Eminent Archaeologist BB Lal passed away today in his residence. He was 101 years old and was regarded as the ‘Pitamah’ or the great patriarch of Indian Archaeology. He is famed for his brilliant works on the rediscovery of India’s ancient archaeological heritage, in a career spanning more than seven decades.
Condolences from various sections of society poured in after hearing of his demise. The sports minister of India, G. Kishan Reddy, was among the earliest dignitaries to pay their respects to BB Lal.
Brij Basi Lal was born in the Jhansi district of British India. He showed his penchant for the subject of history from a very young age. He obtained his masters in Sanskrit from Allahabad University, but later switched to archaeology under the guidance of legendary Mortimer Wheeler in 1934. He worked as the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1968 to 1972.
BB Lal was the key figure who first conjectured of sound historicity behind the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In the heat of the Ramjanmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya, he famously led a group of young archaeologists to unearth the truth from the disputed site.
Most of his subordinates and peers, later on, turned out to be stalwarts of Indian archaeology as well. For the purpose of unearthing remains from Ayodhya, he formed the ‘Archaeology of Ramayana’ between 1975-76. In his preliminary report, he gave sound proof of a grand temple in existence beneath the disputed site. However, in light of the conflict and a snubbing from the central government, his report was put on hold, and he was suspended.
It was only after a gap of 12 years that the Indian Council of Historical Research(ICHR) published its preliminary report in 1989 when it became clear on whose side the truth lay.
Professor BB Lal’s work became the cornerstone of the vast archive of evidence that was presented in the Supreme Court of India in the case, eventually winning it in 2019.
In 2021, the Government of India bestowed him with Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. He was previously given Padma Bhushan in the year 2000.
Professor BB Lal represented aspirations of a free India in the field of history & archaeology. He researched and worked on a number of sites where the evidence for the Indus Valley civilization, Vedic & post-Vedic sites and the sites related to the Hindu epics were excavated.
His excavation of the Nubian valley civilization near the river Nile in Egypt also put him in the league of the best in the world in terms of archaeology.
He is remarked with establishing the historicity of Mahabharata sites in the West UP & Haryana, and famously said about the continuing toponyms of these sites in line with the Aryan lineage being indigenous in nature.
His later life had acquired political connotations as well. He published a number of scholarly papers on the interlinkages between IVC, Mahabharata & Ramayana sites and the Vedic sites to conclude that the Aryan invasion remains a theory without any sound evidence.
Indigenous Aryanism continuity between the historical periods to be Vedic in nature were his assertions which were published in some of his iconic works later such as ‘The Rigvedic People: Invaders? Immigrants? or Indigenous?’.
Indian historiography & archaeology is indebted to the grand legacy of a personality whose era has ended. The shoes are very huge to fill by the future generations of his admirers.