scholar and heir to the Mughal throne whose war against his brother Aurangzeb ended in humiliation, the prince condemned to death and paraded through the streets of Delhi on a miserable, worn-out elephant. Dara was the eldest - and favourite - son of Emperor Shah Jahan. He became known in the Mughal court as Baba Dara - a Mughal Daddy's Boy - and spent his princely allowance pursuing his passion for religious ideas and translating scriptures. In doing so he opened a door to Indian religion and philosophy for later Western scholars. Dara believed that all religions converged to a single monotheistic truth, like rivers meeting together in the ocean. This was enough for his brother to label him an apostate and to wage a war of succession for the Mughal throne. Sunil Khilnani is in Delhi where, after his capture, Dara Shikoh's public humiliation and execution were played out. He considers how different the course of Indian history might have been if Dara had been victorious and Aurangzeb had been the one paraded through the city dressed in rags. Producer: Jeremy Grange.
Malik Ambar: The Dark Fated One
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles the life of Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian slave who rose to become a power-broker and king maker. Malik Ambar's story challenges some of our familiar perceptions of slavery. He was part of a tradition of military slavery which created elite warriors, educated and nurtured by their masters and treated almost like sons. Once freed, his power base grew. He took on the mighty Mughal Empire of the north using sophisticated guerrilla tactics and an ability to harass his enemy under cover of darkness. Emperor Jahangir became obsessed with the Ethiopian, calling him "the ill-starred Ambar" and "Ambar of dark fate". A painting commissioned by Jahangir shows the Ethiopian's severed head on a spear and the Emperor firing arrows into it. However, as Prof. Khilnani reveals, all is not what it seems in that image. Sunil Khilnani contrasts the rise to power of a black African in 16th century India with contemporary Indian attitudes towards people of African descent - a racism even shared by Mahatma Gandhi during his South African years. Producer: Jeremy Grange.
Akbar: The World and the Bridge
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, tells the story of Akbar, the greatest ruler of the Mughal Empire. Akbar seems to have managed to combine a ruthless early career with a startling religious tolerance in later life. His empire covered a huge swathe of the Indian subcontinent, from the Bay of Bengal in the east to the Arabian Sea, and southwards to the Deccan. Akbar showed no mercy in his pursuit of power and secured his gains with an iron fist. The defenders of a fort in Rajasthan chose mass suicide rather than surrender and Akbar went on to slaughter, some say, more than 20,000 inhabitants. And yet he seems to have grasped the diversity of beliefs and of culture across the land he ruled and propagated his own syncretic system of religious faith known as Din-I-Lahi. His stance has made him a pet for modern secularists but Professor Khilnani says we should be cautious. "However complex his motivations might have been, his commitment to pluralism yielded clear-cut instrumental advantages: it allowed him to expand his empire and maintain dominion over so many subjects." Producer: Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Mirabai: I Go the Other Way
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Sunil Khilnani tells the story of Mirabai, the 16th century mystic poet who is one of India's most revered saints. Mirabai was born into a conservative warrior caste in Rajastan but rejected traditional family life and became a wandering religious singer devoted to the Hindu god Krishna. "All this, of course, was scandalous behaviour," says Professor Sunil Khilnani "But Mira proved herself ungovernable in her spiritual zeal". Mirabai composed up to a hundred songs or bhajans which have been passed down through the centuries by oral tradition. Others have been added in her name over the centuries. Today some see Mirabai as a potent symbol of feminism and self-transformation, others as a passionate religious inspiration. With field recordings by Parita Mukta and readings by Sheenu Das Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Krishnadevaraya: Kingship Is Strange
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, visits Hampi in today's Karnataka, site of the sprawling capital of Krishnadevaraya, 16th-century warrior and self-doubting king. Krishnadevaraya lived in a brutal age and yet his writings show he was both learned and thoughtful, with an artistic temperament. He was a compulsive self-promoter whose presence is felt amongst the ruins at Hampi, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it is in the Amuktamulyada, his long poetic work, that we hear his original voice which marks, says Professor Khilnani, "the emergence of an individual self, a subjective voice - centuries before the arrival of colonial ideas of the individual". Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Editor: Hugh Levinson.
Guru Nanak: The Discipline of Deeds
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Today's Incarnation is a poet who established one of the great world religions: Guru Nanak, the 15th century founder of Sikhism. Like the Buddha and Mahavira, the founder of the Jain religion, Nanak was a wanderer. He spent 25 years on the road and is said to have travelled as far as Mecca and the Himalayas. But, unlike his predecessors, when he had achieved enlightenment he returned to his homelands in the Punjab. He taught his disciples that, rather than renouncing the world and retreating from it, they must use their faith to change it from within. Nanak's 'disciplined worldliness' emphasised the importance of work and family. He also instituted an idea which is practised in Sikh temples all over the world. Sunil Khilnani visits the Gurudwara Nanak Piao in Delhi as they serve the langar, a meal provided by volunteers to anyone who comes, regardless of status, sex or religion. Everybody eats together in an equalizing act, a dispelling of the taboos designed to protect caste boundaries. Sunil explores the life of a man whose ideas were polemical and provocative. In announcing that "there is neither Hindu nor Muslim" Nanak wasn't proposing a harmonious blend of religions. Instead, he was rejecting other paths and creating an entirely new religion, one which now has around 30 million followers. Producer: Jeremy Grange Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Kabir: Offender and Offendables
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Today's subject is the low-caste weaver and poet who dared to upturn the social orthodoxies of 15th century India - and who still challenges us today. Sunil explores the life and poetic legacy of Kabir - a dissenter, a provoker and an abrasive debunker of humbug. There are plenty of legends around the poet - for example that, after his death, his body transfigured into flowers so that he could be neither cremated by his Hindu followers s nor buried by Muslim devotees - but we actually know very little about Kabir's life. One of the few certain facts is that he lived in India's most sacred city, Varanasi. Sunil Khilnani finds himself in the poor neighbourhood of Bajardhia where low-caste Muslims still work today as weavers. Sitting in cramped rooms among men with little work, Sunil reflects on the man who described himself as 'a patient weaver's son' but who is actually one of the most impatient, acerbic, fed-up voices in the Indian cultural canon. Kabir has become venerated across northern India as a saint, almost a god. Yet Sunil finds Kabir's name being invoked in secular circles too, for example the annual Jaipur Literary Festival, a 21st century haven for independent thinking. Here he meets the eminent poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, translator of Kabir's poems into modern idiom and an advocate for the poetic dissenter who wasn't afraid to offend the powerful. Producer: Jeremy Grange Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Amir Khusro: The Parrot of India
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
By turns warrior, prisoner of war, court poet and passionate Sufi devotee, Amir Khusro was above all a quick-witted literary survivor. And his ability to write for all manner of patrons and audiences, added to his faith in Sufism, would help his words endure for 700 years. Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the man who called himself 'The Parrot of India'. After a career as a soldier, Khusro gained fame in the royal courts of Delhi where poets improvised and extemporised for their patrons, competing with each other in a kind of medieval poetry slam. But despite being the most admired court poet of his time, he eventually suffered burnout and turned for spiritual strength to the great Sufi Muslim saint Nizamuddin Auliya. From then on his poetry focussed on the ideal of Sufi devotion, a merging of identity between master and follower. Sunil Khilnani visits old Delhi and Khusro's tomb where his songs, passed down through 700 years of oral tradition, are still performed. Those songs have also come to live in the unconscious of millions of Indians through their use in cinema. Javed Akhtar, one of the great song-writers of Indian cinema, pays tribute to his 13th century predecessor. The founding fathers of modern India made Amir Khusro a mascot of cultural harmony. Sunil Khilnani explores the life of a Sufi Muslim who has become the embodiment of the nation's unofficial motto: 'Unity in Diversity'. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith Original music composed by Talvin Singh.
Basavana: A Voice in the Air
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
A portrait of Basavana, the radical poet and religious guru from the 12th century, whose words have inspired many other Indian poets, writers and dramatists. Professor Sunil Khilnani tells the story of a man whose deceptively simple verses protest against the immorality of the caste system and proclaim the intrinsic value of people who happen to be born poor. "His verses ... are what best explain him. They have a directness that reveals to us a free thinker, social reformer and religious evangelist who sometimes struggled to resist worldly temptations," says Professor Khilnani. Basavana was an inspiration to his followers yet his life came to a bitter end. His teachings are kept alive by a substantial religious community called the Lingayats who are concentrated in Northern Karnataka. Produced by Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Readings by Sagar Arya Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Rajaraja Chola: Cults of the Imagination
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
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.
Shankaracharya: A God Without Qualities
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Is that a snake or a coiled rope? Intriguingly, that is the question which starts Professor Sunil Khilnani's look at the life and legacy of Adi Shankaracharya, the philosopher and theologian who set Hinduism - the third largest religion in the world - on a new course. Shankaracharya's ambition was to provide a unified, coherent, single reading of the Hindu scriptures. His teachings were not universally embraced but they were revived by Indian nationalists looking for a muscular response to the monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam. His efforts to capture the oneness of the universe produced beautiful, sometimes enigmatic sentences - as elusive as the man himself. "I am neither earth nor water nor fire nor air nor sense-organ nor the aggregate of all these," wrote Shankaracharya, "for all these are transient, variable by nature." Produced by Mark Savage Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Aryabhata: The Boat of Intellect
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani, from the King's India Institute in London, explores the life and legacy of Aryabhata, the legendary Indian mathematician and astronomer. Unknown in the West until a few decades ago, he is said by some to rank with Euclid and the great Greek mathematicians and astronomers such as Ptolemy. But unlike Euclid, Aryabhata left no proofs, explaining how to recreate his findings. "His ideas, translated into Arabic, influenced Islamic astronomers and mathematicians. But he wasn't working in the idiom of his Western counterparts, so his ideas didn't feed into the global stream of scientific discovery, and eventually Indians forgot Aryabhata too. It was only when science and technology began to flourish in modern India that his reputation got a relaunch," says Professor Khilnani. Producer: Mark Savage Researcher: Manu Pillai Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Charaka: On Not Violating Good Judgement
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
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.
Ashoka: Power and Persuasion
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
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.
Kautilya: The Circle of Power
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
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.
Panini: Catching the Ocean in a Cow's Hoofprint
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
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.
Mahavira: Soldier of Nonviolence
Incarnations: India in 50 Lives
access_time2 years ago
Professor Sunil Khilnani of the King's India Institute explores the life and legacy of Mahavira Jain. Born more than two thousand years ago, Mahavira is the inspiration for millions of followers of the Jain religion. It teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of non-violence and renunciation. At its heart is a belief that the entire world, from the ground we tread on to the air we breathe, is filled with life: our duty is to protect this universe of living souls through non-violent action. Mahavira is the last in the line of Tirthankars, beings who were said to be able to cross over from the world of human suffering into the realm of spiritual liberation. Unlike the other Tirthankars, we can be certain that he existed. "Mahavira asked his followers to renounce untruths and sex, to give up greed and attachment to worldly things - and stop all forms of killing or violence," says Professor Khilnani. "In short, the normal, devious, grasping and aggressive self had to be conquered." Produced by Mark Savage Listeners can catch up with the series and see the list of remarkable Indians featured on the Radio 4 website.
Programs