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The Story Of India: Beginnings

Airs Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Michael Wood with local women in Mathura after the Holi festival. Sixty years after India secured independence, Michael Wood sets out on an epic journey "over 10,000 years and 10,000 miles" to uncover the fabulous sights and sounds, the dazzling achievements and the dramatic history of an ancient, prosperous and influential civilization.

Michael Wood's fascinating journey through the history of the Indian subcontinent, the first history of India on western television, chronicles the incredible richness and diversity of its peoples, cultures and landscapes; outlines the originality and continuing relevance of its ideas; and relates some of the most momentous and moving events in world history.

Michael Wood looking out over Varanasi waterfront, India.
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Above: Michael Wood looking out over Varanasi waterfront, India.

The world's largest democracy and a rising economic giant, India is now as well known in the U.S. for its mastery of computer technology and its business and industrial strength as it is for its many-armed gods and its spiritual traditions. But India is also the world's most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity stretching back into prehistory.

Photo Gallery

Explore "The Story of India" through this interactive photo gallery that weaves together a series of interrelated themes, events, and individuals that helped shape India's history.

The first episode, "Beginnings," looks at identity and the roots of India's famous "unity in diversity". Using all the tools available to the historical detective—from DNA to climate science, oral survivals, ancient manuscripts, archaeology, and exploration of the living cultures of the subcontinent—Michael Wood takes us from the tropical heat of South India to the Ganges plain and from Pakistan and the Khyber Pass out to Turkmenistan where dramatic new archaeological discoveries are changing our view of the migrations that have helped make up Indian identity.

We begin long before recorded history with the first human journey out of Africa. In extraordinary scenes in the tropical backwaters of Kerala, Wood finds survivals of human sounds and rituals from before language.

In Tamil Nadu the latest DNA research takes him to a village where everyone still bears the genetic imprint of those first "beachcombing incomers"—the "first Indians" who went on to populate the rest of the world excluding Africa.

Then on to the modern discovery of India's "first civilization"—the lost cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in today's Pakistan and the mystery of their collapse, which Wood discovers may have been due to massive and far-reaching climate change.

Forward again to the Ganges plain and the "Age of Heroes" in time of the great Indian epic the Mahabharata.

Throughout, this colorful and exciting film is full of the sights, sounds and people of today’s India. Wood ends the film in a vast crowd of pilgrims at the great festival of Holi in Mathura in north India, covered from head to foot in colored powder and telling us, "this is just the beginning!"

Video

Video Excerpt: The Story Of India: Beginnings

Above: This video excerpt is from "The Story Of India." The first episode looks at identity and the roots of India's famous "unity in diversity". Using all the tools available to the historical detective—from DNA to climate science, oral survivals, ancient manuscripts, archaeology, and exploration of the living cultures of the subcontinent—Michael Wood takes us from the tropical heat of South India to the Ganges plain and from Pakistan and the Khyber Pass out to Turkmenistan where dramatic new archaeological discoveries are changing our view of the migrations that have helped make up Indian identity.