Alois Anton Führer

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Alois Anton Führer
Anton Alois Führer.tif
Anton Alois Führer (1853-1930)
Born (1853-11-26)November 26, 1853
Limburg an der Lahn, Germany
Died November 5, 1930(1930-11-05) (aged 76)
Binningen, Switzerland

Alois Anton Führer (26 Nov. 1853, Limburg an der Lahn, Germany – 5 Nov. 1930 Binningen, Switzerland) was a German Indologist who worked for the Archaeological Survey of India.[1] He is known for his archaeological excavations, which he believed proved that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal.[2]

Early life[edit]

Alois Anton Führer was born on 26 November 1853 in Limburg an der Lahn, Germany into a German Catholic family. He studied Roman Catholic theology and Oriental studies at the University of Würzburg, ordinated in 1878 and received PhD in 1879. His Sanskrit lecturer, Julius Jolly, was associated with the Bombay School of Indology. Probably due to him, he was appointed as a teacher of Sanskrit at St Xavier’s Institute in Bombay (now Mumbai). He left the Catholic Church around 1884 and converted to Anglicanism which cost him his job and he returned to Germany where he applied for new job in museum in Lucknow.[3]

Appointment in India and archaeological activities[edit]

Führer came back to India in 1885 and on his arrival Alfred Comyn Lyall appointed him Curator of the Lucknow Provincial Museum. Führer started work in March and immediately set about improving the museum. Impressed by the changes, Lyall, the Chair of the Museum's Management Committee, wrote to Calcutta asking whether a part-time job for Führer could be found with the Archaeological Survey of India.[3] He thus came to hold a double appointment, one as Curator at the museum and the other as Archaeological Surveyor to the North-Western Provinces. As his Progress Reports show, he was part of the N-W.P. and Oudh Circle of the Archaeological Survey.

In 1896 he received permission from the government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh and the Government of India to carry out an expedition to Nepal. Führer carried out very successful excavations at Mathura between 1889 and 1891 which improved understanding of the history of Jainism and gained him reputation.[3] Accompanied by the local Nepalese governor, General Khadga Shamsher, Führer discovered Ashoka’s pillar, an inscription on which, together with other evidence, confirmed Lumbini as the birthplace of the Buddha. This discovery was disputed in a 2008 book by British writer Charles Allen.[4][page needed]

Dismissal from government service in India[edit]

Führer's archaeological career ended in disgrace. Under official instructions from the Government of India, Führer was relieved of his positions, his papers seized and his offices inspected by Vincent Arthur Smith on 22 September 1898.[5] Confronted by Smith about his archaeological publications and his report to the Government, Führer was obliged to admit "that every statement in it [the report] was absolutely false."[6] These activities were presaged by Führer's publications on Sanskrit texts and law which, as shown by Andrew Huxley, are effectively works of plagiarism, large portions being copied from the writing of Georg Bühler.[7]

He died on 5 November 1930 in Binningen, Switzerland.

Religious life[edit]

Führer had an unusual religious career. He served as a Catholic priest but in 1887 converted to Anglicanism. Following his expulsion from government service in India, Führer made plans to become a Buddhist monk. Quoting the Ceylon Standard, the Journal of the Mahabodhi Society noted: "Much interest has been excited in Buddhist and other circles at the prospect of Dr Führer coming to Ceylon to join the Buddhist priesthood. The Press notices recently made regarding this gentleman have given rise to grave suspicion. We understand that Dr Führer will have an opportunity given him of refuting the charges made against him before he is accepted by the leading Buddhists here as an exponent of the religion of Buddha."[8] These plans seem to have come to nothing because in 1901 Führer re-converted to the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland.[9]



  1. ^ "Fuehrer, Alois Anton (1853-1930)". Indologica - Digitalisate (in German). 21 September 2010. Retrieved 2014-03-28. 
  2. ^ Führer, AA (1897). Monograph on Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birth-Place in the Nepalese Tarai. Allahabad: Government Press, North-Western Provinces and Oudh. pp. 1–48. 
  3. ^ a b c Huxley, Andrew (2010). "Dr Führer's Wanderjahre: The Early Career of a Victorian Archaeologist". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 20 (4): 489–502. doi:10.1017/s1356186310000246. , see note 18 citing India Office Records, Archaeology and Epigraphy, Proceedings 4-18, File no. 6 of 1898, but however add Part B. doi:10.1017/S1356186310000246. The same events with some further details in Charles Allen, The Buddha and Dr Führer (London: Haus, 2008), p. 33 but without supporting references.
  4. ^ Allen, Charles (2008). The Buddha and Dr. Führer: an archaeological scandal. London: Haus. ISBN 9781905791934. 
  5. ^ Willis, M. (2012). "Dhar, Bhoja and Sarasvati: From Indology to Political Mythology and Back". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 22 (1): 129–53. doi:10.1017/S1356186311000794.  Smith's report is given in the appendix to this article and is available here: [1].
  6. ^ Willis, M. (2012). "Dhar, Bhoja and Sarasvati: From Indology to Political Mythology and Back". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 22 (1): 152. 
  7. ^ Andrew; Führer's, Dr. "Wanderjahre: The Early Career of a Victorian Archaeologist". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 20 (4): 489–502. doi:10.1017/S1356186310000246. 
  8. ^ Anon, Journal of the Calcutta Mahabodhi Society 10.8-9 (December 1901 and January 1902), p. 1.
  9. ^ Arx, Urs von (2005). In Marco Jorio, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz vol. 4, Basel: Schwabe

Further reading[edit]