Archaeology and the Public Purpose

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This book interleaves the history of post- Independence archaeology in India with the life and times of Madhukar Narhar Deshpande (1920-2008), a leading Indian archaeologist who went on to become the director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India. Spanning nearly a century, this is a tale told through a main character-Deshpande himself-some of whose writings have been included in the volume. We explore the circumstances which brought men like Deshpande to this career path; what it was like to grow up in a family devoted to India's freedom; the watershed moment that created a large cohort that was trained by Mortimer Wheeler, the doyen of British archaeology; the unknown conservation stories around the Gol Gumbad in Bijapur and the Qutb Minar in Delhi; the forgotten story of how the fabric of a historic Hindu shrine, the Badrinath temple, was saved; the chemistry shared by the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the archaeologist, Deshpande, at the Ajanta and Ellora cave shrines, and; the political and administrative challenges faced by director generals of archaeology. The book is a must read for anyone interested in India's past in general and the history of Indian archaeology in particular.

Nayanjot Lahiri

Nayanjot Lahiri is Professor of History at Ashoka University. Her research interests include Ancient India, Indian archaeology, and heritage studies. She is author of Pre-Ahom Assam (1991), The Archaeology of Indian Trade Routes (upto c. 200 BC) (1992), Finding Forgotten Cities: How the Indus Civilization Was Discovered (2005), Marshalling the Past: Ancient India and its Modern Histories (2012), Ashoka in Ancient India (2015), Monuments Matter: India’s Archaeological Heritage Since Independence (2017), and Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India (2018). She is co-author of Copper and Its Alloys in Ancient India (1996), editor of The Decline and Fall of the Indus Civilization (2000), co-editor of Ancient India: New Research (2009), Buddhism in Asia: Revival and Reinvention (2016), and an issue of World Archaeology entitled The Archaeology of Hinduism (2004). Nayanjot Lahiri won the Infosys Prize 2013 in the Humanities--Archaeology. Her book Ashoka in Ancient India was awarded the 2016 John F. Richards Prize by the American Historical Association for her book Ashoka in Ancient India.