Discussion of religious movements and the theories and individuals behind them. More
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic which is regarded as one of the greatest works of world literature. Its importance in Indian culture has been compared to that of the Iliad and Odyssey in the West, and it’s still seen as a sacred text by Hindus today.
Written in Sanskrit, it tells the story of the legendary prince and princess Rama and Sita, and the many challenges, misfortunes and choices that they face. About 24,000 verses long, the Ramayana is also one of the longest ancient epics. It’s a text that’s been hugely influential and it continues to be popular in India and elsewhere in Asia.
Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University
Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Edinburgh
The image above shows Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana and devotees, from the Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal, Leicester.
Producer Luke Mulhall
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Donne (1573-1631), known now as one of England’s finest poets of love and notable in his own time as an astonishing preacher. He was born a Catholic in a Protestant country and, when he married Anne More without her father's knowledge, Donne lost his job in the government circle and fell into a poverty that only ended once he became a priest in the Church of England. As Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, his sermons were celebrated, perhaps none more than his final one in 1631 when he was plainly in his dying days, as if preaching at his own funeral.
The image above is from a miniature in the Royal Collection and was painted in 1616 by Isaac Oliver (1565-1617)
Mary Ann Lund
Associate Professor in Renaissance English Literature at the University of Leicester
Professor of Seventeenth Century Literature at Birkbeck, University of London
Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the largest and arguably the most astonishing religious structure on Earth, built for Suryavarman II in the 12th Century in modern-day Cambodia. It is said to have more stone in it than the Great Pyramid of Giza, and much of the surface is intricately carved and remarkably well preserved. For the last 900 years Angkor Wat has been a centre of religion, whether Hinduism, Buddhism or Animism or a combination of those, and a source of wonder to Cambodians and visitors from around the world.
Postdoctoral scholar at the Cotsen Institute and the Programme for Early Modern Southeast Asia at UCLA
Hiram W Woodward Chair of Southeast Asian Art at SOAS University of London
A stone conservator who has worked extensively at Angkor Wat
Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Czech educator Jan Amos Komenský (1592-1670) known throughout Europe in his lifetime under the Latin version of his name, Comenius. A Protestant and member of the Unity of Brethren, he lived much of his life in exile, expelled from his homeland under the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and he wanted to address the deep antagonisms underlying the wars that were devastating Europe especially The Thirty Years War (1618-1648). A major part of his plan was Universal Education, in which everyone could learn about everything, and better understand each other and so tolerate their religious differences and live side by side. His ideas were to have a lasting influence on education, even though the peace that followed the Thirty Years War only entrenched the changes in his homeland that made his life there impossible.
The image above is from a portrait of Comenius by Jürgen Ovens, 1650 - 1670, painted while he was living in Amsterdam and held in the Rikjsmuseum
Senior Researcher in the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Kent
Professor of Early Modern Intellectual History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Anne’s College
Producer: Simon Tillotson
Early Christian Martyrdom
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the accounts by Eusebius of Caesarea (c260-339 AD) and others of the killings of Christians in the first three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. Eusebius was writing in a time of peace, after The Great Persecution that had started with Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD and lasted around eight years. Many died under Diocletian, and their names are not preserved, but those whose deaths are told by Eusebius became especially celebrated and their stories became influential. Through his writings, Eusebius shaped perceptions of what it meant to be a martyr in those years, and what it meant to be a Christian.
The image above is of The Martyrdom of Saint Blandina (1886) at the Church of Saint-Blandine de Lyon, France
Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham
Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of London
Senior Lecturer in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King’s College London
Producer: Simon Tillotson