The History of India Podcast

The History of India Podcast
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 (

5.D Workers stranded by the lockdown
May 1 • 48 min
**Special episode on the current crisis** People are stranded all across India. They left to find work. Now the lockdown has come, they are out of work, out of money and out of food. We get to talk to Anushka and Nithya who are chatting to these workers…
5.C Chalukyas by the book
Apr 26 • 49 min
( This week we chat to comic book author, novelist and fellow fan of the Chaulkiya period Dr. Shalini Srinivasan about the book she’s been writing set in the Chaulkiyan empire. She tells us about how comic books get made, we…
5.B By the whim of the master (part 2)
Apr 18 • 64 min
( ***Warning: contains upsetting details.*** The second special episode on slavery. This week, we hear about the lives of female slaves. We meet slaves in Buddhist monasteries. And we meet a young woman being sold into…
5.A By the whim of the master
Apr 11 • 59 min
( ***Warning: contains upsetting details.*** This week, we learn a little about what life was like for slaves in ancient and early medieval India, from becoming a slave to being free. India might have been the best place in…
5.23 Overtaken by the bogeyman
Apr 4 • 43 min
( This week, we meet some of the bogeymen of ancient India; a group among the most feared of the Barbarians. The mighty Kamboja horsemasters. And yet, these are real people. In this episode we hear the tales told about them,…
5.22 By the back of the five great kings
Mar 26 • 44 min
( This is the week of small kings. The Pratihara empire has ruled for as long as anyone can remember. But a small king from the south will destroy the emperor’s army and send him fleeing. And a small king from the north will…
5.21 By half a metre
Dec 14, 2019 • 49 min
( This week, Mahendrapala extends his empire downstream, towards the sea. But nothing is what it seems: not the emperor, nor his empire, nor his conquest. All will be revealed only half a meter down. Also in this episode: how…
5.20 Assault by salt
Dec 5, 2019 • 51 min
( A journey through one of emperor Bhoja’s lands. With the emperor far away in the Imperial city, we find out what life is like for the merchants and city folk under him. Also in this episode: a practical guide to salt making…
5.19 Drawn by the sun
Oct 21, 2019 • 44 min
( In this episode, young king Bhoja will grow into his throne. He will draw together allies and subordinates and wait patiently. When the time is right he will strike at his ancestral enemies, defeating them, and achieving…
5.18 Drawn by greatness
Oct 8, 2019 • 61 min
( For too long the empire of the east has dominated North India. Bhoja, the descendant of the western emperors is determined to bring change. But he starts with almost nothing, for the once great western empire as been reduced…
5.17 By the tip of the quivering sword
Aug 23, 2019 • 41 min
( The victorious Palas build their empire. Poets gather in their courts. Kings flee before their armies. All seems well, but an old enemy is regathering strength. Also in this week’s episode: religious rivalry told through a…
5.16 By the setting of the eastern sun
Aug 10, 2019 • 60 min
( This week, the build up to the great battle continues. We join the navy of the East, as it brings infantry and elephants up the river. Then we launch into the battle itself, following the commander’s choice of battle…
5.15 By the light of the western dawn
Aug 3, 2019 • 50 min
A great battle of the age: the horsemen of the Pratiharas of the east, and the elephants of the Palas of the west. They meet on the shores of the Ganga. In this episode, we spend time with a Pratihara horsemen. We hear the story of his king, we check out…
5.14 By the help of a hundred scholars
Jun 20, 2019 • 44 min
( Emperor Dharmapala constructed an education system across his empire, so great it surpassed all that had come before. It shaped eastern India for nearly half a millennium. This week, we go inside the system for ourselves.…
5.13 By a graceful move of the eyebrows
Jun 16, 2019 • 48 min
( This week, we find out what happened to the great prize of North India: the Imperial city of Kanyakubja. Two dynasties: the Palas (protectors), and the Pratiharas (doorkeepers) have been fighting to gain control. In this…
5.a Philosophy, by the book
Jun 4, 2019 • 24 min
( Become a student of the great Jain thinker HariBhadra. His novels have thrilled you. His satires have scanadlised you. His logics have perplexed you. Now listen to his lightening fast summary of all the important points of…
5.12 Back by the withering sand
May 29, 2019 • 41 min
( We join the great Pratihara king Vatsaraja, at his lowest moment. With the whole of North India in his power, he is defeated and flees across the mountains into the great desert. We uncover the stories of the people and…
5.11 On taking two umbrellas
May 23, 2019 • 38 min
( Everyone wants the imperial city of Kanyakubja lies at the center. The great Partihara king of the west wants to re-establish his family’s image. The great Pala king of the west wants to become the first emperor from his…
5.10 On the way out
Apr 23, 2019 • 49 min
( The Umayyad armies go beyond al-Sind, trying to establish a new province in al-Hind proper. But their successes won’t last. They will be driven back, twice. And shortly after, the entire Umayyad empire will collapse in on…
5.9 On the way to Hind
Apr 6, 2019 • 55 min
( This week, a tale of bridge engineering, bloodthirsty generals, widowed queens, the first mosque in South Asia, and lots and lots of gold. We tell the story of how the Ummayid caliphate came to invade Sind.
5.8 On the door
Mar 23, 2019 • 42 min
( This week, the Rajputs arrive on the scene with the earliest of Rajput clans, the Pratiharas. But where did they come from? Did they see themselves as Rajputs? What did they do after they had emerged? The answers might not…
5.7 How to prevent fish on fish crime
Mar 6, 2019 • 38 min
( Bengal’s kings are dying daily. The land is in chaos. It’s been this way for years. But, according to the legend, a man from the north will come and build a stable kingdom. This time, the legend is true. This episode, we…
5.6 Those who live on campaign…
Feb 2, 2019 • 54 min
( Lalitaditya had grand plans. He would make Kashmir into an empire, spanning all of India and outside of it too. His armies would walk the deserts of the silk road, sail the seas of the bay of Bengal, and walk the Western…
5.5 On top of the world
Jan 26, 2019 • 43 min
( Travel to the top of India, the mountain valley of Kashmir. This is the story of the three brother-kings of Kashmir. The kind brother, the cruel brother, and the conqueror. Hear the story of their parents, how their kingdom…
5.4 Onward, Mauryan empire
Jan 19, 2019 • 45 min
( week, the last of the Mauryan emperors. He will restore his family’s glory, conquering the entire world. Well, more or less. Listen and meet a forgotten legend. WARNING: some gore, blood, descriptions of death.
5.3 On the edge of renown
Jan 12, 2019 • 30 min
( This week, two kingdoms tie themselves together with marriage. They expand their lands, regain their independence. They do everything to imitate the glorious rise of empires past. And then… they fade to nothing.
5.2 The lake on the hills
Jan 3, 2019 • 49 min
( The story of Nepal, from the formation of the Himalayan lands, through it’s earliest inscriptions, to the king who refused to be king. This episode, we get up to date with what is going on in the kingdom to the North of…
5.1 Carry on, Pataliputra
Dec 26, 2018 • 38 min
( Emperor Harsha is dead. With him, the last great Indian empire of the first millenium collapses into chaos. Or so the story goes. Down in the ruins of Pataliputra, things seem a bit different. The old families ruled before…
5.0 Bumbling on bumbling
Dec 19, 2018 • 23 min
( A brief introduction to series 5: a preview as we plunge into the medieval age. We’ll have a quick chat about Islam and whether there even was a medieval age. All wrapped up with one of my favorite stories.
4.K Joy in ruins
Oct 24, 2018 • 57 min
( A time-travellers tour through the heartlands of the Chaulikyan empire. See the new South Indian style of art being invented, stage by stage. Spot the hidden gems, the out of the way sites, the temples which slowly give up…
3.T By sea
Oct 5, 2018 • 43 min
( This week, set sail across the ocean with Indian merchants. We follow the Chinese monk Faxian as he crosses Gupta North India. We see the rituals of sea travelers, sample the sights and sounds of the great port of ancient…
3.S Engulfed by Jade
Sep 17, 2018 • 50 min
( We spend another week in the Indian-influenced land of the Tarim basin. This week, we spend time in the legendary city of Khotan. We hear stories of its founding, meet its king, and hear how the children of the city are…
3.R Chewed over by the master
Aug 30, 2018 • 56 min
This week, we travel over the Himalayas, and climb down the other side into the great desert basin. We spend time in a city on the northern ring of the desert, Kucha. It’s a city deeply influenced by Indian thought and Indian people. We follow the most…
4.J The smile on the skull
Aug 15, 2018 • 53 min
( This is the tale of the land of the red river, North East India. Come on a journey along the banks, and hear the stories of this place: the tales of its legendary founder, a man named after hell itself; the rise and fall of…
3.Q From dusk till dawn
Aug 1, 2018 • 51 min
( This week, we return to the caves of Ajanta. But we have good company: an artist and college lecturer has come to tell us about her memories of visiting, what she saw, and the special place of the paintings in modern Indian…
4.I The cheer of twigs
Jul 25, 2018 • 48 min
( This week, we see how the landscape of the Pallavas was shaped. We follow it from before history began, through the years as irrigation is built. Warning: some sound issues including, but not limited to, making fun of…
4.H The sport of drunkards and other stories
Jul 11, 2018 • 49 min
( We meet one of the great characters of the age: Mahendravarman, king of the Pallavas. We get to know his wicked humour, and listen to one of his sharp-tongued plays. In this episode: drunken priests, lusty monks, booze…
4.G The joy of serpants and other stories
Jul 4, 2018 • 51 min
( you ever needed to know about become an author in the court of Harsha, emperor of India. Find out a day in the life of an author. Try your hand at solving some of their puzzles. Meet the leading authors at court, each of…
4.F Once they lived in the town in joy and happiness
Jun 27, 2018 • 54 min
( This week, the cities of North India empty. The traders lock down their stalls and move off with their baggage. The craftsmen’s tools fall silent. And the king and his generals are left in the silent husk of the city. How…
4.e The joys of the victory (part 2: the south)
Jun 20, 2018 • 44 min
( Jainism once dominated life and culture in South India: Jain kings ruled with Jain monk advisors, and at court they listened to epic tales written by Jains, and ruled over their people many of whom followed Jainism. By…
4 d. The joys of victory (part 1)
Mar 30, 2018 • 52 min
( Jainism has shaped Indian thought over the millenia, and continues to do so today. This week, we find out what life was like as a Jain in the time of Harsha. How did they worship? Where did they fit into society? What did…
4.C The laughter of the monks grows silent
Feb 20, 2018 • 49 min
( In the marketplaces and fields of ancient India, would you notice that Buddhism was gradually disappearing? Many ancient Indians did. And we take a layman’s view as the monasteries withdraw from the world and at the same…
4.B Joy in the kingdom of brothers (part B)
Jan 27, 2018 • 48 min
( Second of the special episodes on ancient Gujurat. This week, we visit the internationally famous university of Vallabhi, and we hear how the story of the local kingdom weaves together with the stories of great empires. All…
4.A Joy in the kingdom of brothers (part a)
Jan 13, 2018 • 43 min
( We kick off our special episodes for the series with a tour of the smaller kingdoms and regions emerging around India. This week, we are in the peninsular of Gujurat, in a strange kingdom where they pass the throne down to…
4.16 The end of mirth
Dec 30, 2017 • 32 min
( The great emperor Harsha’s death and the destruction of his empire. Told through the eyes of the Chinese emissaries Harsha loved.
4.15 How to regain happiness
Dec 21, 2017 • 42 min
When a great emperor suddenly falls, what happens to his empire? This week, we continue the story of Polekeshin II to his sudden disappearance. For 13 years, his empire is plunged into darkness. But an heir will emerge, and will rebuild the empire higher…
4.14 The loss of mirth
Dec 13, 2017 • 53 min
( A young prince flees his capital city. The prince will go on to beat the great emperor Harsha, and establish his own empire. But his is not just the story of a dynasty. For in his story, the state of Karnataka emerges and…
4.13 The mirth of the monk
Nov 16, 2017 • 43 min
( This week, emperor Harsha tracks down a famous chinese monk. When the emperor and monk eventually meet, there is a great meeting of minds. Along the way, towers will burn down, the treasury will be emptied, and the emperor…
4.12 The mirth of the moon
Nov 10, 2017 • 44 min
We continue the story of Harsha, last emperor of ancient India. The thirty years of bloodshed has begun, when Harsha will send his armies around India, forging his empire. We watch Harsha’s army turn east, folowing it through the deserted kingdoms and…
4.11 The clash of mirth
Oct 31, 2017 • 43 min
( Harsha prepares for battle. We follow him through the battle day, from before he wakes up, through the inspection of his army, the preparation of his battle-line, into the battle itself. Hear the battle tactics used by…
4.10 The hero of mirth
Oct 25, 2017 • 55 min
( We follow an ancient Indian king as he prepares for war. Should he fight openly and honorably? Should he use sneaky tricks? Or should he find a third way? We consider his decisions as he plans his campaign, charts his route…
4.9 The rescue of mirth
Oct 18, 2017 • 50 min
( We continue with the story of the great emperor Harsha. He is alone. His family have almost all passed away. Only one remains: his sister, last heard of locked away in an enemy jail. We follow Harsha as he goes in search of…
4.8 The march of mirth
Oct 12, 2017 • 49 min
( The story of the great emperor Harsha continues as he finally sits on the throne. But there is much for the young king to learn. The ministers form factions and compete for his attention. The people of the countryside…
4.7 The trials of mirth (reuploaded)
Oct 9, 2017 • 47 min
***reuploaded due to itunes trouble***( The story of the great emperor Harsha continues with the bleakest of episodes. Harsha’s family and friends will die around him. And modern historians have accused him of killing his…
4.7 The trials of mirth
Oct 4, 2017 • 47 min
( The story of the great emperor Harsha continues with the bleakest of episodes. Harsha’s family and friends will die around him. And modern historians have accused him of killing his brother. Was he guilty? You are invited…
4.6 The youth of mirth
Sep 28, 2017 • 35 min
( The story of the great emperor Harsha continues. This week, the man himself finally enters the world. We hear about his birth, his childhood gang of friends. And we watch as, one by one, the children around him are forced…
4.5 The beginning of mirth
Sep 21, 2017 • 53 min
( The great Emperor Harsha’s family: from its beginnings in black magic and legend, through the long hard years serving greater kings, to the emerging of the family once again into the eye of history. Along the way, we hear…
4.4 The bard of mirth
Sep 15, 2017 • 42 min
( This week the history of India podcast gets personal. We get to know the great writer, Bana. We hear about his tragic childhood. His wild, party driven youth. We hang out in his village, meet his friends. And then we see…
4.3 The cruel pleasures of the moon
Aug 23, 2017 • 41 min
() 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…
4.2 The end of excitement
Aug 10, 2017 • 30 min
This week, two kingdoms wage war up and down the banks of the Ganges. In the great city of Pataliputra, the kings are fighting desperately to avoid the fate of fallen empires. They will win victories, only to jump into the flames themselves. They will…
4.1 Excitement at the end of empire
Jul 26, 2017 • 34 min
() 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…
4.0 Happily bumbling into even more mishaps
Jul 12, 2017 • 26 min
( A brief introduction to series 4, apology for all the errors, with an ancient Indian story to compensate.
3.P You will now be seen by the doctor
Jun 29, 2017 • 39 min
( 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…
3.O zero by 7922851426433759354390336
Jun 20, 2017 • 47 min
( 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…
3.N By the bower of the heavenly tree
Jun 13, 2017 • 52 min
( 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…
3.M Infatuated by the empire
Jun 6, 2017 • 55 min
( 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.
3.L Soaked by gold
May 24, 2017 • 50 min
( 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…
3.K A farm by the hills
May 18, 2017 • 56 min
( 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…
3.J Bounded by the hills
May 10, 2017 • 47 min
() 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…
3.i Don’t buy the pyg in the poke
Apr 8, 2017 • 51 min
() 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…
3.H Side by side (bonus material)
Apr 8, 2017 • 36 min
() 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…
3.G Side by side
Apr 1, 2017 • 50 min
() 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.
3.F Study by the stupa
Mar 22, 2017 • 57 min
() 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…
3.E Chased by the dusk
Mar 18, 2017 • 49 min
() 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…
3.D Captured by the dawn (part 1)
Mar 8, 2017 • 46 min
() 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…
3.13 Goodbye to empire
Feb 22, 2017 • 46 min
() 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.
3.12 Protected by the lion man
Feb 14, 2017 • 45 min
() 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
3.11 Ruled by rebels
Feb 7, 2017 • 38 min
() 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…
3.i The path between two rivers
Feb 1, 2017 • 48 min
() 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…
2.i The abduction of queen Kakati
Jan 18, 2017 • 15 min
() A sculpture from an ancient Indian monastery carries us away on the wings of a bird of legend. Link to image:
1.ii The Fly Whisker
Jan 11, 2017 • 22 min
(). 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:
1.i The artefacts bumble
Jan 11, 2017 • 11 min
() Quick introduction to the mini-episodes on artworks and artefacts. Short ancient Indian story by way of compensation.
3.10 Protected by destruction (part 2)
Jan 4, 2017 • 36 min
() 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…
3.9 Protected by destruction (part 1)
Dec 27, 2016 • 44 min
() This week, the huns are coming!
3.8 Protected by the prince
Dec 21, 2016 • 46 min
() 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.
3.7 Sculpted by iron
Dec 14, 2016 • 40 min
() 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.
3.6 Soaked by gold
Dec 7, 2016 • 38 min
() 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…
3.c Colored by sound (part 2)
Nov 30, 2016 • 58 min
() 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…
3.b Colored by sound (part 1)
Nov 23, 2016 • 42 min
() 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.)
3.a Sacrifice by sight
Nov 16, 2016 • 45 min
() This week, we go to see an ancient Indian play. (1st of 3 specials about Gupta performance art.)
3.5 Killed by cowardice
Nov 9, 2016 • 47 min
() 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,…
3.4 South by southwest
Nov 1, 2016 • 41 min
() 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.
3.3 Protected by the sea
Oct 26, 2016 • 49 min
() 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.
3.2 Hidden by the moon
Oct 18, 2016 • 39 min
() 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…
3.1 Surrounded by small kings
Oct 11, 2016 • 42 min
() 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…
3.0 More mishaps by the bumbling historian
Oct 6, 2016 • 14 min
() A brief introduction to the series and a story from perhaps the greatest Sanskrit writer of them all.
2 J Poets and archers (part 2 of 2)
Sep 14, 2016 • 49 min
( 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…
2 I Poets and archers (part 1 of 2)
Sep 14, 2016 • 35 min
() 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. …
2 H The civilized and the barbarian
Sep 7, 2016 • 37 min
() 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.
2 G Women, law and life
Aug 24, 2016 • 43 min
() 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…
2 F Poets and Fish
Aug 10, 2016 • 48 min
() 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…
2 E Poets and tigers
Jul 26, 2016 • 38 min
() 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…
2 D Stupas and stupefaction
Jul 13, 2016 • 49 min
() 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…
2 C India, Rome, and the Red Sea
Jun 28, 2016 • 42 min
( 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…
2 B India, Rome, and the High Seas
Jun 15, 2016 • 43 min
( 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.
2 A The householder, the slave, and the wardrobe
Jun 2, 2016 • 44 min
( 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.
2.14 The Kushans and the menace from the West
May 4, 2016 • 44 min
( 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…
2.13 Kanishka and the wonder of the world
Apr 27, 2016 • 47 min
( 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…
2.12 Kanishka and friends
Apr 20, 2016 • 39 min
( 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…
2.11 Kanishka and the city of flowers
Apr 13, 2016 • 44 min
( 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…
2.10 India and the edge of the world
Mar 29, 2016 • 40 min
( 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…
2.9 Out of the steppe and into the city
Mar 16, 2016 • 33 min
( 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…
2.8 Kings and calendars
Mar 9, 2016 • 55 min
( 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…
2.7 The conqueror and his mother
Mar 2, 2016 • 40 min
( 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…
2.6 Poet-kings and politicians
Feb 24, 2016 • 40 min
( 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…
2.5 India and the Great Wall of China
Feb 17, 2016 • 34 min
() 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…
2.4 Chess and the emptiness of Pataliputra
Feb 11, 2016 • 41 min
() 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…
2.3 The Prince and the Greek
Feb 4, 2016 • 36 min
() 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…
2.2 The Greeks and the Indian homeland
Jan 27, 2016 • 37 min
() 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…
2.1 The kingslayer and his horses
Jan 20, 2016 • 30 min
() 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…
2.0 The bumbling historian and his mad plan
Jan 20, 2016 • 13 min
() 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.
1.G The sayings of seers (part 2)
Dec 22, 2015 • 45 min
() 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…
1.F The Merchants of Magadha
Dec 1, 2015 • 42 min
() 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…
1.E The Sayings of Seers
Nov 18, 2015 • 54 min
() 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…
1.D The carving of society - a conversation
Nov 4, 2015 • 30 min
() We’re joined by Prakhar Manas for a discussion of caste in ancient history, and it’s effect on modern India.
1.D The carvings of society
Nov 4, 2015 • 47 min
() This week, we tackle the thorny issue of caste, and how important it was to day-to-day life in ancient India.
1.C The three crowned kings of Tamilakam
Oct 21, 2015 • 47 min
( 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.
1.11 The end of an empire
Oct 7, 2015 • 48 min
() 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…
1.10 Kingdom without sorrow
Sep 30, 2015 • 46 min
() 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…
1.9 Virtue without sorrow
Sep 23, 2015 • 53 min
(). 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…
1.8 Conscience without sorrow
Sep 16, 2015 • 41 min
( The first of three podcasts on the great emperor Ashoka. We meet …
1.7: The honesty of ambassadors
Sep 8, 2015 • 37 min
( This week we look at the tall tales about India told by three Gre…
1.6 The removal of thorns
Sep 1, 2015 • 35 min
( This week, we look at the cunning statesman Kautilya. He wrote a …
1.5 The throne of the peacock
Aug 25, 2015 • 34 min
( This week, we witness the founding of the great Mauryan empire. I…
1.A The legacy of foreign emperors
Aug 18, 2015 • 37 min
( The first special episode on matters away from the main storyline…
1.B The ignorance of foreign kings
Aug 18, 2015 • 30 min
( A bonus special episode on Alexander the Great’s stampede through…
1.4 The treasure of low-born kings
Aug 11, 2015 • 32 min
( This week we breeze through three dynasties of kings in one jam-p…
1.3 The Envy of Princes
Aug 3, 2015 • 40 min
( The downfall of Bimbisara king of Magadha. The rise of his son Aj…
1.2 The Shrewdness of King Bimbisara
Jul 28, 2015 • 35 min
( The story of Bimbisara, ancient king of Magadha. He was a contemp…
1.1 The 16 great houses of ancient India
Jul 25, 2015 • 38 min
( A wander through the mahajanapadas who dominated northern India d…
1.0 The apology of a bumbling historian
Jul 25, 2015 • 21 min
( Introduction to the podcast. What we will be talking about, where, and how I’ll screw it up. Includes a favourite Indian story as part compensation. Updated Feb 2018.