Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia

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Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia
H.D.Sankalia.jpg
H.D. Sankalia
Born(1908-12-10)10 December 1908
Died28 January 1989(1989-01-28) (aged 80)
NationalityIndian
Alma materUniversity of Bombay
London University[2]
Known forPrehistoric Discoveries in India
Scientific career
FieldsArchaeologist

Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia (10 December 1908 – 28 January 1989) was an Indian archaeologist, specialising in proto- and ancient Indian history. He is considered to have pioneered archaeological excavation techniques in India, with several significant discoveries from the Prehistoric period to his credit. He was awarded Ranjitram Suvarna Chandrak in 1966.

Early Years and Education[edit]

Sankalia was born in Mumbai into a family of lawyers hailing from Gujarat. As a frail infant, the doctor did not expect him to survive long.

At the age of fifteen, he read the Gujarati translation of Lokmanya Tilak’s The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Though he did not understand much of it, as he said it himself (p. 6), he was determined to ‘do something to know about the Aryans in India’ (ibid.). He therefore decided to opt for Sanskrit and Mathematics for his B.A. because these were the subjects sound knowledge of which was a must for one who wanted to trace the origin of the Aryans (Tilak himself was a great Sanskritist and a Mathematician). This was a turning point Sankalia’s life. In B.A. he opted for Sanskrit. By that time, he had already acquired a sound knowledge of Sanskrit, and bagged the Chimanlal Ranglal Prize for scoring highest marks in that subject in Matriculation. Later on, though he was occupied more with Prehistory, his ‘life work’, the problem of the Aryans was never lost sight of: his ingenious interpretation of the Chalcolithic cultures of Rajasthan and Central India to be of an Aryan origin was largely influenced by his background. He always considered the Aryan Problem as of prime importance[3] (1962c: 125; 1963a: 279-281; 1974: 553-559; 1978a: 79, etc.). He opted, determined as he was, for Sanskrit and voluntary English for B.A.; the latter subject introduced him to textual criticism (p. 7), which again was a powerful tool to interpret the original texts in a critical way. With the sound knowledge of Sanskrit and textual criticism, he could write an excellent article on ‘Kundamala and Uttararamacarita’, in which he convincingly proved that Dinnaga, the author of the former, influenced the author of the latter.[4] A Bengali scholar, K. K. Dutt, arrived at similar conclusion, quite independently of Sankalia.[5] It was in the light of the latter that Sankalia published a revised edition of his earlier paper (1966a).

Having passed his B.A. with Sanskrit, Sankalia switched on to Ancient Indian History for M.A. at the newly set up Indian Historical Research Institute (now, Heras Institute), and chose to work on the famous ancient university of Nalanda for his M.A. Dissertation. It was a multi-faceted topic with separate chapters on History, Art and Architecture, Iconography, influence of Nalanda school of art on the Greater India, especially Java, etc. Sankalia was thus forced to dwell into each of these.[6] He performed his task remarkably under the supervision of Heras. He visited a number of sites with Heras and acquired a thorough knowledge of the subject. Heras himself was an Indologist of some note and influenced the young Sankalia considerably. Sankalia likewise studied the tenets of Buddhism with no less than an authority like B. Bhattacharya (p. 10). This exposure to Art, Architecture, Iconography and Archaeology in general proved to be of great importance, a kind of initiation to his later study of Gujarat. It was this in-depth study of the classical branches of archaeology, which made him equally at home in Historical Archaeology. His study of Nalanda earned him the degree of M.A. and the Chancellor’s Medal. Sankalia simultaneously passed his LLB examinations, according to the wishes of his father and uncle, who were both lawyers. Subsequently, he was expected to follow the same occupation (cf. pp. 10, 13, 28). But Sankalia did not agree to this; at the suggestion of his teacher, Heras, he made up his mind to go to England for his Doctorate. Meanwhile, he wrote an essay on the ‘Caitya caves in the Bombay Presidency’, which got him the prestigious Pandit Bhagavanlal Indraji Prize and Gold Medal.

In London[edit]

Despite family opposition, Sankalia left for England and after some initial mishaps and troubles, he enrolled himself at the University of London for his PhD He earned his degree based on his work on the Archaeology of Gujarat. He learnt archaeology, history, geography, etc. under giants like Bernard Ashmole (Roman Classical Archaeology), Sidney Smith (Sumerian language), K. de B. Codrington (Museology), F. J. Richards (Indian Archaeology) and lastly, R. E. M. Wheeler (Field Archaeology) (p. 18).

From Richards, Sankalia learnt the lessons of geography, geology, anthropology, ethnography and toponymy. Of the last, Sankalia made an in-depth study and applied it to the inscriptions of Gujarat[7] and elsewhere (Sankalia 1942a; 1984). Not only that, he guided his pupils to take up such studies, and thereby opened a new field in Indian Archaeology.

The second and perhaps the most important influence was that of Wheeler, who then was excavating at the famous site of Maiden Castle, Dorset, and by then had already perfected his field techniques, experiments on which he had started since 1921.[8] Wheeler would give lectures on field techniques at the Institute and also take them to the field for practical training. Sankalia, being one of the students of Wheeler, learnt field archaeology from him. The influence was immense and can be gauged from his words: ‘The training was brief, lasting just about a month or so, but it was of immense importance for my future career. I learnt here, not only what was stratigraphical digging and drawing a section and three-dimensional recording of finds[...] but was also made aware of the necessity of minute-to-minute supervision of the trench under one’s charge for [...] at any moment the layer might change and [which should] be noted as early as possible.’ (pp. 26–27, italics added). Sankalia applied this technique in his excavations and passed it on to his pupils at the Deccan College. Popular archaeology, which Sankalia so vehemently argued for (cf. pp. 112 ff.; 1938; and his popular articles), was also perhaps a direct influence of Wheeler, who was a great proponent of popular archaeology.

Deccan College[edit]

After coming back to India, Sankalia joined, in 1939, Deccan College as Professor in Proto and Ancient Indian History. From Deccan College, Sankalia started systematic surveys of the monuments in and around Pune with his pupils. Sankalia’s explorations resulted in his papers on the Megaliths of Bhavsari[9] and on the Temple of Pur of the Yadava period.[10] At the instance of the then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, K. N. Dikshit, Sankalia undertook explorations in Gujarat to prove or reject the hypothesis put forward by Bruce Foote of a hiatus between the Lower Palaeolithic and Neolithic phases.[11] This experience turned him into a prehistorian, and since then he never looked back.

He also engaged other expeditions in Gujarat subsequently. In the second expedition, he found the first ever-discovered human skeleton of the Stone Age Man. The Mesolithic site of Langhnaj – ‘the first Stone Age site to have been excavated scientifically’ – was excavated stratigraphically. Prof. Zeuner, an acclaimed authority on environmental archaeology, was invited at the instance of Wheeler, to interpret the palaeoclimate of Gujarat. Sankalia was profoundly influenced by this scholar,[12] from whom he learnt the lessons of geochronology, geology, stratigraphy of geological deposits and the mechanics of Pluvial and Inter–pluvial.[13] Sankalia fully utilized this knowledge while interpreting other prehistoric sites, which he or his staff explored or excavated.

Palaeolithic Finds in the Deccan[edit]

The historical site of Kolhapur was excavated in 1945-46 with M. G. Dikshit (Sankalia and Dikshit 1952). However, before this excavation, his detailed surveys on the banks of Godavari and its tributaries revealed a flake tool industry.[14][15] These findings were also observed in a stratigraphical deposit at Gangapur (Gangawadi) near Nasik. Here, an assemblage consisting of flakes, cleavers and hand axes[16] was discovered. This well developed Palaeolithic industry, as later researches proved it beyond doubt, was the Middle Palaeolithic. His explorations in the Pravara valley at Nevasa yielded Palaeolithic industries with animal fossils.[17]

Nasik – Jorwe[edit]

The occurrence of Northern Black Polished Ware at Nasik – which has also been mentioned in the Puranas and traditional tales – as reported to Sankalia by M. N. Deshpande, made him anxious to discover at the site evidences that could be correlated to the Early Historical Period, and also if possible, to unearth pre- and proto-historic cultures.[18] The excavation was carried out and the aims were by and large fulfilled.[19]

Maheshwar – Navdatoli[edit]

The success at Nasik–Jorwe inspired Sankalia to excavate the site of Maheshwar – the Mahishmati of the Haihayas as depicted in the Puranas – to prove the historicity of the tradition. The excavation was carried out at the site and also at Navdatoli in 1952-53 in a joint expedition with the M. S. University of Baroda. This revealed a full-fledged Chalcolithic culture dated between the decline of the Harappan Civilisation and the beginning of Early Historical Period. Thus, the long-perplexing hiatus between the two periods was largely explained. The culture was interpreted by Sankalia, mainly on the basis of resemblance between the pottery of this culture and that of Iran, to be of Aryan origin.[20] The horizontal excavation at Navdatoli was carried out in 1957-59 to reveal the settlement pattern and to reconstruct the socio-economic life of the Chalcolithic people. He was also interested to corroborate his Aryan hypothesis.[21] The excavation did not however yield any evidence to corroborate his hypothesis.

Nevasa[edit]

The excavation at Nevasa was motivated to prove or otherwise the legend of its association with the famous saint Jnaneshvara. Here he discovered human occupation right from the Lower Palaeolithic phase to the Muslim-Maratha period.[22]

Early Man in Kashmir[edit]

Sankalia went to Kashmir to check the geological deposits. The glacial deposits were already investigated by De Terra, Paterson, and Wadia before Sankalia and they failed to discover any vestiges of Early Man. When Sankalia was busy in examining the deposits his eyes fell upon a worked flake with a prominent bulb of percussion; the existence of Early Man in Kashmir was thus established. He also discovered a hand axe in the same deposits; the latter belonged to the first Ice Age or little later. The discovery was later published in the Current Anthropology.[23]

Inamgaon[edit]

After establishing the cultural sequence of the Chalcolithic cultures in Deccan and Central India, Sankalia was desirous to reconstruct the lifeways of the Chalcolithic people. The large-scale horizontal excavations at Nevasa and Navdatoli were carried out with this aim in mind. But the former site was found to be highly disturbed and the deposits overlying the Chalcolithic layers were too thick to be removed thoroughly. The plan was therefore given up. The site of Inamgaon was well preserved to fulfil the long-cherished aims of Sankalia. With all possible techniques and facilities available in the country, the site was excavated for no less than 12 seasons. The excavation was a culmination of Sankalia’s field technique that he had been improving since the 1950s, and also that of the multi- and inter-disciplinary approach long held up by him. After his retirement in 1973, the onus of the excavation was assigned to Dr. Z. D. Ansari and to Dr. M. K. Dhavalikar who successfully completed the duty. The full report was published in three huge volumes,[24] and which has since then been looked upon as an example for other excavations and report writing.

Early Man in Sachchidananda[edit]

Sankalia after the retirement opted to reside on the campus. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in the department. Retirement or old age could not stop him from his researches on Early Man; he in his own residence discovered what he believed were Palaeolithic implements.[25][26][27] He also brought out his famous studies on the Ramayana,[28][29] New Archaeology,[30] and Prehistoric Art[31] during these years. He died at the age of 80 on 28 January 1989.

Sankalia as a man[edit]

Sankalia was also enthusiastic about several extra-academic activities. He invariably captained one of the cricket teams on College Day.[32] He was equally interested in kite flying; Ravindra Sankalia, his nephew, narrates one incident in which his uncle cut down as many as 40 kites without losing theirs.[33] In his leisure time, Sankalia was an ardent gardener. His students bore him love and respect both, with many of them receiving unstinted affection and help. He was thus a scholar, a guru, an acharya – in both the etymological and semantic sense – a lovable and respected human being and an enlightened citizen of India.

Awards[edit]

He was awarded Narmad Suvarna Chandrak in 1976 for his book Akhand Bharatma Sanskrutino Ushakal.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Kundamala and Uttararamacarita. St. Xavier’s College Magazine: 22: 63 - 76. (1930)
  • University of Nalanda. Calcutta: B. G. Paul & Co. ( 2nd revised edition, New Delhi: 1973). (1934)
  • Megalithic Monuments near Poona. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute. 1: 178-184. (1940a)
  • Monuments of the Yadava period in the Poona District. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 2 (3-4): 217 -225. (1940b)
  • Studies in the Prehistory of Deccan (Maharashtra ): a survey of the Godavari and the Kadva, near Niphad. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 4(3): 1-16. (1943)
  • Studies in the Prehistory of the Deccan (Maharashtra): a further survey of the Godavari (March 1944). Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 6: 131-137. (1945)
  • Studies in Historical and Cultural Geography and Ethnography of Gujarat. Poona: Deccan College. (1949)
  • Archaeology and Indian Universities, Presidential Address at the Archaeology Section of the All India Oriental Conference, 16th Session, Lucknow. Pune: Deccan College. (1952a)
  • The Godavari Palaeolithic Industry. Poona: Deccan College. (1952b)
  • Report on the Excavation at Nasik and Jorwe, 1950-51. Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo.) (1955)
  • Animal fossils and Palaeolithic industries from the Pravara Basin at Nevasa, District Ahmednagar. Ancient India: 12: 32 -52. (1956)
  • Excavation at Maheshwar and Navdatoli, 1952-53. Poona and Baroda: Deccan College and M. S. University. (With B. Subbarao and S. B. Deo.) (1958)
  • From History to Prehistory at Nevasa (1954–56 ). Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo, Z. D. Ansari and Sophie Ehrhardt.) (1960)
  • Indian Archaeology Today. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. (1962)
  • Kundamala and Uttararamacarita. Journal of Oriental Institute: 15(3-4): 322 -334. (1966)
  • Excavations at Ahar (Tambavati). Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo and Z. D. Ansari.) (1969)
  • Mesolithic and Pre-Mesolithic Industries from the Excavations at Sangankallu 1965. Poona: Deccan College. (1969)
  • Chalcolithic Navdatoli. Poona and Baroda: Deccan College and M. S. University. (With S. B. Deo and Z. D. Ansari.) (1971)
  • Early man in Ice Age Kashmir. Current Anthropology: 2(4): 558 -562. (1971)
  • Ramayana: Myth or Reality? New Delhi, People's Publishing House. (1973)
  • Prehistory and Protohistory of India and Pakistan. Poona: Deccan College. (1974)
  • Pre-Historic Art in India. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. (1978b)
  • The Ramayana in Historical Perspective, Macmillan India, 1982, ISBN 0333903900
  • A primary Palaeolithic site- the Deccan College Campus, Pune, India. The Explorer’s Journal: 63(1): 8 -9. (1985a)
  • Follow-up on a Palaeolithic site in India. The Explorer’s Journal: 63(3): 136 -137. (1985b)
  • The Stone Age man in and around Pune (Poona) or the habitation of early man in Sat-Chit-Ananda. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 46: 115 -135. (1987)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allchin, F. R. (January 1989). "Obituary: Professor H. D. Sankalia". South Asian Studies. 5 (1): 157–158. doi:10.1080/02666030.1989.9628391.
  2. ^ Possehl, Gregory L.; Kennedy, Kenneth A. R. (December 1990). "Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia (1908-1989)". American Anthropologist. 92 (4): 1006–1010. doi:10.1525/aa.1990.92.4.02a00090.
  3. ^ Archaeology and Indian Universities, Presidential Address at the Archaeology Section of the All India Oriental Conference, 16th Session, Lucknow. Pune: Deccan College. (1952a)
  4. ^ Kundamala and Uttararamacarita. St. Xavier’s College Magazine: 22: 63 - 76. (1930)
  5. ^ Dutt, K. K. 1964. Kundamala (Critical Edition). Calcutta: Sanskrit College.
  6. ^ University of Nalanda. Calcutta: B. G. Paul & Co. ( 2nd revised edition, New Delhi: 1973). (1934)
  7. ^ Studies in Historical and Cultural Geography and Ethnography of Gujarat. Poona: Deccan College. (1949)
  8. ^ Cunliffe, Barry. 1999. Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1890-1976). In Tim Murrey (ed.), Encyclopedia of Archaeology: The Great Archaeologists, vol. 1, pp. 371–383. Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO.
  9. ^ Megalithic Monuments near Poona. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute. 1: 178-184. (1940a)
  10. ^ Monuments of the Yadava period in the Poona District. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 2 (3-4): 217 -225. (1940b)
  11. ^ Foote, R. B. 1916. The Foote Collection of Indian Prehistoric and Protohistoric Antiquities, Notes on their Age and Distribution. Madras: Madras Government Museum.
  12. ^ J. D. Clark in Man and Environment 1989 – 14(1): 144
  13. ^ J. D. Clark in Man and Environment 1989 – 14(1): 144
  14. ^ Studies in the Prehistory of Deccan (Maharashtra ): a survey of the Godavari and the Kadva, near Niphad. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 4(3): 1-16. (1943)
  15. ^ Studies in the Prehistory of the Deccan (Maharashtra): a further survey of the Godavari (March 1944). Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 6: 131-137. (1945)
  16. ^ The Godavari Palaeolithic Industry. Poona: Deccan College. (1952b)
  17. ^ Animal fossils and Palaeolithic industries from the Pravara Basin at Nevasa, District Ahmednagar. Ancient India: 12: 32 -52. (1956)
  18. ^ Report on the Excavation at Nasik and Jorwe, 1950-51. Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo.) (1955)
  19. ^ Report on the Excavation at Nasik and Jorwe, 1950-51. Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo.) (1955)
  20. ^ Excavation at Maheshwar and Navdatoli, 1952-53. Poona and Baroda: Deccan College and M. S. University. (With B. Subbarao and S. B. Deo.) (1958)
  21. ^ Chalcolithic Navdatoli. Poona and Baroda: Deccan College and M. S. University. (With S. B. Deo and Z. D. Ansari.) (1971)
  22. ^ From History to Prehistory at Nevasa (1954–56 ). Poona: Deccan College. (With S. B. Deo, Z. D. Ansari and Sophie Ehrhardt.) (1960)
  23. ^ Early man in Ice Age Kashmir. Current Anthropology: 2(4): 558 -562. (1971)
  24. ^ Dhavalikar, M. K., Z. D. Ansari and H. D. Sankalia. 1988. Excavations at Inamgoan. I (i & ii) Pune: Deccan College.
  25. ^ A primary Palaeolithic site- the Deccan College Campus, Pune, India. The Explorer’s Journal: 63(1): 8 -9. (1985a)
  26. ^ Follow-up on a Palaeolithic site in India. The Explorer’s Journal: 63(3): 136 -137. (1985b)
  27. ^ The Stone Age man in and around Pune (Poona) or the habitation of early man in Sat-Chit-Ananda. Bulletin of Deccan College Research Institute: 46: 115 -135. (1987)
  28. ^ Ramayana: Myth or Reality? New Delhi, People's Publishing House. (1973)
  29. ^ The Ramayana in Historical Perspective, Macmillan India, 1982, ISBN 0333903900
  30. ^ Prehistory and Protohistory of India and Pakistan. Poona: Deccan College. (1974)
  31. ^ Pre-Historic Art in India. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. (1978b)
  32. ^ Misra, V. N. 1989b. Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia (1908-1989) Scholar and Man. Man and Environment: 14(2) (H. D. Sankalia Memorial Volume): 1-20.
  33. ^ Misra, V. N. 1989b. Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia (1908-1989) Scholar and Man. Man and Environment: 14(2) (H. D. Sankalia Memorial Volume): 1-20.