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 Wood 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. Archaeological discoveries in the Bactria.
Episode 2 – The Power of Ideas – The second episode in Michael Wood’s series moves on to the revolutionary years after 500 B.C. – the Age of the Buddha and Mahavira. traveling by rail to the ancient cities of the Ganges plain, by army convoy through Northern Iraq, and down Pakistan’s Khyber Pass, he shows how Alexander the Great’s invasion of India inspired her first major empire in the form of the Mauryan Empire, ruled by Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka.
Episode 3 Spice Routes and Silk Roads – after the West’s “discovery” and subsequent exploitation of the Monsoon winds, trading of spices and gold with the ancient Romans and Greeks put the subcontinent at the heart of global commerce. The trading of pepper, rice and silk put the West coast of India, and particularly modern day Kerala, on the map of global business. This episode also looks at how the invading Kushan empire from central Asia, particularly the emperor Kanishka, established major trading cities in Peshawar and Mathura, as well as helping to take Buddhism to China.
Episode 4 Ages of Gold – Episode Four is the story of India in the Middle Ages. At the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, and the European Dark Ages, India had a series of great flowerings of culture, both in the north and the south. In this episode Michael Wood shows us some of the amazing achievements of medieval India In astronomy they discovered the heliocentric universe, zero and the circumference of the earth. They mastered the world’s first large scale wrought iron technology the Delhi iron pillar, and their courtly culture was the setting the world’s first sex manual, the Kama Sutra. Meanwhile in the south the rising power of the Cholan empire spread Indian arms and culture to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Andamans, and to Java and the Malay peninsula, where the Tamil diaspora is still powerful today. Wood visits the Cholan capital at Tanjore, and with extraordinarily privileged access takes us right inside the greatest temple of that time (founded in 1010), to see the ancient rituals still being performed. In a fascinating sequence we see traditional bronze casters, making religious images for the temples, just as their ancestors did 1500 years ago. We visit a traditional Tamil family in the temple city of Chidambaram, go with them on pilgrimage and witness the ancient mountain top festival of fire that was already famous in 700AD! The story ends in Multan in Pakistan in the early eleventh century with a shadow on the horizon the first invasions by Turks and Afghans bearing the Muslim faith that will change the story of India and turn the subcontinent into the biggest Muslim civilization in the world.
Episode 5 The Meeting of Two Oceans – The fifth episode of the story of India takes us to the time of the Renaissance in Europe, when India was the richest, most populous civilization in the world. We visit the desert cities of Rajasthan and travel among the fabulous Mughal cities of Delhi, Agra and Fatepur Sikri. At the Taj Mahal just voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World by 100 million voters worldwide Wood demolishes an old myth about the Taj and offers a startling new theory about its construction. Exploring the legacy of the Mughal empire that stretched across today’s political borders Michael Wood tells the tale of the early Mughals, starting with the redoubtable Babur, founder of the dynasty, and his grandson Akbar the Great, “one of the very greatest figures in history”, a Muslim king who tried to make India a multi racial and multi – religious state. His aim was to achieve a Hindu – Muslim equilibrium based on the brotherhood of mankind with no one religion holding the ultimate truth – a message for our own time if ever there was one. The story of the Mughals has some of the most fascinating characters in all of history but ends in tragedy as two brothers fought over Akbar’s legacy, in a battle that in the end broke Akbar’s dream. While waiting in the wings to pick over the spoils were… The British.
Episode 6 – Freedom and Liberation – This episode examines the British Raj and India.