Nothing is more fascinating in the records of a country than the objects dug out from the depths of the earth or the monuments above ground- mute witnesses to past glory. An account of the archaeological explorations and excavations from the dawn of civilization and the conservation of the ancient monuments of India is a valuable aspect of academic pursuit. But this book is much more than such an account. It embodies the history of about one hundred and thirty years of archaeological pursuits in India, brought up to 1991 for the first time. It also recounts the work of Indian archaeologists abroad and assesses the future of Indian archaeology.
This survey of more than 45 excavated sites in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan provides site plans, projecting their cultural sequence, and vouchsafes an intimate glimpse into the glorious cultural heritage of India to the student, the general reader and the tourist.
Profusely illustrated with maps, line drawings and rare photographs this is an ideal companion to the archaeological treasures of the Indian subcontinent.
About the Author
Amar Nath Khanna was born at Multan in West Punjab in 1936. He holds a Master's Degree in History from the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, and a post-graduate Diploma in Archaeology, now Known as the Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi. Khanna has had the rare opportunity of visiting and studying hundreds of monuments and sites scattered all over India and Nepal during the last three decades. He has been actively associated with archaeological explorations and excavations. He has been the Registering Officer for Antiquities in Himachal Pradesh and has been associated with Rajeev Sethi in the Festival of India, U.S.A., and with Pupul Jayakar, Adviser to Prime Minister on Heritage and Cultural Resources, in the Festivals of India held in the U.S.A. and Japan and the Year of India in France. Presently he is a senior officer working with the President of India. He was a member of the Presidential Delegation which had visited Japan in 1990.
Khanna's scholarly articles have been published in leading journals in the country. He has presented papers, participated in seminars, and delivered radio talks to widen the appeal of archaeology.
India has a glorious past and this can be appreciated by studying its monumental heritage, literature and traditions. Archaeological excavations, however, lend authenticity to such a study. India is fortunate that it has one of the oldest organized Archaeological Departments in the world which has endeavoured to unravel and preserve its cultural heritage.
Indian monuments attract thousands of curious tourists from within the country and without. It is very necessary that this curiosity is fostered and nourished with authentic information so as to enrich the experience of a visitor. Herein lies the need for a book, which should be at once readable, authentic and welcome to serious reader and layman alike. Shri Amar Nath Khanna has had a long association with the Archaeological Survey of India. He joined the Survey in 1957 and came in contact with eminent archaeologists. His inherent curiosity coupled with industry made him take a deeper interest in archaeology. His first article on Mandu was published in the "Bhavan's Journal" of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is 1964. Thereafter, he started pursuing Indian archaeology systematically, studying monuments and participating in excavations. He underwent training at the School of Archaeology run by the Archaeological Survey of India and became well equipped to evaluate and appreciate the work done by devoted bands of archaeologists over the years. It is indeed gratifying that he has ventured to write a book on Indian archaeology which, I am sure, will meet the long-felt need of students, tourists and serious minded readers.
From the dawn of civilization to the present day, India has been a place of many interesting developments in the domains of art, architecture, science and technology. From his humble beginning as tool-maker, Man in India emerged step by step to higher echelons of culture. In Madhya Pradesh, a new development has been ushered in with the discovery of pained caverns at Bhimbetka. Earlier, the Archaeological Survey of India had protected a few such caverns at Mirzapur and Adamgarh. Recent explorations by Dr. V.S. Wakankar and officers of the Survey have brought to light literally thousands of such caverns. This has brought to the fore a new realm of studies in the art and culture of stone Age Man.
In the early twenties of the present century, the history of India was pushed back by several centuries and a prosperous civilization known as the Indus Valley Civilization was discovered by archaeologists with its home in Sind and the Punjab region of undivided India. This gave a great fillip to archaeological activity and in the process no less than two hundred sites of this culture have since been discovered. Among these, important sites like Lothal, Kalibangan, Ropar, Surkotada, Banawali and Daimabad have since been excavated. The Indian sub-continent has emerged as the mother of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Indian literature, traditions and inscriptions came to be studied with greater fervour and Indian history came to be re-written on the firm foundations of archaeology. If today, for example, we review Mauryan history, we find that, every few years, in the quarter of a century, a new Ashokan edict was discovered and in 1974, four more edicts were discovered in Karnataka at Nittur, Tekkalakota and Udegolam, not to speak of the discovery of an Ashokan edict at New Delhi, the capital of India, in the year 1966. Similarly, at Pangoraria, District Sehore, Madhya Pradesh, an Ashokan rock-edict was discovered in the year 1975. Earlier, two Ashokan edicts had also been discovered, one at sopara in Maharashtra and the other at Gujarra in Madhya Pradesh. Ashokan edicts in Kharoshthi, Greek and Aramaic which were discovered in Afghanistan speak of the extension of Mauryan influence. Archaeological excavations, however, reveal a new dimension of the study of Mauryan archaeology. The Northern Black Polished ware used by the Mauryan community is now discovered as far south as Amaravati and as far west as Kandahar in Afghanistan, where Ashokan inscriptions have also been discovered.
A study of the variety of small objects from excavations has helped in understanding the life of the common people, which is of enduring interest. All this has added to our knowledge and understanding of the development of the personality of India.
While many monuments of the pre-Christian era which existed in the Gangetic valley have perished as they were built of brick and timber, many others have survived relatively unspoilt as they were excavated out of an enduring material. I am referring to the rock-cut monuments that we have in India in Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat and many more of a still later date in othe rparts of India such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and even in Himachal Pradesh. All these rock-cut monuments ranging in date from the third century B.C. to about the twelfth century A.D. preserve a magnificent architectural tradition, the like of which cannot be seen in such variety and grandeur in other parts of the world. Among these monuments, Ajanta and Ellora stand out like gems where we preserve mural paintings giving a very unique glimpse of the way of life of ancient India, which no amount of written word could give. The variegated patterns of life of noblemen, villagers and those times, the variety of architecture, of household goods, furniture, textiles, flora and fauna-all are vividly portrayed as if imparting flesh and life to the otherwise dry descriptions found in literature.
The Indian temple was a unique institution and its development from almost the fifth century onwards is a fascinating tale. Besides furnishing material for reconstructing the religious history of India, it casts a spell on the student of art and architecture. It is in the temple - the abode of the Lord - that beauty and sublimity of divine experience meet so as to create a feeling of ananda- unmixed joy. The regional development of temple styles sometimes excelling in sculpturesque decoration or in architectural splendour has rarely a parallel elsewhere in the world.
The rise of Islam in India allowed a new flowering of an architectural tradition of which the best examples can be seen in Agra, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaunpur, Bijapur and other places.
Indian archaeology has immense possibilities. Indian universities have taken to intensive archaeological work. Explorations, architectural studies and study of inscriptions and coins are adding new dimensions to the study of archaeology. It is hoped that before long India will be able to take up archaeological excavations in the neighbouring countries and thus help in the understanding of the total cultural heritage of Asia and its contacts with other civilizations.
Shri Khanna has tried to deal with all aspects of the cultural wealth of India through the eyes of an archaeologist. He has placed equal emphasis on the new material, which the spade of the archaeological brought to light during this century. He has also given a glimpse of the work of the Archaeological Survey of India in foreign countries like Afghanistan, Egypt and Nepal.
During the last thirtyfive years, I have visited and made an on-the-spot study of most of the important places of archaeological interest in the Indian sub-continent, for nothing is more fascinating in the records of a country than the objects recovered from the depths of the earth or the standing monuments - mute witnesses to past glory. This has led me to a study of over 130 years of archaeological pursuits, including results of excavations at medieval sites during the last ten years, and the work of Indian archaeologists abroad. Recent discoveries in Pakistan have also been taken into account, for the present-day political boundaries do not necessarily conform to ancient cultural zones, and I am grateful to Dr. M. R. Mughal for this.
I have written this book keeping in mind the student of archaeology as well as the general reader interested in the cultural heritage of India. An attempt has, therefore, been made to steer clear of both the extremes of specialization and generalization.
The first edition was prepared under the guidance of the late Shri A. Ghosh. In the preparation of this second edition brought upto 1991, I have received active cooperation and valuable help from my friends and senior archaeologists associated with the Archaeological Survey of India - Sarvashri M.C. Joshi, I.K. Sarma, W.H. Siddiqui, B. M. Pande, A. S. Bisht, A.K.Sharma, R. S. Bisht, A. K. Sinha and R. K. Dalai. Without the remarkable contributions made by a large number of workder in the field, both known and unknown, it would have been impossible for me to bring out the book. I am indebted to them all. I am also obliged to Prof. M. N. Deshpande, Director General (Retd.), Archaeological Survey of India, for writing the Foreword to this book. My wife Lata and Children, Sanjay and Rashmi, have given help such as only they could have given.
In the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Shri Jagdish Chand, my personal assistant, has helped me with spare time assistance of various kinds. I am grateful to Shri Ganpat Rai Kansal for typing the manuscript meticulously and to Shri A.K. Sinha for preparing the index to this edition.
A book of this kind can always be improved and should readers -both the specialist and the lay - wish to offer suggestions, they would be doing me a favour.
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