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The Story Of India -

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All societies in human history, people lived in peace and plenty, a golden age - a past time when I suppose, have imagined

profane time had not yet happened. and the division between sacred and when the rulers were just DISTANT CHEERING But here in India, and powerful right down to today. has been extraordinarily tenacious above all countries, that idea a history behind such dreams? But is there the golden age - real and imagined. This is a journey back to

DISTANT CHANTING INDIAN CYMBALS PLAY In The Story Of India, and the Dark Ages in the West. the time of the fall of Rome we've reached the year 400, in the north and the south, great kingdoms rose then But here in India, come to be seen as a golden age. and in modern times, this has INDIAN FUSION MUSIC PLAYS THROUGHOUT is at the centre of that idea, And if one story who came down to Earth as a king, it's the tale of Rama, the God and ruled with justice. who defeated evil known and loved by all Indians. It's a tale 300 versions of the Rama story There are said to be 20 different Indian languages. in more than MUSIC DROWNS CONVERSATION

DISTANT CHATTER called the Rama stories and plays In the days of the Raj, the British "the bible of India". they said, If you didn't know them, you couldn't know the people. behind the epic tale, the powerful, driving idea Nor would you understand

should live in virtue - "dharma". that whether king or commoner, you smoky and mysterious, isn't it? It's kind of wonderfully standing among the trees Gods in glittering costumes all sitting round. and a vast audience to the last day of 31 days We're on the next of the plays of the story of Rama. of performance

simply the best story in the world. And for most Indian people, it's Sita! EVIL LAUGH it begins with the abduction Like the tale of Troy, of a beautiful queen. The wicked demon king seizes Sita, the exiled king of Ayodhyay. the faithful wife of Rama, Sita! back to his island fortress... The demon king takes Sita sets out to find her, while the distraught Rama Hanuman. helped by the faithful monkey, Eventually, with Hanuman's help, Sita after a heroic battle. Rama crosses the sea and rescues DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYS After his triumph, in the city of Ayodhyay Rama returns to reign and brings in the Golden Age. the epic tale told by the poets In around the year 400, and the myth became history. became fixed in a real place, in the early fifth century AD, It was back of the Roman Empire in the West, the time of the fall and made it their own. dynasty took the story of Rama that a powerful North Indian They were called the "Guptas".

the golden city of Rama a conscious decision to locate And the Guptas took and create their own golden time. from where they would rule in a real place was given a new name and identity - So the old town of Saketa Ayodhyay.

by the pilgrim guides That story is still told with a few mythic embellishments! on the river bank... MAN SPEAKS IN HINDI

So the myth became fact. became a real place, The city of legend as an incarnation of God on Earth, and Rama was accepted of the Gogra River. here on the banks Indians, this is a beloved story. For hundreds of millions of ordinary the greatest ever TV audiences. It has the biggest ever book sales, the Golden Age. who would literally try to restore No wonder that now there are those

is altogether ten "lakh" years old. The soul of Ayodhyay old. It has a very long history. Ten lakh years old?! Ten lakh years This is a million years. OK. Wow! This is a million years?! A million years. Right. So, it's a different conception of history. to the Western

the present, but about the past. So, the fight is not just about is the story of India itself - The issue at stake ever been one Indian identity? who does it belong to? Had there

as Nehru and Gandhi Or was the real history, and multiple narratives? one of multiple identities and the freedom fighters believed, the layers of history of Ayodhyay This wonderful place sums up of the city under the Guptas. that go back long before the revival Muslim shrine underneath us... Hindu Ayodhyay, that great

the Buddhist history. and below our feet, in the Gupta age? So, what was India like of the Roman Empire. at the time of the fall Let's go back now to the world an age of migrations and wars. The fifth century AD was to the Gates of Rome. from the Great Wall of China The Huns swept out of Asia

kings created their empire. This was the time when the Gupta there's an eyewitness to that time. And by a lucky chance, later visitors, came here A foreigner, who like many seeking the wisdom of India. Thank you. Sun-dried, river...river mud. once you've finished your drink. goes back to the earth Biodegradable, HORN BLARES The eyewitness was Chinese, whose name was Fa-Hsien. a Buddhist pilgrim and he describes the country, monasteries of North India, He'd come to visit the Buddhist Gupta king, Chandragupta II. in the time of the great very interesting and revealing. of other civilisations are always Foreigners' views of the fall of the Roman Empire, around the year 400, about the time Fa-Hsien's portrait of India in from what survives. that you could never have imagined opens a window onto the Gupta age with a very strong governing ethos. of a highly organised state It's a portrait late classical civilisation. In fact, a great, the Ganges plain. Fa-Hsien travelled down

the Middle land," he says. "This part is known as are the greatest in India. The cities and towns "Climate is temperate. "The people are numerous and happy, vie with each other rich and prosperous, "the inhabitants of the cities, "in the practice of benevolence and righteousness. "The king governs without capital punishment, and throughout the country, "the people do not kill any living creature." Fa-Hsien depicts India as a pluralist and tolerant country, where Buddhism thrived along with the Hindu religions. What he doesn't mention are the extraordinary artistic productions of Gupta civilisation, like the gold coins of the kings, holding the golden bow of Rama... Or the wonderful sculpture created by Gupta artists for all religions.

Nor does Fa-Hsien mention the Guptas' technological achievements. The most mysterious - a 35ft iron pillar... ..which stands in Delhi today.

And the inscription on it... dates it to about 400 AD, centuries before the Chinese developed their iron technology. 1,500 years nearly before the Industrial Revolution. If Chinese are considered to be the masters of ceramic, Indians were the masters of metal. There's no doubt about that. And particularly, the metal they were masters in was iron. It was done by a technique known as forge welding. Forge welding? Welding. What you do in this technique is you take lumps of iron, about 20kg in weight, and then you place them on top of each other in a hot condition and you hit with a hammer. Doing this, due to the forging action, you have joined the material. So you have constructed a pillar which is about 6,000kg in weight. That's unbelievable!

So that is actually a very marvellous engineering feat. So this pillar should be considered as a metallurgical wonder of the world! Yes, yes, yeah! Not just India - it belongs to humanity. Yes. Do we know who made it and commissioned it? Based upon the inscription on the pillar, we know that it was commissioned

by one Chandra. It doesn't tell anything more, it just talks about Chandra. We now know, based on the analysis of the Gupta gold coins, that this Chandra should be Chandragupta II. "Chandra," says the column, "his face beautiful like the full moon, "who won the sovereignty of the Earth and left the southern ocean "perfumed by the breeze of his bravery."

What is it about them that makes them so creative? Can you explain that for us? As a metallurgist, I'm aware that if you look at the metallurgical objects which have come - iron, iron pillar, the gold coins, the variety of coins, and the beautiful bronze castings of Buddha from Mathura, it's very clear that during the Gupta period, the people were focused on high quality. And that was the time when Indian civilisation actually takes the next major leap. And the leap was in all fields. After defeating the Huns, the Gupta kings made their court a centre of high culture, drama and literature. But some of the most remarkable achievements of their age were in science. Just like today,

the ancient Indians were brilliant mathematicians. Gupta scientists pioneered the use of zero, the foundation of all modern mathematics. It was a Gupta astronomer, in around 500 AD, who proved the Earth went round the sun. His name was Aryabhatta. Aryabhatta was...one of the greatest Indian astronomers.

He came up with the concept of Pi. That is a very significant contribution by him. And, of course, he was... In the field of astronomy also, he estimated the circumference of the Earth, which, at that time, he said was 5,000 "yojanas". That is...the unit of length. It turns out that the present value is very close to that value.

That's almost exactly the Earth's true circumference of 24,900 miles. All this was part of wider speculation about the place of humanity in the cosmos, a cosmos imagined by ancient Indians in billions of years, way beyond what anybody came up with in the West, before the age of radio telescopes. And the ability to imagine like that has always been a mark of Indian civilisation. Unlike the West in the age of Galileo, India was not traumatised by the revelation that the universe is infinite and the human place in it, tiny. That all things, the Gods too, are subject to cycles of cosmic destruction over aeons of time, and that human life is a pool of light in an infinite darkness. Just as a man in a moving boat sees the stationary objects on shore move in the opposite direction, so a person standing on the equator would see the stationary stars

move directly towards the West. DISTANT SINGING More than anybody else in the Gupta age, Aryabhatta gives us an idea of the incredible breadth of intellectual speculation going on here in India, at the time of the Barbarian Invasions and the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. And those speculations went from contemplation of the cosmos to the life of the mind. Indian thinkers of the Gupta age were especially interested in the psychology of human relationships and the art of sex... ..an area that in western Christian civilisation was for so long associated with guilt. India has always been a guilt-free society as far as sex is concerned. Obviously we are 1.2 billion people so... HE LAUGHS There's no guilt here, you know? Sex is fun and it's good. Even when it's bad, it's all right. So just... Yeah, yeah. The most famous product of the Gupta age, at least in the West, is the Kama Sutra. The consciousness of being in an elevated situation when you're in love, or making love, is called "kama". It's how to describe it in English, but it's the sense of consciousness.

Having all your sense organs elevated when you are in the very act making love is "kama". You need to have an element of fun. It's not all about positions and contortions, it's also about having fun and enjoying this. "The sound, "Him", a sound like thunder, the sounds "sut",

""dut", gasps, moans..." "..and cries of "Stop!" "Harder!" "Go on!" "Don't kill me!" "No!" are the generic name of sitk..." Sit... What's this? "Sitkrta". Sitkrta. The Kama Sutra, contrary to many perceptions in the Western world, is not just about sex or about sexual positions, isn't it? It's more a kind of book of life, isn't it? All of Hindu philosophy talks of something called the "Purusharth" which are... Purusharth is what a man needs to do, right? Which is "dharma", the whole quality of being a righteous human being. You have "artha", which allows you to...which is gathering wealth. So, it could be just business, it could be governance... Then you have "kama", the idea of love. And the last of these that you need to do in life is seek "moksha", which is liberation. Hinduism extols every human being to actually explore all these aspects of life. It tells us important things about the Gupta age, doesn't it? We know who it was aimed at. I mean, are women intended as readership as well as men? Women were equal, and the Kama Sutra too encourages women to seek their own levels of satisfaction. Right? Because it recognises a very important thing, and this is the most important thing about the Kama Sutra, that it looks at relationships as a two-way...relationship, of give and take, of mutual loving. It's a symbiotic relationship. It's a very modern text... It's a very modern text. It's a very modern text. It's not, "Oh, thank you, ma'am" and... No. That doesn't work.

TABLA MUSIC PLAYS ANKLETS JINGLE In human relations, there's always a gap between ideal and reality. The Kama Sutra was written in the fifth century, but it was the product of an age where there was freedom of thought. And such an enquiry into love surely is the mark of a high civilisation. MUSIC: "San Sanana" by Anu Malik and Gulzar From Bollywood movies to the sublime passion of religious poetry, the transcendent moment of human love in Indian culture is a mirror of our relation with the gods.

For all our failures to achieve the ideal, in love, so India teaches, we human beings are still touched by the divine. DISTANT HORN So the age of the Guptas shaped Indian civilisation in the north in the Middle Ages. Here in the south, in the 10th century, another great civilisation arose and created an empire that would rule across Southern India and the islands of the Indian Ocean. These were the "Cholans", and their heyday was from around 900 to 1300 AD. Just as the Guptas had in the north, the Cholans reshaped the medieval world of the south.

Their capital still stands today, Thanjore, in Tamil Nadu. At its heart, the temple of the creator of the empire... Raja Raja, the king of kings. Brilliant statesmen, builders and artists, the Cholans have been called the Athenians of India. And what's so extraordinary is that their civilisation is still alive today.

The priests have been doing that ritual here every morning for the last thousand years, since Raja Raja The Great himself inaugurated this temple in 1010. The tallest building in India when it was built, the temple was dedicated to the great god of the Cholan royal family - Shiva. The temple, though, really, is a monument to Raja Raja himself. It's named after him, and the inscriptions all round the walls extol his deeds as king of kings, lion of the solar race, lord of the world. Like all empires, the Cholan state used violence. They conquered the whole of South India and sent their fleets to Indonesia.

The temple carries inscriptions to 30 royal regiments, and on its walls, even the images of the gods are war-like. The king himself, though, is portrayed on a modest scale - as a philosopher prince. In the old palace of the "rajas" of Thanjore, there's another insight into the Cholan age. Here, in the former royal library, is a vast store of ancient Tamil literature going back to the Cholans and beyond. Grammar, poetry and philosophy...

Many of the texts are preserved on fragile, palm-leaf manuscripts, which are now being carefully restored. And one fascinating and little-known aspect of their culture is that the Cholans also wrote their own history. What would be a manuscript book, a chronicle in Western Europe,

say in the 10th and 11th century, here in the Cholan Empire, is copper plates. This is just one document from a temple treasury, about 15 copper plates. There's the seal of Rajendra, the son of Raja Raja the Great. The umbrella and the fish, the tiger... Weighs about 40 kilos! And there's thousands of these, most of them still kept by individual temples. These things were used for recording genealogies, royal pedigrees, land grants, but also history. And they include the history of how Raja Raja The Great came to the throne. And it's a dark story. A tale of palace intrigue and murder, of whisperings in corridors and shadowy deals. His brother, the heir, was assassinated. His father died of a broken heart, and his mother committed suicide, "Sati", on the funeral pyre. And then, his wicked uncle took the throne. But still Raja Raja did not desire the burden of kingship.

But the astrologers had seen certain marks on his body that showed he was the God Vishnu on Earth. And so it was agreed that Raja Raja should be the next king. No, over there, please. Just here.

Looking for a clue to the King's personality, I went to the present Raja of Thanjore, whose family lost their power in 1947... but not their palace. These medieval Indian kings seem to me men of strange contradictions. The mix of violence and beauty, blood and flowers... But today's prince just sees a real person living according to the kingly ideal of "dharma" - virtue.

You're descended from the great Rajas of Thanjore. Your palace is still right here where the Cholan kings' palace was a thousand years ago. Have you ever thought what Raja Raja was like? Raja Raja...when we just think about him, our blood shoots up. He's such a great man! And you know, it... It makes you feel very proud, and also it makes you feel very small. If our ego shoots up, it makes it...come down. What do you think... What kind of people... What do you think Raja Raja was like as a person? Have you any idea? Yes. Er, he's...the greatest... ..warrior, but at the same time, with the most human touch, I feel. So, he was with the people. Otherwise, just by command and force, such a huge...temple he could not have built a golden period for his subjects. or he could not have planned such CHANTING IN HINDI In modern times, Raja Raja's reign golden age, celebrated in novels, has come to be seen as a Tamil in the civil war in Sri Lanka, plays and in movies. Indeed, of the Cholan army. their oaths of loyalty on those the Tamil rebels have even modelled INDIAN MUSIC PLAYS as a great ruler and patron... deserves better to be remembered But Raja Raja himself keeper. Don't think for a moment and an even more assiduous record who brought bureaucracy into India. that it was the British of records is revealed in an amazing series The reality of the Cholan state of the great temple in Thanjore. carved on the walls piece of self-advertisement, The temple's not only a monumental

administration of the Cholan Empire. it's also a written record of the hundreds of them, It even lists all the staff, the emperor's new foundation. who were brought in to serve and 400 dancing girls. Craftsmen, artists, musicians, by house number and by street And they're listed by name, that was specially built for them. in the quarter

the detail is irresistible. For the historian, It's about ordinary people is not just about kings. For history, after all, but not here. who are usually nameless, was the dancer Thirumala Who, for example, new royal city on South Street who lived here in Raja Raja's in house number 88? on the south side of the street? Oh, I see! OK. Where is the numbering Ah! Thank you. Yes, yes. old numbering and new numbering! There is a difference between the same as it is today. 11th century numbering to be quite Nobody's expecting the

from the junction of the street, But counting the houses Thirumala lived, is somewhere... where a dancing girl called number 88, ..here. Come on! Hello.

that would've existed This is the kind of courtyard in Cholan Thanjore. in the private houses Every one would've had its own well and, er, little shrines. MAN SPEAKS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE A private temple! So, is this a private temple?

Yes, a thousand years old. as the time of Raja Raja the Great? So, this is as old Ambal, Ambal. Ambal, Ambal. This is "Aman" temple or Shiva? Isn't that absolutely wonderful? shrine, a family shrine. So, it's a little goddess documents for the dancers, I think, when you look at those lived in a place just like this, who lived at number 88, that...Thirumala, the dancer

a yard where she cooked, with a little shrine to the goddess, in the great temple of Raja Raja. to the service of Shiva and spent a life devoted SINGING IN INDIAN LANGUAGE has survived until today. And the dance of the artistic traditions Bharata Natyam, is another The style of dancing, down to us in an unbroken line of South India that's come a thousand years ago. from the Cholan era time, it was a religious dance. Back in Raja Raja the Great's were dancing for God. Those girls in the temple of the dance still today And the poses Shiva himself is said to have danced are the 108 classic poses of that in his cosmic dance. straight out of the Cholan world. you can still stumble on scenes In the Tamil countryside, DRUMS AND PUNGI FLUTE PLAY

for the arts in Raja Raja's day. This is Thiruvengadu, a centre to the god Shiva. of the hundreds of popular songs The king made an official collection And these are still sung today. stand on end. he said they'd made his hair When the king first heard them, HE SINGS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE the greatest periods of Indian art. But the Cholan age was also one of perhaps the most famous. And this one, as close as we could possibly be Just come and look at this! About in...metal casting in the world. to one of the greatest masterpieces It shows Shiva as the herdsman. but the bull hasn't been found. leaning on his bull, Nandi, He would've been on the fingers, isn't it? Fantastic detail A turban of snakes... he's got, hasn't he? And what a wonderful figure Rather lovely midriff! The... the detail on the girdle here! The girdle, of the god is always here as well. And, of course, the consort This is Parvati...Shiva's wife.

And this is the classic image of Cholan beauty, South Indian beauty. altogether, you know? image of beauty in...in India In fact, it becomes the classic and they kind of look like this. historical Bollywood movies You see any of the classic of their bodies is dressed too! Except the upper part

still exists... casters who worked for Raja Raja And one of the families of bronze ..and they're still making bronzes today. of names back? 15 generations? So, how many generations More. More? 20? More? their ancestors According to family tradition, in exactly the same way. And they still make the images worked on the temple in Thanjore. in the water. All right. ..flexible, we put it MAN SPEAKS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE You don't use a ruler?! So, you don't... You don't use feet and inches?

HE SPEAKS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE All right... One face. Quarter...quarter face? So, this is one face? is by the face. Yeah. The measurement HE SPEAKS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE Chest. Abdomen. Yeah. Upper leg... Knee... Lower leg... Foot. The model is then made in beeswax. Just... Why beeswax? about how God should be represented. Every civilisation has its idea of God is a dancer. This... But this Tamil version ..wonderfully laden with symbols. The drum that beats... The fire... ..creation into existence. which will destroy everything,

destroying the demon of ignorance. Every part of the image, is constructing, which the "Sthapathy" is loaded with meaning. begins with a prayer... The casting of the bronze to melt the wax inside. and then the mould is slowly heated MEN SPEAK IN INDIAN LANGUAGE

that it was always done. You have to do things the way modernity, but you still do things You know, 21st century and... the way that they were always done. This ancient craft is called the lost wax process. It's easy to see why. Then the mould is filled with a special mix of molten bronze. The exact composition? A secret of the bronze master.

What a way to make...the most beautiful pieces of art! His job is simply to do the pouring! He hasn't been around all day, just came in to do the pouring! Everybody has their own role in the task. The bronze is left to cool for a day, and then the mould can be broken.

This art was at its height 1,000 years ago in the hands of masters whose work has never been surpassed. But today's craftsmen still work in their line, crafting images in the 21st century that go back to the deepest layers of the Indian tradition. MAN SINGS IN INDIAN LANGUAGE This is a particularly precious image because it's one of only two that survived of the 66 bronzes that Raja Raja The Great commissioned for the opening of the temple here in Thanjore in 1010. And from this place, that image spread out over the whole of South India. Even today, it's synonymous with Tamil, South Indian culture. MEN SING IN INDIAN LANGUAGE Indeed, synonymous perhaps with all Indian culture. And a reminder too, that though we talk of golden ages, civilisation, in reality, is made by the toil of generations, of craftsmen and women, of workers and labourers in the fields.

There's a last story about Raja Raja... Hello! How are you? 'When he was young, though he had many queens, he lacked a son and heir. 'So, he prayed to the god Shiva. 'The son was born and reached manhood, and at the end of his own life, Raja Raja made him king. 'And then, he came here to give thanks.' It's an extraordinary sort of story. It's one of the few places where you can actually stand where Raja Raja the Great came. Within months, Raja Raja died. But he'd laid the foundations for the Tamils to dominate South India

for nearly 300 years. MAN PRAYING IN INDIAN LANGUAGE Through the 11th century, the age of Byzantium and the Muslim Kahel-Fitr, the Cholans were one of the world's great powers, making colonies in Java, Sumatra and the islands of Indonesia. So, in the story of India, that's how civilisation flowered in the Middle Ages in the north and the south. The legacy of those centuries would be far-reaching in Indian history and down here in the south, where the tempo of change is slower, where later wars and invasions had less impact, the continuities can still be seen today. One is in that central concern of medieval government - irrigation. Like all the great ancient civilisations, the Cholan culture grew up on the banks of a river - the Kaveri. But at this point, the two great streams of the Kaveri almost touch each other. But the bed of that stream is about ten feet lower than the bed of that. The danger is that all the water will flow away that way towards the sea. What the Cholans did was create a great dam, the Anicut, a snaking brick structure more than 1,000ft long, 60ft wide, 20ft high that diverted the waters of that stream of the Kaveri off into the delta where they could irrigate vast, new areas of rice fields that feed a booming population. So, the centuries of medieval rule bequeathed later generations and modern Indians one of the richest and most productive places on Earth. In the 18th century, British administrators described the rice fields of the south as "The most fertile lands they ruled anywhere in the world, giving three harvests a year."

And they thought the people of the southern rice fields among the most moral and hard-working. And those people are still here, like the old agricultural caste who supervised the irrigation long ago under the Cholan kings, still maintaining the ancient rituals in the modern world. This is... You have family festivals in here? Right, right, right. Tell me about the community.

So, the job of your caste was to maintain irrigation... Irrigation. ..of the rice paddy fields and all this. This was a special job. Yeah. MUSIC DROWNS CONVERSATION Like all their community, they believe in killing no living thing, even insects, and are strictly vegetarian. This is our kitchen. Oh, great! Vegetarian cooking, "the food of Shiva", as they call it here, is the great tradition. And the grinding stone... And here, cooking is tied to many important social rituals at the family hearth, especially for married couples.

So, it IS like a test for the new wife? Yeah. Thank you.

Yeah, yeah, thank you. This is daal and rice from family fields or...? Yeah. Oh, right! Fantastic. Mm, it's lovely food. And always, women... The women wait for the men to finish? Yeah. This is tradition? Yeah. Oh, really? Husband and wife share the same leaf? Yeah! This is what...one of the things that...which is what it means to be Tamil. Yeah. Yeah.

One of the highlights of the year for traditional Tamil women is the festival of light - Karthigai. BELL RINGS Modern Indian women and yet still, bearers of an ancient civilisation. And at the time of the festival of light, just as they did in the Middle Ages, people go on pilgrimage. All these people are heading for a small town in the South Indian plain. The name of the place - Thiruvannamalai. Pilgrimage is another living legacy of the Middle Ages. It's one of those things that gave Indian people a sense of cultural identity, long before India achieved political unity. A sense of India as a holy land, from the Himalayas to the deep south. DISTANT CHATTER BABY CRIES It's all a bit like an Indian Canterbury Tales, and this is just one of thousands of sacred sites dotted across the south. All through the day, the more vigorous pilgrims scramble up to the top of the mountain, where a sacred fire will be lit after dark. Down below, inside the giant temple, the crowds gather and just wait... Wait for an ancient ceremony to greet the fire on the mountain, a ritual a thousand years old, and who knows, maybe much older. UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYS BACKGROUND NOISE DROWNS SPEECH What's gonna happen in about an hour, is that the bronze images of the gods Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh, will be brought out and put on these chariots here. Then carried round? Yeah. All round the courtyard? Yes. And now, everyone's waiting for the light... the light that will cut through the darkness. It's one of the oldest ideas of humanity. This has gotta be the only place in the world where you can get run over by Bronze Age priests! There's India, as it always does, stirring those ancient memories. So, the light has been lit on the top of the hill. They're all looking to see it. As for the idea of the golden age, it seemed to me that golden ages can only ever exist in the past. For they're the products of our imaginations, and we humans, after all, can only ever exist here, in the present. So, Shanti, this is the first time you're here? Yeah! Yes, enjoying? Enjoying, very much enjoying! Yes? I am lucky. I thought we would never see the "jyoti", but... So, this is auspicious? Yes. Yeah? Sure. In a world where the identities and traditions of the ancient civilisations

have been wiped away in a few generations, here in India alone, they've kept touch with their deep past and indeed, one might say, with the past of all humanity.

And that, perhaps, is the key to the story of India.

This Program is Captioned

Live.

Good evening. The Defence

Department has tonight released

dramatic footage of the asylum

seekers' boat burning off

Ashmore Reef on Thursday.

Senior government sources have

told the ABC the boat was

doused in petrol before it

exploded, killing five people

and injuring 31, some

critically. Border patrol says

the boat sank quickly and the

matd ser now under police

investigation. A political storm has been brewing today

over the Committee tails of the

boat blast. The Federal

Government has denied Opposition

accusations of a cover-up. I am

not going to prejudge what a

police investigation is going

to conclude. The time has come

for Mr Rudd to tell the

Australian people the

truth. Meanwhile in Darwin authorities have conducted

autopsies on the bodies of three asylum seekers killed in

the explosion. Investigations

are continuing to determine

their identities. Lawyers

representing hundreds of vict

ims of the Victorian bushfires

have been shut out of the royal

commission into the tragedy,

despite promises to from the

State Premier it would be an

open inquiry. Leave-to-appear applications from legal teams

and several residents have been

rejected. The commission's

legal counsel says only those

who may come under scrutiny are

being given the right to be

represent. It's been claimed

the Prime Minister's office has

been sought to clarify the

matter. The NSW Government has

unveiled it answer to the

crippling power cuts which

recently hit the Sydney CBD. 18

billion dollars will be spent

in upgrading the city's

crumbling grid, but consumers

will be slugged an extra $100 a

year on top of household

electricity bills. SA's new

Road Safety Minister is tell

ing drivers do as I say, not as

I do. It's been ree revealed

that Tom Koutsantonis has had

more than 30 fine force

speeding or running red lights

in the past 15 years. He also

lost his licence for three

months. I am here to say I

haven't been perfect in the

past. I've've had bad be

behaviour. It is unacceptable. The Minister will

check with police tomorrow to

see whether any fines are

outstanding. Police in

Queensland are investigating

another attack on the historic

Tree of Knowledge. A multimillion-dollar monument

featuring the ghost gum was due

to be unveiled in Barcaldine in

a few weeks' time u.. It's

Eidwidely known as the birth

place of the Australian plairp.

The tree lay - un-Labor Party.

The tree died in 1996 after

being poisoned. A quick look at

tomorrow's weather in the

capital cities:

That's the late e forest the

news room for now. Enjoy your

evening. Goodnight.