DECCAN COLLEGE TIES BUDDHISM TO ARCHAEOLOGY

By Priyanka Das, Pune Mirror | Sep 28, 2016, 02.30 AM IST

The certificate course will help students get perspective beyond literary evidences, on socio-economic aspects and excavations

For the first time in the country, Deccan College will soon introduce a course on archaeology of Buddhism. The curriculum intends to bridge the gap between available Buddhist literature and archaeological evidences.

The four-month long certificate course was inspired by the works of Julia Shaw who carried out archaeological investigation of Sanchi and other Buddhist monuments in its vicinity as part of her theses at University of Cambridge from 1998 to 2001. Currently, she is a lecturer of South-Asian archaeology at the University College London.

“The course prepared by Shaw was a part of the MA in archaeology at the University of Cambridge in 2003. Deccan College’s course is inspired from her initiatives,” said Shrikant Ganvir, assistant professor in ancient Indian history and culture and course coordinator at the Deccan College.

The certificate course is being offered under the archaeology department. From next year onwards, the institute plans on starting two new departments namely the Buddhist archaeology department and heritage conservation department. The certificate course will then be offered under the Buddhist archaeology department for a semester.

Vasant Shinde, vice-chancellor of Deccan College, said, “In the field of archaeology, it is important to pay attention to physical evidences and not rely on just literary sources. Emphasis should be laid on gathering primary data as well.”

On the framework of the course, Ganvir explained that archaeology of religion is one of the branches of archaeological investigation. The curriculum will take students to Nalanda, Ratnagiri and Odisha for explorations.

Students will also learn about the socio-economic aspects, role of trade, propagation of Buddhism, its continuity and excavation of Buddhist monuments will be studied along with field work.

Karam Tej Singh Sarao, former head of Buddhist studies and professor at Delhi University, said, “The information that we have on Buddhism is based on archaeology. It is impossible to build history solely on the basis of literary sources. Archaeological evidences are fundamental to understand Buddhism. Unfortunately, most universities that offer Buddhist studies do not emphasise the importance of archaeological data.”

Emphasising on the need of such data, Anand Singh, dean of Buddhist studies at the Gautam Buddha University in Noida, said that the decline of Buddhism can be appropriately traced through archaeological sites. “The focus of those in the field has been limited to pre-historic and early history. This kind of a specialised course will enhance the level of fieldwork by providing multidimensional aspects,” Singh said.

He deemed the development of this coursework as “interesting” as there are only a handful of self-taught experts. He said that even though the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) provides with training, it is bereft of specifics and usually limited to site management.

Singh said, “In the next three years, the course will turn out to be excellent with research leading to restoration of knowledge into the public domain. Many experts are not aware that within 60-km radius of Sanchi, there are several monuments, artefacts and relics, but these get neglected due to the focus on tourism. Scientific use for archaeological investigation is the need of the hour.”

The intake capacity for the certificate course has been pegged at 50. Amateur historians, journalists, engineers and people from science background have enrolled besides students of the institute, who are pursuing masters and PhDs. One such prospective student, Ganesh Mane, a civil engineering graduate, said, “I work in town and urban planning. Studying archaeology and history provides one with an insight. The society’s way of functioning in the past when studied tells us about the possibilities of the future, as it is unpredictable.”

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