Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Skip To Content

The Story of India

Photos from Episode 4

Episode 4: Ages of Gold

Episode Four is the story of India in the Middle Ages. At the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, and the European Dark Ages, India had a series of great flowerings of culture, both in the north and the south. In this episode Michael Wood shows us some of the amazing achievements of medieval India: In astronomy they discovered the heliocentric universe, zero and the circumference of the earth.

They mastered the world's first large scale wrought iron technology—the Delhi iron pillar, and their courtly culture was the setting the world's first sex manual, the Kama Sutra.

Meanwhile in the south the rising power of the Cholan empire spread Indian arms and culture to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Andamans, and to Java and the Malay peninsula, where the Tamil diaspora is still powerful today.

Wood visits the Cholan capital at Tanjore, and with extraordinarily privileged access takes us right inside the greatest temple of that time (founded in 1010), to see the ancient rituals still being performed.

Cholan Temple

Cholan temple, Tanjore

In a fascinating sequence we see traditional bronze casters, making religious images for the temples, just as their ancestors did 1500 years ago.

We visit a traditional Tamil family in the temple city of Chidambaram, go with them on pilgrimage and witness the ancient mountain top festival of fire that was already famous in 700AD!

The story ends in Multan in Pakistan in the early eleventh century with a shadow on the horizon—the first invasions by Turks and Afghans bearing the Muslim faith that will change the story of India and turn the subcontinent into the biggest Muslim civilization in the world.


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


Photos left to right:

  1. Preparing for Ram Lila
  2. Iron pillar, Dehli
  3. Adding finishing touches to bronze sculpture
  4. Michael Wood with Tamil family