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Divya A | Indian Express Online | New Delhi | Sept 10, 2022:: Leading archeologist Braj Basi Lal, who led an excavation at the then disputed site in Ayodhya in the mid-1970s and later came up with the theory of a temple-like structure beneath the Babri Masjid which was demolished in 1992, passed away in the early hours of Saturday. He was 101.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Lal as “an outstanding personality” and wrote that he was “pained by his demise”. “His contributions to culture and archaeology are unparalleled. He will be remembered as a great intellectual who deepened our connect with our rich past,” Modi posted.
“In the passing of Prof B B Lal Ji, we have lost one of the brightest minds who has contributed significantly towards our archeological excavations & endeavours and trained archeologists for over 4 decades,” Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy posted on Twitter.
Considered India’s most senior archaeologist, Lal was involved in archaeological research and writing till the age of 100. He was trained by British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler at Taxila in 1944, after which he joined the Archaeological Survey of India and served as its Director-General from 1968 to 1972. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2000.
Born in 1921 in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi, Lal developed an interest in archaeology after completing his master’s degree in Sanskrit from Allahabad University. He worked extensively on archaeological sites associated with the Harappan civilisation and those said to be linked to the epic ‘Mahabharata’ in the 1950s. He also served on several UNESCO committees.
It was in 1990 that Lal wrote about the “pillar-base theory” on the basis of his excavations at Ayodhya in the 1970s. He claimed to have found temple-like pillars which, he said, would have formed the foundation of the Babri Masjid. Lal’s findings were published in the magazine ‘Manthan’. His theory was later recognised as the interpretive framework of the Allahabad High Court-appointed excavation team in 2003.
In an interview to The Indian Express in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi case in 2019, Lal had said: “Archaeological investigations had clearly established that there was a temple at the site before the construction of the mosque, and we were happy that the Supreme Court took due notice of this fact in pronouncing its judgment.”
He also worked on over 50 books and 150 research papers published in national and international journals. Some of his most notable books include, ‘The Saraswati Flows On: The Continuity of Indian Culture’ published in 2002, and ‘Rama, His Historicity, Mandir and Setu: Evidence of Literature, Archaeology and Other Sciences’ published in 2008.
In a 2020 interview to The Indian Express, which was among his last media interactions, Lal had a message for the new generation of archaeologists. “My advice to all the field-archaeologists is: (i) Define your objective clearly and then after due exploration choose your site for excavation; (ii) Be entirely objective in your analysis of the data obtained. No subjectivity should be allowed to creep in; (iii) Try to publish your results as early as possible; (iv) Keep your eyes and ears wide open,” he had said.
Courtesy: Indian Express | Wikipedia.