Seventy years ago, India and Pakistan became independent nations - but at a cost. People and lands were partitioned, and a once shared heritage was broken apart.
In part one, Kanishk Tharoor stretches back to stories of empire well before British rule, and looks at how narratives of conquest and loss still have a powerful hold over South Asians. There’s the spectacular creation - and destruction - of the famed Peacock Throne of the Mughal emperors. It took seven years to make, and seven elephants to cart it away forever. And the forgotten world of the Kushan empire in Pakistan, ruled over by the magnificent King Kanishka. We explore the mystery of what happened to his little bronze box that was said to hold the remains of the Buddha himself.
Part two delves into the histories of artefacts and landmarks linked to two of the greatest figures in modern South Asian history – Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Rabindranath Tagore, the celebrated Bengali writer. Ziarat Residency, the beautiful sanatorium where Jinnah spent the last three months of his life. Four years ago, it was fire-bombed and burnt to the ground by Balochi insurgents. And Tagore’s missing Nobel Prize Medal. In 1913, Tagore made history by becoming the first non-westerner to win a Nobel award. But just over 10 years ago, the medal was stolen – and still hasn’t been found. We explore how Tagore inspired revolutionaries and reformers in South Asia, and how his suspicion of all nationalisms makes his work relevant today.
Produced by Maryam Maruf
Contributors: Yuthika Sharma, University of Edinburgh; Vazira Fazila-Yacoubali Zamindar, Brown University; Nayyar Ali Dada; Saher Baloch; Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University; Pasha Haroon; Arunava Sinha; Rahul Tandon; and Saroj Mukherji
With thanks to Sussan Babaie, The Courtauld Institute of Art; Fifi Haroon; Minu Tharoor; CS Mukherji; and Sudeshna Guha
Image: Persian ruler Nadir Shah on the Peacock Throne after his victory over the Mughals Credit: Alamy