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The History of India Podcast

English, Social, 6 seasons, 144 episodes, 4 days 9 hours 3 minutes
A light weekly podcast covering the history of India, from 6th century B.C. Enjoying the podcast? Please consider donating to the Snehal Sidhu Memorial Fund (
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4.3 The cruel pleasures of the moon

() The great city Pataliputra is at peace. But the good times cannot last. Soon, its start to squabble amongst themselves. A new power emerges to take advantage: the moon king will gain a tight grip on the city, and oppress its people. Or so the stories say. This week, we hear the stories, and judge the truth for ourselves.
23/08/201741 minutes 22 seconds
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4.1 Excitement at the end of empire

() The Gupta empire is crumbling. A time of great uncertainty and fear for some, and a time of excitement for others. This week, we meet two kings working for the Guptas. But, before long, they will both be independent kingdoms vying to become the next great empire.
26/07/201734 minutes 42 seconds
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4.0 Happily bumbling into even more mishaps

( A brief introduction to series 4, apology for all the errors, with an ancient Indian story to compensate.
12/07/201726 minutes 24 seconds
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3.P You will now be seen by the doctor

( Doctors. Ancient Indians looked down on them. But this week, we'll be finding out what it would be like when an ancient Indian patient needed them. We look for cures in the Buddhist monastery, and take a trip to the hospital.   
29/06/201739 minutes
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3.O zero by 7922851426433759354390336

( The story of ancient Indian mathematics from its earliest days stacking bricks to build altars, to infinity and beyond. We meet the work of the great Gupta-era mathematician, Aryabhata. Along the way we hear ancient Indian answers to such thorny questions as: how do you almost square a circle? how many infinities are there? and how long is the blink of an eye? No mathematical knowledge required.  
21/06/201747 minutes 47 seconds
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3.N By the bower of the heavenly tree

( This week, we get to know the greatest poet and playwright of ancient India: Kalidasa. We hear the legend of how he found his talent through the strained relationship with his demanding wife. We explore his life as a poet in the court of the Gupta empire, and the tale of his sad demise. Along the way, we'll get everything we need to enjoy some of the greatest poetry ever written.
13/06/201752 minutes 57 seconds
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3.M Infatuated by the empire

( This week, get a job in the ancient Gupta empire. We look at the life of a soldier, a policeman, and a civil servant. But getting a place in the empire won't be as easy as you might think.
06/06/201755 minutes 51 seconds
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3.L Soaked by gold

( According to legend, if you travel by sea east from India and eventually you will reach the land of gold. But only the bravest adventurers dare make the journey. We follow them to the islands and states of South East Asia. We find a people deeply influenced by body and mind by Indian thought. And we watch the first Hindu states emerge in Cambodia and Vietnam.
24/05/201750 minutes 18 seconds
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3.K A farm by the hills

( Ancient North East India. We take a podcasty walk from an ancient farm in the valleys up into the hills where the Kiratas live, walking through the landscape rich with trees and caves, and hearing the legends of hill and valley along the way.
18/05/201756 minutes 1 second
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3.J Bounded by the hills

() Ancient North East India. Cut off from the world by a ring of mountains; it's people living uneventful and simple lives. Well...not quite. This week we pay our first visit to the region; hear the stories of the folk living there. We visit temples adapted from the Guptas to the east. And we track down rumours of a dangerous winding path that heads off eastwards, all the way to china.
10/05/201747 minutes 23 seconds
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3.i Don't buy the pyg in the poke

() Everything you ever needed to know about buying and running a farm in ancient India. Learn how to navigate the paper work required to buy a farm. Get advice on what to grow, and how. Hear how to pay your agricultural taxes. Until finally, work done, you can settle down to watch the crops grow and listen to a few old farmer's tales.
09/04/201751 minutes 52 seconds
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3.H Side by side (bonus material)

() How best to get inside the shoes of ancient Indians? Through the stomach! This episode, some friends cook some ancient Indian meals and give them a tasting. Will we adopt an ancient Indian diet? Will we be up all night with indigestion? Listen and find out.  (Check out Adil's craft beer and games podcast: )
08/04/201736 minutes 15 seconds
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3.G Side by side

() We cook a meal for some ancient Indians. From buying ingredients down the market, to working in the Kitchen, to the meal itself. We might also indulge in a bit of smoking and drinking afterwards.  
01/04/201750 minutes 18 seconds
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3.F Study by the stupa

() Students from around the known world set out with their books. They are heading for one location. The great monastery in Northern India: Nalanda. We join them on their journey into the complex, and take part in debates and daily life alongside them.
22/03/201757 minutes 49 seconds
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3.E Chased by the dusk

() We return to the Ajanta Caves for a second special episode. In this episode, the emperor is building his own cave, grander than all the others. The story of the cave is the story of the empire: it is constructed and for the briefest moment flourishes, before it tumbles into nothing.
18/03/201749 minutes 56 seconds
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3.D Captured by the dawn (part 1)

() The Ajanta Caves. A world famous collection of caves where Buddhists worshipped for years.... well, not exactly. The caves were abandoned half way through construction. They tell the story of the building of a great institution carrying the hopes of an empire, before the empire and the caves tumbled out of history.
08/03/201746 minutes 27 seconds
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3.13 Goodbye to empire

() This week, two empires will fall. As the grand Gupta empire retreats to the east and falls apart, we see its inner workings exposed. And we watch the small states squabble and fight over its legacy. The stage is set for long years of turmoil. 
23/02/201746 minutes 16 seconds
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3.12 Protected by the lion man

() Two rulers fight over Northern India. The emperor of the Guptas, a gentle man devoted to Buddhism. The king of the Huns, a self-made man devoted to conquest. This week, the war between these two men, the final war between the Guptas and the huns
15/02/201745 minutes 35 seconds
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3.11 Ruled by rebels

() It's festival time, and the streets of Pataliputra are busy with the sound of celebration. But the celebrations won't last. Emperors will fall like flies. The empire will be filled with rebellious states. The Huns will invade India, and sweep aside the emperor's best protections, conquering to the very heart of the empire. Will the Gupta emperor survive? Will the empire strike back? Listen, and find out.
08/02/201738 minutes 16 seconds
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3.i The path between two rivers

() Ever strolled through a museum absent mindedly, when all the exhibits seem to blur into one. What would happen if you took just one exhibit found out everything you could about it: where it was originally placed, what it meant to the people who made it, what legends and meaning it brought to their mind? This week, we take a pair of statues from a museum in Delhi and do exactly that. We hear the story of their city from its founding to its flourishing. We take a stroll through the city during the Gupta era, and come across those same two statues. And we catch a glimpse of all the many meanings statues had for the ancient Indians who walked that ground before us. Link to image:
01/02/201748 minutes 50 seconds
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2.i The abduction of queen Kakati

() A sculpture from an ancient Indian monastery carries us away on the wings of a bird of legend. Link to image:
18/01/201715 minutes 38 seconds
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1.ii The Fly Whisker

(). The Didarganj Yakshi, a beautiful life-size statue of a woman. We hear how she was discovered, and became an international agent, and her place in ancient Pataliputra. Link to image:
11/01/201722 minutes 5 seconds
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1.i The artefacts bumble

() Quick introduction to the mini-episodes on artworks and artefacts. Short ancient Indian story by way of compensation.
11/01/201711 minutes 45 seconds
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3.10 Protected by destruction (part 2)

() The fortunes of the Gupta family are ruined. The empire has splintered into a dozen warring factions. The huns are already inside India, and at the gates of the empire. This is the tale of how emperor Skandagupta overcame all odds and saved the Gupta empire.
04/01/201736 minutes 12 seconds
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3.9 Protected by destruction (part 1)

() This week, the huns are coming!
28/12/201644 minutes 36 seconds
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3.8 Protected by the prince

() The Gupta empire enjoys a peaceful slumber, as its golden age draws on. Its borders are and provinces are run by a closely-knit, competent and loyal family. But, in this episode, a family disagreement will tear the empire apart.
21/12/201646 minutes 16 seconds
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3.7 Sculpted by iron

() The tale of the famous Iron Pillar of Delhi and emperor Chandragupta II, from the construction of the pillar to the inscription of the emperor's tale.
14/12/201640 minutes 16 seconds
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3.6 Soaked by gold

() The golden age of the Guptas is about to begin. A new emperor takes the throne in a wave of scandel: Chandragupta II. Despite his shaky start, he will soon be revealed as a talented ruler, a victorious warrior, and his deeds will be woven into the legends.
07/12/201638 minutes 8 seconds
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3.c Colored by sound (part 2)

() What music did ancient Indians hear? What songs did they sing? We track down the folk tune and ritual chants of ancient Indians. Along the way, we pass through a lovesick country addicted to the lyre, and an epic battle between master and student (3rd of 3 specials about Gupta performance art).
30/11/201658 minutes 26 seconds
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3.b Colored by sound (part 1)

() This week, we go hear the notes and beats of ancient Indian music, and hear some of the instruments. (2nd of 3 specials about Gupta performance art.)
24/11/201642 minutes 5 seconds
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3.a Sacrifice by sight

() This week, we go to see an ancient Indian play. (1st of 3  specials about Gupta performance art.)
16/11/201645 minutes 7 seconds
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3.5 Killed by cowardice

() Historians uncovered an ancient play about an unknown emperor, killed by his brother and the woman they both loved. The play turned out to have more truth than anyone suspected. It may have even been a cover-up, a distraction from murder. Listen, and judge for yourself.
09/11/201647 minutes 53 seconds
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3.4 South by southwest

() The great conqueror of ancient India turns his attention south. We follow him through forests, along sandy rivers, down the coast and into South India. And we hear how he shaped the world outside India too.
02/11/201641 minutes 29 seconds
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3.3 Protected by the sea

() The story of the great conqueror of ancient India. We follow him through his first campaign, the snake wars. And we see if he really earns his title: the Napoleon of India.
26/10/201649 minutes 17 seconds
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3.2 Hidden by the moon

() The founding of the Gupta empire, built by alliance and war. In this episode, it emerges from the patchwork of small states and dominates the valley of the Ganges. But the first emperor's plan to pass the empire on to his favourite son might not go as smoothly as planned.
18/10/201639 minutes 31 seconds
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3.1 Surrounded by small kings

() It's the late 3rd century, and the world is changing. Empires which dominated India have crumbled, leaving a patchwork of small states. We see what this new world looked like from the great city of Pataliputra, and meet the kingdoms which will shape northern India over the centuries to come.
11/10/201642 minutes 35 seconds
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3.0 More mishaps by the bumbling historian

() A brief introduction to the series and a story from perhaps the greatest Sanskrit writer of them all.
06/10/201614 minutes 52 seconds
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2 J Poets and archers (part 2 of 2)

( The Cheras: crowned kings of South India. They ruled ancient Kerala and beyond as a family estate. This episode, we hear about the Chera kings from outsiders, through the stories and lives of the smaller chieftans of South India. Also, I embarrass myself by mispronouncing north Indian words. Fourth of three specials on South India. Ops.  
15/09/201649 minutes 8 seconds
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2 I Poets and archers (part 1 of 2)

() The Cheras: crowned kings of South India. They ruled ancient Kerala and beyond as a family estate. This episode, we cover the first dynasty of the Cheras as told by their court poets. Third of three specials on South India.    
14/09/201635 minutes 41 seconds
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2 H The civilized and the barbarian

() This week, we meet the barbarians. Outsiders from tribes in the hills to kings from foreign lands. What was it like to live as an outsider? What was it like to live alongside them? Listen, and find out.
07/09/201637 minutes 44 seconds
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2 G Women, law and life

() If you were an ancient Indian woman, would you choose to be a nun or a wife? This episode has all you need to decide this thorny question, from the legal facts to words of wisdom from ancient Indian women themselves. Well ok, not all you need to know, but hopefully we do get some idea of what some ancient Indian women's lives might be like.
24/08/201643 minutes 22 seconds
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2 F Poets and Fish

() The Pandiyas: crowned kings of South India, famous for hosting the legendary 'Sangam' academies of poets. We dig into those legends of the patrons and their poets, and unearth the truth within. Plus, a bonus quiz. Second of three specials on South India.
10/08/201648 minutes 1 second
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2 E Poets and tigers

() The Cholas: crowned kings of South India, people of the sun, their tiger flags leading their armies into battle. We meet their kings and poets and hear about their generous spirit, their homeland, and their fates. First of three specials on South India.
27/07/201638 minutes 15 seconds
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2 D Stupas and stupefaction

() In this special episode we take a virtual tour around the famous Buddhist monuments at Sanchi. We find a hidden stupa, search for the stories in the carvings, see through the invisible Buddha figures. And we see how this holy place fits into the lives of ancient Indians.
13/07/201649 minutes 8 seconds
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2 C India, Rome, and the Red Sea

( We continue our business trip from ancient India to Rome. We stop at Islands populated by Indian sailors, cross the great desert to the Nile, and finally making our way through the streets of Rome to sell our wares in the forum. Also, how did all this trade affect India and Rome? Listen and find out.
28/06/201642 minutes 4 seconds
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2 B India, Rome, and the High Seas

( A business trip from Ancient India to Rome, stopping along the way to peer into spice carts heading for the coast, Indian ships, and the curious story of the Romans and the monsoon winds.
16/06/201643 minutes 18 seconds
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2 A The householder, the slave, and the wardrobe

( In this special episode, we live a morning in the life of a rich householder in Kushana India. Where did they wake up? What did they wear? And much more besides. Along the way we stop in on his wife and his slave.
02/06/201644 minutes 39 seconds
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2.14 The Kushans and the menace from the West

( This week, the end of the Kushan empire. The old order is crumbling. Roman emperors are slaughtered, China splinters, and the Kushan empire is beaten by a new menace from the west. What was it like to live in the age when empires die? Listen, and find out.
05/05/201644 minutes 19 seconds
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2.13 Kanishka and the wonder of the world

( The Kanishka stupa deserves its place amongst the wonders of the world. But its splendor has been long forgotten, and the stupa itself has been wiped out. This week, we set about rediscovering it. We look at the construction of the wonder, and the religious fall out for Kanishka's empire and for Buddhism today.
27/04/201647 minutes 59 seconds
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2.12 Kanishka and friends

( Kanishka the Great has conquered India. This week, we get to know him intimately, by getting to know his friends: the doctor, the minister and the poet-monk. We hear their stories, how they influenced the great warrior, and how ignoring their advice lead to his death.
20/04/201639 minutes 33 seconds
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2.11 Kanishka and the city of flowers

( The great city of Pataliputra had been destroyed. In this episode, the city will be rebuilt. But as soon as it reappears on the world stage, it will attract the attention of one of the greatest conquers in Indian history: Kanishka the great. Will the city survive yet another invasion? What was life like in the rebuilt city? Listen and find out.
13/04/201644 minutes 27 seconds
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2.10 India and the edge of the world

( The story of the Kushans. An empire caught between two continents: its body is in India, but it left its heart back in central Asia. So all its central Asian customs are brought into India: warm clothes, pointy hats, and kings who think they are gods.
29/03/201640 minutes 14 seconds
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2.9 Out of the steppe and into the city

( We travel with a tribe of nomads from China across the vast grasslands to central Asia. There, they finally settle down into the cities on India's doorstep. They unite, form an empire, and get ready to invade India itself. This is the story of the Kushans.
17/03/201633 minutes
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2.8 Kings and calendars

( Old tales tell of a king who threw out the invaders, full of cleverness and wisdom, a man so generous that he was always willing to sacrifice his own life to help one of his subjects. He founded his own calendar, which is still used today. These are the legends of King Vikramaditya.  
10/03/201655 minutes 28 seconds
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2.7 The conqueror and his mother

( The Indian empires strike back. For too long, the Shaka invaders have dominated the land, and plundered its riches. This week, a new Indian king will take the throne. By force and guile he will throw the invaders back, off the Deccan plateau. But things are not all as they seem.
02/03/201640 minutes 22 seconds
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2.6 Poet-kings and politicians

( India is being invaded by outsiders. But the rulers of its last empire are distracted by more sensual matters. As the invaders close in, we listen to the rulers and their people on matters of love and loss. And we track the progress of the invaders as they wash over the land.
24/02/201640 minutes 20 seconds
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2.5 India and the Great Wall of China

() India is under attack. Tribes fleeing from the great wall of China pour into India. We watch the first invasions sweep in from the North West. How far did these alien people get? How alien were they? Listen, and find out. [This podcast is a little louder, please let me know if the volume is wrong].
17/02/201634 minutes 42 seconds
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2.4 Chess and the emptiness of Pataliputra

() The once grand Imperial capital has lost its lustre. Its people watch as the great and good leave their city. Those that remain face repeated invasion from west, south and north. In this episode we meet these invaders, explore their caves, and tell their stories. 
11/02/201641 minutes 27 seconds
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2.3 The Prince and the Greek

() An ancient Indian love poem leads us to the pinnacle of two great houses: the Shungas who inherited an Indian empire, and the Indo-Greeks. After their fateful meeting, we watch as both houses begin their steady decline, until at last they slip out of view. [Audio slightly fuzzy. Apologies]
04/02/201636 minutes 24 seconds
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2.2 The Greeks and the Indian homeland

() Ancient Afghanistan: rich and fertile. Its Greek kings are powerful and ambitious enough to try to carve a new empire in India, cutting through the ruins of the old empire all the way to the walls of its grand capital city. Will the Greeks break through? To find out, listen on. 
27/01/201637 minutes 53 seconds
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2.1 The kingslayer and his horses

() The story of the general who ended an empire. To consolidate his power, the general became a passionate supporter of the old-time religion. We look at the accusation that he persecuted the rival, Buddhist sect. And we learn how to perform his grandest ritual: the horse sacrifice.
20/01/201630 minutes 33 seconds
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2.0 The bumbling historian and his mad plan

() An introduction and apology for the series. What we'll be talking about, how I'll screw it up, and how a mysterious red liquor almost ruined ancient India.
20/01/201613 minutes 25 seconds
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1.G The sayings of seers (part 2)

() We look at the lost religion of ancient India. We see its doctrines and seemingly harsh practices through the eyes of rival sects. And we ask how the apparent hostility between these sects changed the lives of average ancient Indians.  
22/12/201545 minutes 57 seconds
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1.F The Merchants of Magadha

() The guilds of ancient India. Trusted by townsfolk, feared by kings. This week, we find out how to join an ancient guild, and what to expect once you're a member. Then we take a voyage across Mauryan India with a member of a merchant guild.
02/12/201542 minutes 56 seconds
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1.E The Sayings of Seers

() In this episode, we look at how religion affected the life of the average ancient Indian.What rituals and sacrifices did an ancient Indian householder perform? What different religious views and ways of life did an ancient Indian have to choose between? Download, and find out.  
18/11/201554 minutes 8 seconds
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1.D The carving of society - a conversation

() We're joined by Prakhar Manas for a discussion of caste in ancient history, and it's effect on modern India.
04/11/201530 minutes 32 seconds
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1.D The carvings of society

() This week, we tackle the thorny issue of caste, and how important it was to day-to-day life in ancient India.
04/11/201547 minutes 57 seconds
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1.C The three crowned kings of Tamilakam

( This week we travel down to the three great kingdoms of South India: the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras. Sources are hard to find. We read them all and discover a unique culture with beautiful poetry and great cities.
21/10/201547 minutes 10 seconds
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1.11 The end of an empire

() A generation after Ashoka's death his empire had vanished. This week, we meet some of the emperors desperately hanging on as their world decays around them. And we test the accusation that Ashoka's empire collapsed because he was more interested in being a good man than in being a good ruler.
07/10/201548 minutes 35 seconds
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1.10 Kingdom without sorrow

() Sovereignty is only possible with assistance; a single wheel cannot move alone. Ashoka the Great took this maxim to heart, and built a huge government machine to assist him. This week, Ashoka must struggle to avoid being crushed by the wheels of his own machine.
30/09/201546 minutes 33 seconds
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1.9 Virtue without sorrow

(). On the battlefield at Kalinga the victorious emperor Ashoka decided to follow his conscience, no matter what. This week we find out where Ashoka's conscience lead him. We about hear his messages to his people, carved in his famous edicts, and how they changed daily life for his people. 
23/09/201553 minutes 8 seconds
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1.8 Conscience without sorrow

( The first of three podcasts on the great emperor Ashoka. We meet his wives, and hear of his path to power over the bodies of his brothers. We go right up until the defining moment of his life, on the battlefield at Kalinga.
16/09/201541 minutes 29 seconds
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1.7: The honesty of ambassadors

( This week we look at the tall tales about India told by three Greek ambassadors to the courts of Mauryan emperors.
08/09/201537 minutes 6 seconds
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1.6 The removal of thorns

( This week, we look at the cunning statesman Kautilya. He wrote a book crammed full with cunning ideas on how to rule a kingdom. And he had personal experience backing up these ideas: together with his student he conquered a kingdom and founded an empire. If you want to learn about ruthless cunning from someone who has been there and done that, listen on.
01/09/201535 minutes 26 seconds
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1.5 The throne of the peacock

( This week, we witness the founding of the great Mauryan empire. It will become unmatched in its size and power until the modern era. But it all starts with a young man, Chandragupta Maurya, his cunning teacher Kautilya, and their plot to overthrow a kingdom.
25/08/201534 minutes 17 seconds
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1.A The legacy of foreign emperors

( The first special episode on matters away from the main storyline. In this episode we look at the Persian empire in India. Health warning: the second part of this episode contains strong political views. Coarse sentiments will be expressed, though not in coarse language. Please skip the second half if rants annoy you. I've added another, bonus podcast this week to compensate.
18/08/201537 minutes 5 seconds
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1.B The ignorance of foreign kings

( A bonus special episode on Alexander the Great's stampede through North-West India. How he was ushered into India a conquering hero without a fight, and how his army massacred those who were strong enough to resist and harm him.
18/08/201530 minutes 35 seconds
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1.4 The treasure of low-born kings

( This week we breeze through three dynasties of kings in one jam-packed episode. None of them end well. The dynasty of Bimbisara comes to an end in bloody infamy. The dynasty of Sushinga comes to an end in bloody betrayal. And the dynasty of of the nine Nanda comes to an end because of... well listen and find out!
11/08/201532 minutes 31 seconds
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1.3 The Envy of Princes

( The downfall of Bimbisara king of Magadha. The rise of his son Ajatashatru to the throne, and two of his wars.
03/08/201540 minutes 2 seconds
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1.2 The Shrewdness of King Bimbisara

( The story of Bimbisara, ancient king of Magadha. He was a contemporary of the Buddha and Mahavira, and by cunning marriages and warfare doubled the size of Magadha and more than doubled its prestige.
28/07/201535 minutes 51 seconds
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1.1 The 16 great houses of ancient India

( A wander through the mahajanapadas who dominated northern India during the 6th cenutury b.c. This is the world of Buddha and Mahavira.
25/07/201538 minutes 32 seconds