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The History of India Podcast

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A light weekly podcast covering the history of India, from 6th century B.C.

A light weekly podcast covering the history of India, from 6th century B.C.
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A light weekly podcast covering the history of India, from 6th century B.C.




5.17 By the tip of the quivering sword

( 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 hymn about toenails, a pun about grief, and a practical guide to buying and selling in medieval Assam.


5.16 By the setting of the eastern sun

( 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 formation. This is the battle to decide who will rule north India supreme, though the victor is not always who it seems to be. Also in this episode: hot to your elephant for war in eight simple steps, a poem about river logs, and a lesson in how to...


5.15 By the light of the western dawn

( This week, we witness the build up to a great battle of the age: the Pratihara king has brought his army from the east, thick with warhorses. The Pala king has brought his army from the west, loaded with mountainous elephants. They meet for battle on the shores of the Ganges. In this episode, we spend time with a Pratihara horsemen. We hear the story of his king, we check out his equipment, and hear about his horse. Also in this episode: the first thesaurus, a...


5.14 By the help of a hundred scholars

( Emperor Dharmapala constructed an education system across his empire, so great it surpassed all that had come before. For half a millennium, it shaped Eastern India. This week, we go inside the system. We follow the great Buddhist teacher Atisha in his long and uncommon adventure through the system, and we find out what it was like to live there. (This episode is reuploaded; a previous version contained the out of date claim that one of the monasteries had not...


5.13 By a graceful move of the eyebrows

( 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 episode, a new emperor of India will win it, and then give it away. Included: a trip to a hidden great monastery, how a queen made a snake king deceive her, and two hundred hunchback maidens with quite different attitudes to marriage.


5.a Philosophy, by the book

( 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 Indian philosophy. Featuring: the first ever summmary of the six schools of philosophy, a bonus school of philosophy just for fun, and a deep sense of bewilderment. Can you get through an early medieval philosophy lesson? Listen and test...


5.12 Back by the withering sand

( 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 places, and find out what life was like there under his rule.


5.11 On taking two umbrellas

( 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 land. Their armies will reach out towards the imperial city until they come upon one another in central India. There, they will both be meet a strange and indomitable new force. This week, we tell the first part of the struggle for North India.


5.10 On the way out

( 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 itself. This week, we piece together the story. In this episode: powerful poets send soldiers home, universities are crushed because of golden statues, a murder of governors, a king's boat takes a wrong turn, and much more.


5.9 On the way to Hind

( 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

( 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 match with the familiar story.


5.7 How to prevent fish on fish crime

( 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 witness an empire emerge from chaos. The Pala emperors are here.


5.6 Those who live on campaign...

( 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 Ghats. And they would bring back enough gold to build a house fit for God. Did he succeed in all his plans? Listen, and find out.


5.5 On top of the world

( 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 was first won, and what they did to make it their own.


5.4 Onward, Mauryan empire

( 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

( 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

( 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 Pataliputra. Along the way: a mountain split by a sword, the first record of attempted sati, Nepal's oldest temple, and much more.


5.1 Carry on, Pataliputra

( 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 Harsha's empire was formed, and they rule still. And one of the old families starts to build a new empire in the lands around Pataliputra.


5.0 Bumbling on bumbling

( 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

( 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 their secrets.