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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2008
After watching 'The Story Of India' on DVD I have to say that it was time well spent. Historian Michael Wood is a stellar choice for presenting this series. His innate passion for history and energetic style fits seamlessly with the colourful and vibrant subject matter that is India. This is backed up by engaging visuals and music, as expected from the BBC. The series also does well to go back as far as it does, starting off in the South and working its way around other areas of the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan) and even visiting neighbouring regions (Central Asia).

This series has the following 6 episodes on 2-discs.

1. Beginnings - Ancient rituals in South India and the Indus Valley Civilisation (3000BC) are explored
2. The Power of Ideas - covers the emergence of Buddhism around 500BC and the first Indian Empire led by the Maurya rulers.
3. Spice Routes and Silk Roads - India as a trading partner of Ancient Rome and Greece.
4. Ages of Gold - The Gupta and Chola Empires which marked the Golden Age of Indian history around 300-600AD.
5. The Meeting of Two Oceans - Covers the period of Mughal rule including Akbar the Great around 1600AD.
6. Freedom - covering British rule and the struggle for independence.

It is a great advert for India and it's rich history, placing it on a par with other civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Romans and Chinese. There are aspects (Aryan Migration Theory and Indus Valley Civilisation) that some Indian historians will be very unhappy about (as Wood mentions briefly) but until some-one makes a comparable series with evidence to support alternative ideas, this is the best documentary out there. The reason I gave it only 4 stars was because I felt it could have had more content - possibly by having at least 2 more episodes. I personally would have liked more coverage of certain eras (such as 1000BC to 200AD) but I still recommend it highly.
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The BBC produced a whole range of TV series this summer based around the anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan. Michael Wood's series is by far the best in every aspect. It's excellent television (goodness me, it's what we pay our licence fee for!).

Wood is an engaging, enthusiastic historian who obviously has a passion for Indian history, Indian culture, and the peoples of India. So the series traces the development of the sub-continent from its earliest days, when men first populated the area, through all the major historical events that have shaped the people and the places. Religion inevitably forms a spiritual spine to the series, but Wood manages to explain the different belief systems without patronising and keeps their impact intact.

Wood also dares to go where other 'presenters' don't dare to tread. In the course of the series he visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq (where he's been several times before) and Tibet, in order to better explain the historical context behind the waves of invaders who populated and influenced India. Mind you, I'm not convinced that the footage with the Dalai Lama was a first-person interview...

I found the Ganges series to be pretty but overly dramatic, and the two other 'personality' journeys into India and Pakistan, hosted by well known TV people who were tracing their family roots, to be superficial and overblown. This series is none of those things.

Instead it is colourful, engaging, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. My one criticism is that the final episode, which deals with the days of the British Empire and partition, is maybe a little too harsh. But that's obviously because Wood is personally uncomfortable with the history of Empire... and it's a minor point.

Otherwise this is top-class documentary television. Well worth watching several times over.
And if you like it, then try Wood's book on a South Indian Journey, too!
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on 8 September 2007
I had heard that this was going to be a good series, but it has far exceeded my expectations. What a fascinating, absorbing and completely educational programme from Mr Wood! Shamefully, despite being of Indian origin myself, I had very little knowlegde of the ancient history of my heritage. Mr Wood has a wonderful knack of condensing vast amounts of history into a language that is easily understood and relating the ancient past of India to its present. The photography and presentation is exquisite and I wish documentaries like these were compulsory in schools in the UK!!
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on 17 November 2007
This series paints a picture of India like a Cezanne painting. Beautiful, enticing but not so packed with detail that the bigger picture is lost. It is very difficult to encompass 5000 years of history in 6 episodes and certainly this is not a comprehensive account of Indian history. Yet that was never the point of this series. It invites you to see the richness of indian civilisation, shows the rise and fall of dynasties, the movement of people, the start and regeneration of religions...
Ultimately we are left with a deeper understanding but wanting to know more... job done I think.
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on 29 April 2008
In a series of six episodes, Michael Wood has achieved an excellent, tightly bound narative that takes the viewer from the earliest days of the Indian sub-continent to India today. Without bias but with great insight, he presents and weaves together the different layers of Indian history, peoples, religions and cultures. He does this with great care and attention to fact. This is a highly intelligent series that will allow someone who with both little or great knowledge of India to walk way with a full and meaningful appreciation of the people of this land. As a businessman traveling in and out of India on a regular basis, it illuminated the country for me. Highly colourful with a captivating storey line. This is a must for anyone interested in India. It's certainly hugely better than the other series currently available (BBC's Ganges, for example) which are lovely travalogues but no more. This will entertain you, inform you, and leave you wanting to know more.
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on 7 May 2008
While it's nearly impossible to cover India in a documentary,Michael Wood has done an excellent job.He's so full of passion as he explains all things Indian.
I'm both proud and humbled from the information I've learned through this documentary.I'll be getting my brother a copy as well.
Even my Chinese colleagues have a better understanding on all things Indian now.
Anyone going to India should go with an open mind but it helps if you could watch this.
Cheers.
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on 23 September 2007
hi all, this is the best historical documentary i have ever watched..the author has brought a lot of interesting facts through his research and not to mention his sincere hardwork and passion..we dont see many journalists dining on a floor with a middle class family in one of the tamilian cities..taking blessings from the priests, etc..he has a personal touch to what he does..hats off to Mr. Wood..I do not agree with Mr.singh's comments and people should not forget the history of india includes so many dynasties and culture..there are so many indians from different states strugle to pronounce a town from another state..its too harsh..on the contrary i found he was very respectful and sensitive to the diversed culture of India..thanks
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on 20 October 2007
The above box shot says it all.
A picture really does speak a thousand words.
The camera/cinematography and sound crew did an excellent job on capturing the myriad sights and sounds that assualt any traveller to India.
I do hope The BBC release a High Def version aswell.
Michael Wood's walkabout style(where HE is US!)is just right for soaking up the experience and then TRYING to convey the thoughts and feelings into words.
In my opinion he suceeds very well.
Him eating and tasting almost everything offered to him and then providing us the description(becuase we dont have TASTE-A-VISION yet)was PRICELESS!
His view/take on many subjects struck chords with me and I dare say many of you too!
As for the historical facts?
Well we have to remember that History is not a hard science.
It is a SOCIAL science.
Sometimes it seems like educated GUESSING and the further you go back in time, the more you HAVE to guess
As I write the history of India is being rewritten
It is a just a matter of time before the Harrapan text is deciphered and a couple of years ago what could be the remains of a city were found 5 miles out and 100m UNDER the Bay of Bengal.
A city(?) that is POSSIBLY(?)10,000 years older than the previously known oldest city in the world!!
As for the pronouncation.
Well I cant say Ian Botham without saying Iron Bottom(lol)so what hope has an Oxford educated Mancunian of saying SOME of the Sri Lankan place names?
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on 18 November 2007
Six episodes is really small to describe the story of India. However Mr Wood has done a great job. You can really feel the enthusiasm when he tells the story.

It all starts from the age of Indus Valley civilization, goes through Kerala, Tamilnadu, age of Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Mughals, and finally ends with British Raj 14th Aug 1947.

This DVD can be a better History teacher than the one you can find in Schools.

I would love to buy any new DVD series (like Tipu Sulthan, Vijayanagar Empire etc...) which is done on similar lines.

Thanks Mr Wood for giving us such a nice History lesson.
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on 9 October 2007
Michael Wood is an archaeologist/historian telling the story of India (the whole sub-continent) from the earliest times to the present. Trying to tell the whole of 5,000 years in six episodes forces selection. Michael Wood, you can see from watching him travelling in India, is in love with India. So, naturally, he picks the glories of Indian history,and describes and celebrates them.

To him glories are things like people living together peacefully and prosperously in cities, trading with far off lands, achieving great things in art, architecture, literature, science & philosophy, and having enlightened rulers promoting ideas like non-violence, welfare of the people and religious diversity - not the making of empires by war or fabulous wealth acquired by oppression and exploitation (plenty of that in Indian history but he leaves most of that sort of thing it out).

I have watched all episodes at least three times. It is a delight. I watched it in three different ways:
(1) enjoying the history of India being told in a glorious overpowering fashion through a whole range of voices, including judgments of professional historians in India, explanations given by guardians of sacred locations and the stories told by people who just happen to be living now at some historic place or other - attested historic facts, accounts that have come down by tradition that may be true, and some outright legends all blended together;
(2) using the series as a textbook of Indian history (but it works only as a starting point, a wonderful starting point, as it is selective, and tends put the best and most glorious interpretation on what it describes - having a finger on the pause button and an internet connected laptop is useful to empower your critical faculties); and
(3) relaxing and enjoying the glorious, often colourful, visuals: Michael Wood visits everywhere - places where things happened, historic cities that existed or still exist, ancient popular ceremonies and festivities that still continue - from the deep green of Kerala in the south to Afghanistan and the deserts of central Asia to trace the story - it is like a complete tour of historic India with all its mass of humanity and colour but without the heat, discomfort, etc.

A DVD for the library definitely.
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