Wednesday, July 8, 2009

4th Phase ---Systematic excavation and restoring the past

“To dig and discover, to classify, reproduce and describe, to copy and decipher, and to cherish and conserve.” Lord Curzon to John Marshall, 1901

In early 1850’s, Cunningham was single handedly trying to interest the Government of India for a much needed Archaeological department. With efforts of Lord Canning, the then viceroy of India and Cunningham’s persistence, in 1861, Cunningham was made the archaeological surveyor to the government of India.
The task was,“ An accurate description of such remains as most deserve notice, with history of them so far as it may be traceable….investigating and placing on record, for the instruction of future generations, any particulars that might be rescued from oblivion, and throwing light upon the early history of England’s great dependency’.
During his first stint which lasted for few years he successfully identified Bargaon as the site of Ancient Nalanda Mahavihara and Kasia as Kushinagar the site of Parinirvan of Buddha.
Cunningham in 1871 successfully got archaeological survey of India revived but now he was in his late 50’, and was depending a lot on assistants.
A successful era of exploration was aptly followed by restoration and a plan for conservation.
A new era of systematic excavation, restoration and conservation was ushered in by John Marshall in 1902. During his stay the chronology of many historical sites was established with precision. Most of these sites that were excavated unscientifically and many more which were vandalized were all restored by Marshall. Taj Mahal’s restoration to its present appearance is attributed to him. It was during his leadership that Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa was announced to the world. Restoration of sanchi and its chronology with precision was established. Dating of the sites using the potsherds was introduced for the first time by Marshall. His important contribution was systematic excavation and restoration of sarnath and the discovery of Famous Lion capital which later chosen as symbol of independent India in 1947.

You must now be wondering, so we are following the Footsteps of Xuanzang but who is he and why did he leave such a legacy behind that we seek for reference and cherish, 1500 years later.
Well, your questions would be answered in the next post where we’ll revisit a brief history of his life…

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