Episode 6: Freedom
This last episode tells how a foreign multinational (the East India Company) thousands of miles away gradually and almost by chance took power over great swathes of the Indian subcontinent; how after the horrendous shock of the 1857 "Mutiny" the British state took over and turned this supremacy into the Raj, the jewel in the crown of the greatest empire the world had ever seen; and how the Freedom Movement delivered Independence to India in 1947, albeit a divided India.
The series ends by acknowledging the extraordinary achievements of Indian democracy over sixty years and flags India's predicted rise to be the largest country and the second largest (or even the largest) economy in the world in the next three decades.
Our last episode takes us from the 11 miles of archives of the East India Company in the British Library in London, out to the Hooghly River and 18th century Calcutta (Kolkata), through the battlefields of Lucknow and Etawah in the First War of Independence in 1857 ("The Indian Mutiny" as the British saw it!). At a destroyed fort still marked by cannon fire, we meet the descendent of a rebel Maharaja who tells us how his ancestors fought the British twice – once in 1857 and then during the nationalist movement of the early 20th Century.
We chart the development of the Indian National Congress of Nehru and Gandhi and its unlikely founder member - a British civil servant called AO Hume. The Rebel in the Raj, Hume was a recent question in the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The show looks at the rise of newspapers and education in Victorian India, goes to Kipling’s Allahabad and visits the amazing labyrinth of stacks in the National Archive in Delhi to look at the early British censuses. Then Wood takes us on to the First War, the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, the move to Independence and the fateful Partition of 1947, one of the most crucial events in the history of modern India. In Amritsar he meets an 82-year-old Sikh man who tells us of his flight from his village in Pakistan and we cross today’s border to meet his old Muslim neighbours who stayed behind in the Punjab in the same village.
The last section of this epic journey "over ten thousand years and ten thousand miles" as Wood puts it, looks briefly at the first 45 years of socialist influenced planning and the last 15 of unfettered growth as India rises rapidly to become a world power once again.
Our journey ends overlooking the seven ancient cities of Delhi. We have seen in this epic journey, how over immense vistas of time and often cataclysmic historical events, India has been shaped and sustained by the incredibly deep-rooted equilibrium of its past. But do the ideas of the Buddha, Ashoka, Akbar, Gandhi and the rest still have lessons for India and the world today? On that question may depend not only India’s future, but that of the rest of us too.
The world's largest democracy and a rising economic giant, India is now as well known across the globe for its mastery of computer technology as it is for its many-armed gods and its famous spiritual traditions. But India is also the world's most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity back into prehistory.
Click here to see the map with the locations visited in all episodes
Like other great civilizations—Greece or Egypt, for example—over the millennia it has enjoyed not just one but several brilliant golden ages in art and culture. Its great thinkers and religious leaders have permanently changed the face of the globe. But while the glories of Rome, Egypt, and Greece, have all been the subject of TV portraits, as yet there has been no television story of India on our screens. This series sets out for the first time to do that: to show a world audience the wonders of India; the incredible richness and diversity of its peoples, cultures and landscapes; and the intense drama of its past, including some of the most momentous, exciting and moving events in world history.
India's history is a ten thousand year epic but for over two millennia, India has been at the center of world history. It has seen successive invasions from Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to Tamburlaine and the British, all of whom left their mark but all of whom succumbed, in the end, to India herself. For all that time India has been famous for its spiritual traditions; it gave birth to two world religions, one of which—Buddhism—had a profound impact on all of East Asia, China, Japan and Korea, and in modern times has found root even in the US and Europe. The subcontinent is home to one of the world's greatest—and least understood—artistic traditions and to an extraordinary spectrum of music, dance and literature. India was also, and still is, a great center for technology and science, inventing—for example—the decimal system with zero, which is the basis of all modern science, mathematics and economics. India gave birth to some of the most remarkable characters in world history, including the Buddha, the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, and the Moghul emperor Akbar the Great, not to mention the likes of Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
Now, in the era of globalization, India has once again become a leading player in the world. Home to more than one billion people it is a land of amazing contrasts: it contains both the high tech brilliance of Bangalore's Silicon Valley and the archaic splendour of the Kumbh Mela festival, where 25 million pilgrims come to bathe in the sacred river Ganges on a single night. While moving at high speed into the 3rd millennium, India alone, of all the civilizations on the face of the earth, is still in touch with her ancient past.
In this landmark six-part series for PBS and the BBC, Michael Wood embarked on a dazzling and exciting journey through today's India, "seeking in the present for clues to her past, and in the past for clues to her future".
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 by Greek archeologist Viktor Sarianidi 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 down Pakistan's Khyber Pass, he shows how Alexander the Great’s invasion of India inspired her first empire. The Rise of Maurya kingdom.
Meenakshi Temple at Madurai
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 empire, the (Kushan Empire) of Northern India that opened up the Silk Route and at Peshawar built a lost Wonder of the World. That wonder nowadays people known as "Bare Raja Ka Tila". Also offers an interesting 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.
The Taj Mahal, Built by the Mughals, one of the wonders of the world
 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.