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R Nagaswamy, the distinguished archaeologist who produced vital evidence in the Ram Janmabhoomi case, dies at age of 91, PM Modi expresses condolence

Nagaswamy made significant contributions to subjects such as architecture, paleography, numismatics, temple rites and philosophy, ancient law and society, music, dance, and South Asian art, in addition to archaeology and epigraphy.

R Nagaswamy, the first director of the Tamil Nadu government’s Department of Archaeology, passed on Sunday. He was a renowned archaeologist, art historian, and Padma Bhushan awardee. He was 91 years old. His son-in-law Baskar Kailasam informed PTI that he died at 2.30 p.m. at his Chennai home after expressing unease.

Nagaswamy was a prolific writer who published a number of intellectual works as well as a strong proponent for cultural enlightenment. He established the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department and was its director for 22 years before retiring.

Following his death, several people expressed their condolences, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. PM Modi tweeted on Sunday that future generations will remember Nagaswamy’s efforts to popularise Tamil Nadu’s vibrant culture.

A Guru for generations of archaeologists

Nagaswamy was fluent in both Tamil and Sanskrit. He graduated from the University of Madras with a master’s degree in Sanskrit. Pune University awarded him a Ph.D. in Indian Arts. Nagaswamy, who received the Padma Bhushan in 2018, is widely recognized as a mentor to a generation of Tamil Nadu archaeologists.

He also received a number of additional honours, including the ‘Kalaimamani’ Award from the Tamil Nadu government. He was a well-known academic, researcher, and art historian. He wrote over 40 books in English, Tamil and Sanskrit including “Masterpieces of Early South Indian Bronzes.” Nagaswamy’s articles have been translated into 23 languages and published in the journal of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

He was instrumental in the restoration of various archaeological monuments. In the 1980s, he was invited as an expert witness before the London High Court in the Nataraja case, based on his extensive knowledge and experience excavating temple towns in search of rare bronzes. His role in bringing back the Pathur Nataraja idol was hailed as a triumph. He was regarded by the court as an “unequaled expert in Chola bronzes.”

His contribution to the Ram Janambhoomi Case

He provided expert advice to the Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench, which heard the Ayodhya title suits. According to Nagaswamy, the earliest construction for which evidence was discovered dates back to the 3rd century BC. He stressed that artifacts discovered during archaeological excavations at the disputed site in Ayodhya proved that it was a sacred site rather than merely a human habitation.

While the ASI was excavating on the HC’s instructions in 2003, Nagaswamy delivered a report to the court that detailed the artifacts discovered by the ASI. “The artifacts demonstrated that they belonged to a sacred site, not just any human settlement.” “The existence of a shrine was one of the most important pieces of evidence presented to the judges,” Nagaswamy explained.

Nagaswamy made significant contributions to subjects such as architecture, paleography, numismatics, temple rites and philosophy, ancient law and society, music, dance, and South Asian art, in addition to archaeology and epigraphy.

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