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Archaeologist BB Lal who led the excavation revealing existence of a temple at Ram Janmabhoomi site gets Padma Vibhushan

Following the discovery of pillar bases of an ancient temple, all technical facilities were withdrawn from the area and the project was halted. It was not resumed despite repeated requests of Professor Lal and remained suspended for 10-12 years.

Renowned archaeologist Professor Braj Basi Lal who led a team of archaeologists to the Ramjanmabhoomi site and unearthed the existence of a temple of Lord Ram beneath the Babri structure at Ayodhya has been conferred with the Padma Vibhushan award this year by the government. Professor Lal is among the 7 eminent personalities who have been selected by the government for the second-highest civilian award.

Padma Vibhushan award is conferred by the government for ‘exceptional and distinguished service’. Every year during the ceremonial functions held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the month of March/April, the President of India presents the Padma awards to recipients. This year 119 people have been selected for the three categories of Padma Awards. This year’s list of Padma awards comprises of 7 Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan awards and 102 Padma Shri award recipients.

Professor Lal had contested the Aryan Invasion Theory

Professor Lal, former director-general of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), had started his career as a trainee under Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1943. He had contested the Aryan Invasion Theory put forward by Wheeler. Regarding the excavation of evidence related to Ram Mandir at Ayodhya Professor Lal said, “In my autobiography, I had written that though god’s grace, I had come to realise that I was only a typist and the dictation giver was someone else”. According to Professor Lal, the period around 1950s was the best period for archaeology in India. That was when he started the excavation of sites associated with Mahabharata. Encouraged by the success at excavating Mahabharata sites, he started excavating Ramayana sites in 1970s.

Professor Lal led the project called Archaeology of Ramayana

The veteran archaeologist had led a project named Archaeology of Ramayana between 1975 and 1976 to examine certain sites having reference in Ramayana. There were nine members in the team out of which five archaeologists namely, Professor Lal, Dr. KP Nautiyal, SK Srivastava, RK Chaturvedi and KM Asthana were from Jiwaji University, three members namely, Mahdava N Katii, LM Wahal and MS Mani were from the ASI and one member named Hem Raj was from the Department of Archaeology, Uttar Pradesh.

According to Professor Lal, a five-site excavation project was carried out at Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringaverapur, Bharadwaj Ashram and Chitrakoot to date the sites associated with Ramayana. He said that while excavating the area immediately south to the Babri structure, he found pillar bases. He wrote a seven-page preliminary report about the discovery of pillar bases near Babri structure. However, following the discovery, all technical facilities were withdrawn from the area and the project was halted. It was not resumed despite repeated requests of Professor Lal and remained suspended for 10-12 years. The final report was never submitted but his preliminary report was published by the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1989 in its volume on Historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Professor Lal’s excavation of Mahabharata sites

As part of the project on excavation sites associated with Mahabharata, Professor Lal launched the first excavation at Purana Qila site in 1954-55. There he found structures dating back to Gupta, Kushana and Shunga period. He found painted grey wares from an open area between the South of Purana Qila and Humayun’s Tomb. According to Professor Lal, the painted grey wares were the earliest common pottery collecting all Mahabharata sites like Hastinapur, Kuruskshetra, Mathura and Kampilya. The evidence established that the Purana Qila and its southern neighbourhood represented Indraprastha of Mahabharata period.

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