We don’t remember the contribution of some of the subcontinent’s great Indian archaeologists, who did the ground work on these sites. These archaeologists and scholars continued where their predecessors left off and are still writing chapters of India’s glorious history. Let’s revisit our trailblazers and their ground-breaking work.
Bhagwan Lal Indraji was born in Junagadh in 1839, in a family of Nagar Brahmins. He was a scholar, Indologist and one of the earliest Indian archaeologists.
Indraji deciphered the Hathigumpa inscription in Odisha, translated much of the Kama Sutra, excavated the Mathura Lion Capital, discovered Ashokan sites at Bairat and Sopara, and even excavated the site of the famous Stupa of Sopara – becoming the first Indian to excavate and publish reports. The list of his contributions to Indian archaeology, epigraphy and history is endless and his work has greatly advanced our understanding of our past.
Unfortunately, Indraji wasn’t well-versed in English and the little that he published was in Gujarati.
Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay or R D Banerji was born in Murshidabad district in Bengal in 1885. He received a Bachelor’s degree as well as a Master’s in History from Calcutta University and joined the Archaeological Survey of India in 1911. He played a key role in the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization – he was the first to excavate the Mohenjo Daro site. It was he who did the ground archaeology, which expanded our understanding of Indian history by over 1,500 years.
Dayaram Sahni, who was born in Bhera district of Punjab, in 1879, was the first Indian Director General of the ASI. He excavated extensively in eastern and northern India, in sites like Sarnath, Rampurva and Rajgir, finding significant remains from the post-Vedic era of Indian history.
At Sarnath, he catalogued the archaeological remains of the famous site. He even conducted excavations at the Indus Valley site of Harappa.
Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankhalia, born in 1908, is known as the ‘founding father of modern Indian archaeology’. After attending college in Mumbai, he did his early training in archaeology with Sir Mortimer Wheeler in England while working on his PhD at London University before returning to India.
On his return to the country, Sankhalia joined Deccan College in 1939, where he came into his own.
Dr Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar, born in Madhya Pradesh in 1919, is known for discovering the prehistoric rock-art caves of Bhimbetka and has been called the ‘father of rock art in India’.
Wakankar studied early rock art extensively in Europe, the United States and Egypt. His most significant find came in 1956, when he identified more than 200 cave paintings south of Bhopal. The site, on the northern end of the Vindhya mountain range, was locally known as the ‘seat of Bhim’ or Bhimbetka.
Braj Basi Lal, better known as ‘BB Lal’ was born in 1921, in Jhansi in the United Provinces in British India, and is one of independent India’s most prolific archaeologists. He trained under legendary archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler in 1950-52, on sites like Taxila, Harappa and Sisupalgarh.