Poet and translator Arundhathi Subramaniam alongside scholar and musician Vidya Shah invoke the spirituality of the Bhakti movement in a strand of joyous music performances interspersed with powerful dramatic readings of translated sacred poems from across the subcontinent down the ages.
Address by Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple, Sanjoy K. Roy, Neeraj Dhingra, CEO – Europe for ZEE Network and Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning, British Library
Fifty years ago in 1968, the Beatles travelled to Rishikesh to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The trip led to an intensely productive period for the band and also impacted Western attitudes towards Indian spirituality. This was India’s first big splash in the western psyche with East meeting West at a time of vast social and political tumult across the world. A fascinating session that explores the magic and mystery of the Beatles in India, with writer, journalist and Beatles biographer Philip Norman and journalist Ajoy Bose, who is researching the Beatles years' in India.
Shrabani Basu’s Victoria and Abdul:The True Story Of The Queen's Closest Confidant is based on the previously unknown correspondence between Queen Victoria and her manservant Abdul. Oscar-winning director Stephen Frears is now turning the book into a much-awaited movie starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria.
Exploring Indian Classical Dance through movement and body expression. A practical workshop for the whole family to discover the nuances of the language of gestures to tell stories and express emotions.
The British Library holds some of the world’s finest South Asian collections, of extraordinary range and diversity, and in many languages. They include paintings, miniatures, drawings, over 80,000 manuscripts covering history and poetry to medicine and religion, the writings and papers of diplomats and travellers and administrators, outstanding photography, some 600,000 printed books and periodicals, countless recordings and much more. At this session, British Library curators give an insight into this richness by way of ten iconic treasures.
Karan Johar's frank and riveting memoir, An Unsuitable Boy, lays bare the soul of Bollywood. In conversation with Rachel Dwyer, the talented and charismatic director, producer, actor and television anchor talks of his life and learnings in the dream machine of the Indian film industry.
From mindreading, criminal psychology and neuro-linguistic programming, this session will push you to understand the psyche of magic and illusion even better. We’ve all seen magic across the world — the usual conundrums of disappearing rabbits and flying pigeons. But there’s more to it than what’s performed on stage. The fun starts when the illusionist comes down the stage and reads your mind. This is a craft that requires patience, practice and unshakable belief. Discover the world of street magic with traveller and illusionist Neel Madhav.
It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century but a dangerously unregulated London-based private company run by an unstable sociopath. In the 18th century, the East India Company morphed from being a relatively conventional corporation to the effective rulers of Bengal as it grew into an aggressive colonial power. Using its rapidly growing security force, it swiftly succeeded in subduing and seizing an entire subcontinent. How did this happen? John Keay, Jon Wilson, Giles Milton and Zareer Masani discuss the rise of the Dishonourable Company and its legacy with William Dalrymple.
Sita Ram was the artist of ten magnificent albums of drawings of views on the Ganges and Yamuna from Bengal to Delhi and beyond. Two volumes were sold in London in 1974 and subsequently dispersed but it was not until the British Library acquired the remaining eight volumes in 1995 that Sita Ram's true status and patronage were revealed. J.P. Losty takes us on an imaginative journey following the Governor-General Lord Hastings' travels of 1814-15 with Sita Ram’s meticulous, detailed and inspired watercolours.
Sharad Paul reveals the fascinating history of skin and the changes it undertook every time the future of the species was at stake. In a session replete with science, romance and mystery, this story peels away artificial divisions to lay open the genetic chains that bind races and species together.
The South China Sea dispute involves overlapping claims amongst sovereign states while the water treaties between Pakistan and India on the Indus river, and China and India on the Brahmaputra are potential flashpoints for conflict. A session that navigates the troubled waters of political geography.
James Joyce wrote the greatest of Dublin novels in Trieste while American poet TS Eliot wrote his modernist masterpiece ‘The Wasteland’ in England. But does migration always positively affect the writing of a novelist? And how has a genre increasingly being heralded as a ‘new world literature’ changed with the times? Literary exiles and migrants Amit Chaudhuri, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Meera Syal and Prajwal Parajuly compare notes with Anita Anand.
Armed with an intriguing tale, fabulously foul facts and our time travelling commentator Yakkety Yak’s appalling jokes, Nayanika Mahtani sets out to explore whether Genghis Khan really was the evil villain that he is often made out to be. Are you ready to meet the Mongols? (Ages 9+)
A session that looks at how and why India votes. Ornit Shani, author of How India Became Democratic and Mukulika Banerjee, author of Why India Votes discuss the success of the electoral system as well as the flaws and dysfunctionalities within the model with writer and journalist Ajoy Bose.
The Kohinoor is the world’s most famous diamond but its history is shrouded in mystery. Now, using previously untranslated Sanskrit, Persian and Urdu sources along with the high tech discoveries of modern gemologists, Anita Anand and William Dalrymple blow away the legends to reveal a true history stranger, and more violent, than any fiction. Kohinoor reveals previously unknown moments in the history of a diamond that was once worn on Ranjit Singh’s turban, Duleep Singh’s armband and Queen Victoria’s tiara. It is now locked in the Tower of London where it continues to arouse passions as India, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban all claim it as a national treasure and demand its return.
No Indian dynasty made more of their love for art, and especially painting, than the Mughals. Five authorities on Mughal painting tell the remarkable story of how a Muslim dynasty came to patronise some of the greatest figurative paintings in world history, from the beginnings of the atelier during the reign of Akbar through to its heyday during the reign of Shah Jahan and its decline under the puritan Aurangzeb.
Acclaimed British-Punjabi poet Daljit Nagra speaks of his writing and the puzzles of identity and cultural hyphenations. Guillermo Rodríguez, the author of When Mirrors Are Windows: A View of A.K. Ramanujan's Poetics, examines the legacy of the late Ramanujan, whose profound and prolific output has influenced the literary instincts of generations of Indian readers and academics. In conversation with poet and writer Arundhathi Subramaniam, who reads from her poetry and speaks of hyphenations across geographies and cultures.
Neeraj Arya — the voice of Kabir in the contemporary scene — has been relentlessly researching and performing Kabir poetry across the country for the last six years. His rendezvous with Kabir began with the film Had Anhad by Shabnam Virmani. Influenced by folk Kabir artistes like Prahlad Tipanya and Mir Mukhtiyar Ali, Neeraj applied his own musical sensibilities and pioneered a genre called ‘Kabir Rock’.
Travel writing is one of the most ancient forms of literature predating the novel by hundreds of centuries and a genre that appeared simultaneously across the globe. But what relevance does it have in the age of the Internet, globalisation and Google Maps? Travel writers Anthony Sattin, Christina Lamb, Hugh Thomson, Samanth Subramanian discuss the evolving genre and why it still remains a window into other worlds and cultures with William Dalrymple.
Evoking the bygone era of the gramophone women of India, singer and author Vidya Shah speaks to professor Rachel Dwyer of the journeys of Indian women performers from the salon to the studio.
What did the wife understand when her husband said, “I will not be 'I’ nor you, 'you', we will be one.” What did the woman by the river mean when she told her lover, “Never question what I do.” What does parting mean and what on Earth is the best company? Come and listen to a retelling from the old stories in performance storytelling by Vayu Naidu with immersive music by Arpan Shiva.
Nobody expected the liberation of India and the birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries. Nehru believed in a centralised yet diverse India. Jinnah was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand. But following the Lahore Resolution and the decision to press for an independent Pakistan, tensions increased and as the summer of 1947 approached, all hell was let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many contemporary evils. A panel of writers and historians discuss the period’s lasting legacy.
P.G. Wodehouse continues to be one of the most popular English language writers in India with a readership that spans generations. How and why does his idyllic world and linguistic style cross notions of class and culture? Shashi Tharoor, past president of the Wodehouse Society of St Stephens College, Delhi University, journalist and author Mihir S. Sharma, author Tony Ring and journalist Swapan Dasgupta discuss the enduring mystery of India’s fascination with Wodehouse.
The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored. Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg — a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England — turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland but in return was given Manhattan. This led not only to the birth of New York but also to the beginning of the British Empire. Such a deal was due to the persistence of one man. Nathaniel Courthope and his small band of adventurers were sent to Run in October 1616 and for four years held off the massive Dutch navy. Written with the flair of a historical sea novel but based on rigorous research, Giles Milton's Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a brilliant story and a true tale of high adventure in the South Seas.
Constitutions around the world, including India and the United States of America, have drawn inspiration from the Magna Carta. Even as the uncodified traditions of the United Kingdom are under scrutiny, constitutional experts around the world are examining the challenges faced by new and changing political realities in the understanding and implementation of their legal systems. An session that discusses the separation of powers, lines of accountability and the balance of judicial activism and restraint.
William Dalrymple and Vidya Shah celebrate the tale of the ill-fated love between James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khairuunisa. A story of love and betrayal, it shines a spotlight on a period of colonial history before the racism of the Raj came into being and attitudes between races were more open. Dalrymple reads from his award-winning book while Shah punctuates the narrative with music from the courts of 18th century Hyderabad and the poetry of the city’s greatest courtesan, Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, whose diwan is one of the treasures of the British Library India collections.
The sprawling lawns and colonial buildings of New Delhi’s Lutyens' bungalow zone have become a metaphor for privilege and elitism in modern India. Malvika Singh, writer, city biographer and cultural provocateur provides insights and anecdotes into New Delhi, Old Delhi and the micro-climate of Lutyens' Delhi in the context of all the ancient capitals that have preceded it. In conversation with writer and professor Somnath Batabyal, whose debut novel is also set in the Indian capital.
Four practitioners of the art of fiction speak of the shape of the stories they tell, and how they plot and graph, pace and punctuate their narratives. A session of readings and discussion with Amit Chaudhuri, Kunal Basu, Sarvat Hasin and Tahmima Anam, in conversation with Namita Gokhale.
The circulation of ideas in the early modern world demonstrates the complexity of knowledge flows and networks, of translation, retranslation, reinterpretation and innovation. The movements of information and thought from East to West and back provide fascinating insights into the nature of scholarship and the movement of ideas. An engaging session on the sources and processes of knowledge.
Sunny Singh, co founder of the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour discusses the challenges of a dominant monocultural literary landscape and the efforts to encourage, showcase and reward creativity for those outside it. In conversation with Laura Susijn,Prajwal Parajuly and Wei Ming Kam.
Ideas of India have been under intense scrutiny in recent times. The bewildering diversity and plurality of the country leads to its articulation through many voices and languages. Prominent writers and thinkers explain their individual perceptions of ‘their’ particular idea of India and what it means to them.
As India celebrates 70 years of its independence from colonial rule, this session debates colonialism’s claims of benefit and development despite evidence of its fundamental nature. The panelists discuss if this period — from the time of Vasco da Gama's arrival to the final emergence of the English as the principal colonisers of the Indian subcontinent — was one of acquiring as much and as many of India's riches as each European power could lay their hands on. Session co-hosted by the South Asia Centre, LSE and The British Library, as part of the series ‘Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall’