History of Archaeology – 1

The ancient Indian civilization differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece. Unlike other ancient civilizations, Indian has preserved its tradition without any cultural breakdown to the present day.

  • The visible monuments like stupas, temples, mosques, front, rock-cut caves, pillars and other architectural edifices embedded with numerous inscriptions in different languages and script are always objects of reverence.
  • The main reason for this situation is that except the history of the kings of Kashmir written by Kalhana in the 12th century, there is no proper historical chronicle in India.  The great books like Rig-Veda, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas and others could not yield any reliable historical events.
  • Even the inscriptions are not uniformly distributed both in time and space. There are more inscriptions in the south than in the north.
  • The south Indian inscriptions engraved on stupas, viharas, chaityas, temples, caves, pillars, memorial stones, slabs, copper plats, coins and many other artefacts and devices could be cited as examples of preserving their past.
  • Some of the rulers made persistent efforts in collecting and preserving the cultural material of the past. The Chola King Rajaraja 1 attempted to make to make an anthology of the Tevaram hymns. The Maratha king sarafoji-2 collected valuable manuscripts, which are preserved in the Saraswathi Mahal library at Thanjavur.
  • The royal collections preserved in the Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, Ramnagar palace museum, Varanasi and swai man singh museum at jaipur are similar once. Firuz Shah Tughlak (1352-1388) removed two inscribed Asoka pillars one from Meerut and another from Ambala to his capital Delhi with the curiosity to understand the information found engraved on these pillars.
  • Europeans made an earnest attempt to understand the various facts of Indian culture so as to rule their subjects effectively.

Foundation for the Indological Studies;

  • Europe learnt about the existence of Sanskrit from the correspondence of the first Jesuit in India, St Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who arrived in Goa in 1542. In a letter written in 1544, he quoted the Sanskrit invocation Om srii Nama and translated into Latin.
  • Fr Thomas Stephens (author of the first Konkani grammar) and Fillipo Sasseti (an Italian merchant in Goa) described the relation between Latin and Sanskrit in their writings. Fr Roberto de Nobili (1577-1655), Brahmanised Jesuit from Italy who came to Madurai in 1606, is acknowledged as the first European Sanskrit scholar
  • Abraham Roger, a chaplain at the Dutch settlement of Pulicat in south India from 1631 to 1641 translated some of the proverbs (aphorism) of poet Bhartrihari into Dutch and thereby introduced the Sanskrit work to Europe.
  • The effort of early Jesutis of French and British were sporadic and mostly out of personal curiosity. They made no real attempt to study India’s past, and her early history was known only from brief passages in the works of Latin and Greek authors.