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The Story of India

Photos from Episode 1

Episode 1: Beginnings

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.

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.

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

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!"

Episode Credits

Written and Presented by Michael Wood
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs
Editor: Gerry Branigan
Music: Howard Davidson & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Filmed and Directed by Jeremy Jeffs

Top photos, left to right:

  1. Fishing boats, Kerala
  2. 3rd century BCE ruins at Harappa
  3. Reciting ancient nambudiri Brahmin mantras
  4. Royal burial at Gonur Tepe, Turkmenistan c.2000 BCE