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The Story of India

January 27, 2009

”A ten thousand year old epic that continues today…..”

”India has preserved the unbroken thread of the human story that binds us all.”

The introduction at the beginning itself hooks one,pulls one right in…
The popular British historian Michael Wood embarks on a journey of India,one which takes him to places like Pakistan,Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

Michael Wood’s enthusiasm and his love for India shine through in his words.His excitement is contagious.

In Michael Wood’s own words accompanied by the strains of Shankar Mahadevan’s O Sahiba, ”One of the greatest players in history is rising again.It’s a place whose children will grow up in a global superpower and yet still know what it means to belong to an ancient nation.

Episode 1 – Beginnings
Michael Wood travels throughout the subcontinent, tracing the richness and diversity of its peoples, cultures and landscapes. Through ancient manuscripts and oral tales Michael charts the first human migrations out of Africa. He travels from the tropical backwaters of South India through lost ancient cities in Pakistan to the vibrant landscapes of the Ganges plain. In Turkmenistan dramatic archaeological discoveries cast new light on India’s past.In Turkmenistan, there they find a civilisation named “Zorashtrian”, and there they also find horse drawn carts or chariots called Raths which are mentioned in the Rig Veda.

Wood also attempts to re-create soma, an ancient drink recorded in the Rig Veda.

Episode 2 – The Power of Ideas
The second episode in Michael Wood’s series moves on to the revolutionary years after 500BC – the Age of the Buddha. Travelling by rail to the ancient cities of the Ganges plain, by army convoy through Northern Iraq, and on down the Khyber Pass, he shows how Alexander the Great’s invasion of India inspired her first empire. The Rise of Maurya kingdom.

Episode 3 – Spice Routes and Silk Roads
In this episode he traces India in the days of the Roman Empire. In Kerala the spice trade opened India to the world, whilst gold and silk bazaars in the ancient city of Madurai were a delight for visiting Greek traders. From the deserts of Turkmenistan Michael travels down the Khyber Pass to Pakistan to discover a forgotten Indian Empire (Kushan Empire) that opened up the Silk Route and at Peshawar built a lost Wonder of the World. That wonder nowadays known by people as “Bare Raja Ka Tila“. Also offers an interesting theory(mind you, just a theory:) ) about the death of Emperor Kanishka at Mathura.

Episode 4 – Ages of Gold
The achievements of the country’s golden age, including how India discovered zero, calculated the circumference of the Earth and wrote the world’s first sex guide, the Kama Sutra. In the south, the giant temple of Tanjore and traditional bronze casters, working as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago are shown.(for me,this was awesome,amazing and everything else…these craftsmen dont even use measurements with the help of rulers or tapes!!Just a long strip of grass!everything is done according to the shilpa Shastra!’)

Episode 5 – The Meeting of Two Oceans
The documentary series about the history of India charts the coming of Islam to the subcontinent and one of the greatest ages of world civilisation: the Mughals. Michael Wood visits Sufi shrines in Old Delhi, desert fortresses in Rajasthan and the cities of Lahore and Agra, where he offers a new theory on the design of the Taj Mahal. He also looks at the life of Akbar, a Muslim emperor who decreed that no one religion could hold the ultimate truth, but whose dream of unity ended in civil war.

Episode 6 – Freedom and Liberation
This episode examines the British Raj and India’s struggle for freedom. Wood reveals how in South India a global corporation came to control much of the subcontinent, and explores the magical culture of Lucknow, discovering the enigmatic Briton who helped found the freedom movement. He traces the Amritsar massacre, the rise of Gandhi and Nehru, and the events that led to the Partition of India in 1947.

The book does not do justice to the Television Series.Do watch it.
The DVD contains extra sights and sounds as well as Additional scenes..

Story Of India on Wiki
Story Of India on PBS
In Michael’s words
Lesson Plans For Teachers
Another link for funstuff related to India for kids

BUY the BOOK ‘Story of India’ and The DVD at AMAZONUK
Here as well on Amazon again..

Of course, the series is also on You Tube..:D..

Watch THIS introduction on you tube and get hooked..DO WATCH THE VIDEO!!:)
Of course, Wood is very obviously an Indophile..:)..With not only his passion that clearly indicates it..but also with daughters whose names are Jyoti and Meenakshi..:)

But all in all one of the best Tele-documentaries to have ever come out on India…Shankar Mahadevan’s O Sahiba is foot tapping and totally fits in …If you want to view a series that shows India as a whole ,then this is as close as it gets…
A passion that touches you …that’s palpable even on the screen….
Children can watch this,students will love it…a dream come true for anyone who seeks to make students understand India and all that is India..

Jains celebrate the birth of Mahavira and, every 12 years, mark the life of one of their saints, Bahubali, with the Mahamastak Abhishek at Shravanabelgola. Festival participants are shown here next to the Chauri Bearer sculpture at the bottom of the 57 foot tall statue.

A Hindu woman bathes in the waters of the Ganges River. She is dressed in a cotton sari and her forehead is adorned with the traditional Hindu markings, the bindi and sindoor. For the 80% of Indians who are Hindus, the Ganges is considered sacred, the terrestrial home of the goddess Ganga, and has held a vaunted place within the faith for centuries. Hindus from all over the subcontinent make annual pilgrimages to the many temples and shrines located along its shores and believe it is auspicious to drink, bathe, and, after death, have their ashes scattered in the river. Bathing in the Ganges is a purifying ritual that is thought to wash away a penitent’s sins, and spreading one’s ashes in the water upon death may improve one’s karma and hasten salvation.

A Chola Sculpture

The holiest of India’s sacred cities, Varanasi’s mythical status within Hinduism has attracted religious seekers and pilgrims since antiquity. Previously known as Benares and Kashi (“city of light”), the abode of the Hindu god Shiva, Varanasi is referenced in the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Hindus believe that dying in the city will liberate them from the cycle of death and rebirth. Its present name derives from the two rivers, Varuna and Asi, that join the Ganges River here and the city is the most celebrated pilgrimage, destination in India.

Varanasi’s waterfront, with its miles of ghats, is the spiritual heart of the city that is home to hundreds of shrines, temples, and palaces. Its famous sites include the Vishvanath Temple, dedicated to Shiva; the Durga Temple, with its throngs of resident monkeys; the Sankat Mochan, a shrine to the monkey god Hanuman; and the Gyanvapi Mosque built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb on the site of an earlier Shiva temple. Several miles north of Varanasi is Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Apart from its religious significance, Varanasi has been a center of learning—notably Sanskrit studies—and trade, and is known for its silk saris decorated with elaborately brocaded borders.

By the eighth century CE, Islam had spread to Europe, across Central Asia, and to India, where Muslim traders settled along the southwest coast in the seventh century CE. The Cheraman Juma Masjid in Cranganore (in Kodungallur, Kerala) is believed to be the first mosque in India and dates to this period. Beginning in the eleventh century CE, Turkic and Afghan armies spread Islam into northern India. During the first half of the 10th century CE, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Punjab region and two centuries later, Muhammad of Ghor invaded Delhi and established the Delhi Sultanate.
Islam in India continued to flourish under the Mughal Empire, which succeeded the Delhi Sultanate and reached its height in the 16th century under the Emperor Akbar the Great, who promoted religious tolerance. Under the Mughals, Islamic culture and religion mixed with Indian and Hindu traditions, leaving an enduring legacy in art and architecture, including the Taj Mahal

For many today, non-violence is a concept only associated with Mahatma Gandhi and India’s freedom struggle during the early 20th century. However, Gandhi’s championing of non-violent resistance, or satyagraha, to bring about political change relied on principles that were already deeply ingrained in Indian thought and culture. Non-violence or non-injury (ahimsa in Sanskrit) is a precept common to three faiths that originated in the Indian subcontinent—Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Ahimsa is identified as an essential virtue in the ancient Hindu treatises the Upanishads. In Hinduism, adherents to the proscription against violence toward living things can escape from the cycle of rebirth and the doctrine also forms a basis for vegetarianism.

In Buddhism, non-violence is manifest in the Buddha’s emphasis on compassion and is also part of the faith’s moral codes. Buddhist principles of non-violence became part of the administrative policy of the Mauryan Empire during the reign of Ashoka in the third century, and reminders of these principles, such as this reclining Buddha, can still be found throughout India.

Boat building is also shown,of how the same techniques ,centuries old are still being used..amazing techniques..these…But Kerala’s most distinctive feature is probably its matrilineal society. Unique to South Asia, property in Kerala is passed from mother to daughter.

Of course there has been ample criticism of the series too…
and in the comment box of this blog a debate is raging…though I do agree with what A Hindu Atheist Says…”Jubilantly optimistic”is what the tone of the series is..🙂

Michael Wood signs off with these words at the end…

”Great civilizations over time develop responses ,habits,cultural immune systems that enable them to withstand the shocks and wounds of history and also to use the gifts of history.”

”These are the habits of successful civilizations and India has always done that ,always renewing its gene pool,being receptive to new ideas and yet tenaciously holding on to that essential vision which is India.”

India ,the ancient,the eternal,the ever new…

All information/photographs Courtesy PBS- STORY OF INDIA

Religions in India on PBS

No..I am not turning into a reviewer…:D….this just was one of those things that absolutely had to be shared…:)
As an Indian ,I think we can make more sense out of the series ,than a layperson who absolutely has no knowledge about India whatsoever….:)
But even for a layperson ,this promises a lot!:)
So for all those who want to know about India and its past,this is the series to grab hold of!:):)
Trust me ,you won’t be disappointed!:)
FOR A CHANGE,ITS JUST A RELIEF TO SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL INDIA CAN BE…….instead of harping on its negatives…or maybe I really needed to see it….

And I absolutely LOVED the note on which the series ended….It underlined all that India was,IS…and indeed can be….

The facts presented in the series can be contested,some of them are fiercely debated in fact…but in the end rely on your own judgement and knowledge of Indian history.Some facts are quite debatable.Yet,the cinematography is beautiful to say the least.

PS:-I have not been able to post comments in my comment box..there is some problem…thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments….(Usha Pisharody ,I learn from you..about being a learner.myself…:).)..I will try to post comments as soon as possible..:)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sagarone permalink
    January 28, 2009 12:09 am

    Thanks for sharing! Watching the intro on youtube now 🙂

  2. hitch writer permalink
    January 28, 2009 12:18 am

    Thanks for sharing… !

  3. Vinod_Sharma permalink
    January 28, 2009 12:21 am

    The ‘teacher’ in you is shining through! But this teaching is needed for a re-connect with the soul of India…’India ,the ancient,the eternal,the ever new…’, the India that ‘has preserved the unbroken thread of the human story that binds us all.’

    Strange that a Briton should be telling us all this…some of us think that ‘India’ was actually created by the British…

  4. Solilo permalink
    January 28, 2009 5:25 am

    Nice pictorial. Thanks Abhi for sharing. Will read it in detail.

  5. Indyeah permalink
    January 28, 2009 7:24 pm

    Sagarone:-You are most welcome:)Hope you like it..

    Hitchwriter:-You are welcome 🙂

    Vinod Sir:-Thank you..:)this is a beautiful presentation on India…
    Yes,exactly it takes an Englishman to show us…..however considering how most of us are not quite objective or not able to be objective(or not allowed to be what with the protests ,demonstrations) when it comes to India and specially the history…maybe an outsider is better equipped to show us that which we had forgotten(not that he’s very objective either 🙂 )but still it’s a better attempt than most…the facts are a bit haphazard…
    ”some of us think that ‘India’ was actually created by the British…”:D
    Angrez chale gaye ,inhe chod gaye..:D
    some brown sahibs who still long for all things Angrezi..:)

    Solilo:-you are most welcome..:)Take your time..its a beautiful story…..just to watch even if the facts somehow dont match..

  6. Usha Pisharody permalink
    January 29, 2009 1:24 am

    Oh my! It is indeed a joy to re discover and discover, the beauty that is our Nation! And take pride in the paths we traversed, take stock of what we are now, and then find glories that can be revisited again! Why can we not do that?

    After listening to manifold perspectives , most of them on Slumdog M, this is refreshing!!! As you give leeway to the content, correctly presuming the debatable and questionable nature of some of the inputs, it is however a wonderful task to have put it all together.

    And it takes a concerned and wise and passionate teacher to find this and educate us too! I know I learned a lot, and I know you did too… and that is why you come across as one of the commited lot of learners/teachers I know:) The other person I know is just a couple of years older to me 🙂 🙂

    Sorry I am later at all the posts.. wl leave the rest for the weekend. Annual day at school tomorrow.. lots of practice, and so I came home with a migraine, a bit of which has subsided today, [and that explains why I am here :)], but promises to perk up soon.. 😦

    Will be back. Till then.. keep posting! And learning, and teaching!

  7. Indyeah permalink
    January 29, 2009 9:20 am

    Usha Pisharody:-Exactly!:)What a beautiful land we live in. Sometimes we forget.
    And sometimes just as a balm for wounded souls ,and specially in today’s times ,this too is necessary is it not?:)I knew you would see it that way!..:)

    The Slumdog thing irritated me too.I just saw it as a masala movie,though admittedly Boyle could have toned it down a little..
    But didn’t realize until I saw this series that I simply had to get out of the cynical mindset and view the beauty if only fleeting and a past one..:)and somewhere it does give hope for the future too…
    or we would become jaded wouldn’t we?:)

    And oh!What dizzying praise,its making me feel giddy….:)
    And it has given me a huge boost…:)
    thank you so much for that!
    I learn everyday and have learnt so much from you too…I mean that…

    Annual Days are a lot of work and yet fun:)Have a great time as I know you will:)
    Hope your migraine stays down….loads of TLC should do the trick!:)and umm coffee maybe?:)(tea does it for me):)and rest loads and then come on to the blogworld..:)
    love and hugs!:)

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