Archaeological Pedagogy in India: An Assessment in 2015
As one who had a paper in Political Science, as a subsidiary, while doing my History (Hons.) Course, at the prestigious St. Stephen's, I did manage to learn about Checks and Balances and Watchdogs in a Democratic set-up such as our country. Thereafter, I left for an M.A. in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology (with a specialization in Prehistory) at the equally prestigious Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, at Pune, which did only two subjects, Linguistics and Archaeology.
However, all this is beside the point. I graduated in 1979 and 1981, respectively, and am teaching Ancient Indian History/Archaeology today.
As a teacher of this subject, and by virtue of having been in this field, at least since 1979, which is some 30 odd years, my perception is that Archaeology in India has in this period remained for Indian students a very marginal subject or a subject very much on the sidelines.
No distinct career options in Archaeology have emerged in the past thirty years, in comparison with other subjects, and surely this must be the main reason for that. The success of the Indiana Jones...series of films, and others of that genre, is testimony that there is absolutely no fault with the subject.
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Professor of Economics, Professor Rajendra Rai and I, have for years now made it a practice, to have tea together in my offices at the Department of History, Banaras Hindu University, a few days of the week. Sometimes, he wants to be left alone, just sits and meditates, or reads his lecture notes before a B.A. (Hons) Ist Year Class, other times we speak mostly about Economics. Two things among these, and in this context, are well worth discussing/highlighting. 1st, he said once, "Doctor Pratap, whichever other class you teach at this university, make sure that the BA 1 (as we call it!) is always among one of them!" That is a thumb-rule which I have never questioned and have adopted religiously for the past ten or so years, subject to the latitudes given me by the Time-Table Committee of our lovely department. 2nd, he breezed in once into my office, for a second or so, no tea this time (?) and asked me, "Doctor Pratap, what is Crowding-Out?" I said, "Sir, I'm sure that you are not here referring to how some people miss their trains in Bihar, but something like that, and it concerns Economics! Sir, I shall check on the Google and get back." Given below is are URLs which you may like to read and then try to apply this concept, borrowed here from Economics, to ask the quintessential question: Why India's Archaeological Heritage Management System has been, and continues to be off its hinges and in which both the Academy (in a Foucauldian sense) and the Establishment are both likely seen as responsible, subjectively speaking of course!
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The Structure of this Discussion
1. The extent of Archaeological Pedagogy in India in 2014:
1a. How many universities in India, out of over 400 State and Central universities, have undergraduate and/or postgraduate teaching departments exclusively for archaeology?
1b. How many specialized Institutes exist for archaeological pedagogy and for awarding degrees of any kind in the subject?
1c. To what extent are archaeological sources emphasized in courses of Ancient Indian History, in universities which do not have exclusive departments?
2. The structure of Archaeological Heritage Management in India in 2014:
2a. Is this in part Government managed or entirely? If so, why so? What are the consequences?
2b. Does the Government management system suffice?
2c. What is the Employment generation from the present structure?
2d. What is the cost-benefit ratio of such a management system? That is, what is the expenditure? And, what is the income?
2e. Is such a system rational?
3. What is the relationship between poor archaeological pedagogy, low income and employment generation, and the poor upkeep of archaeological sites, remains, and monuments?
3a. How does such a relationship manifest itself?
3c. Does it matter?
4. What would be a better management system for India's archaeological heritage?
5. What is the history of and why does the older/present system persist?
6. What is the present role of the Media?
7. What is the role of the Indian publishing industry?
8. Archaeological pedagogy in Indian schools:
8a. At what level does archaeological pedagogy start, and to what extent?
8b. What are the textbooks?
8c. Is this heritage education local, national or both?
9. Are regional disparities reflected in school and college curricula?
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In this context, and insofar as every journey archaeologists of my type make, and insofar as each journey does leave some indelible impressions, of one sort or another, I would much prefer a sort of exegesis to the present undertaking by recounting that after a very very uncomfortable journey, by air, to the Hyderabad State, in February 2013; on the occasion of the annual conference of the Indian Society for the Study of Conservation of Cultural Property, we were led to a post or mid-conference tour of the Charminar World Heritage Site area.
After weaving and winding as the gullies here are wont to do, while approaching this delightful monument from roughly the West-South-West direction, and having purchased some Hyderabadi Pearls, very certainly of Hyderabad Origin, and a Copper Lota, both at throwaway prices, as compared with elsewhere in India, from a local Muslim vendor of such small-things, I meandered closer to this world famous monument armed with my Kodak KB 10 basic camera, to take a few perfunctory shots.
One arriving closer to this world-famous monument, I was at once alarmed to see the entire area, covered by this most wonderful monument, thronging to its very limit with Police!!! Of all Indian callings and descriptions.
I do swear by all the very nice Hyderabadi Biryani of Mutton and Chicken, and Khubani Ka Meetha as well, with which the Patron of this conference, a descendant of the Salar Jung lineage called Nawab Ehteram Ali Khan Sahab, plied us with during working-lunch and dinners hosted at the Salar Jung Museum, that as I took a circuit around this famous monument entirely foxed at this heavy Police Bandobast, that my eyes literally popped-out when I beheld the express reason for this hustle and bustle.
Near, or at the very third of the legs of the four minarets, the East-South-East one from my direction of approach, as one approaches it from the gully-end, there was the bewildering spectacle, and the ostensible reason for this hustle-bustle, that a small and an entirely modern and multi-coloured Gopuram-style temple had been built right on to and affixed firmly with this third of the legs of the minarets of the Charminar.
This was without doubt as Om Puri occasions to say in the film Billu "Duniya Ka Aathva Ajooba!"
The moral to my mind and better judgement seems to be that those who built this PWD Style temple, and I have actually seen a few others built on notable archaeological sites in India, seemed to suggest to the public, that India does not actually need world heritage sites. "Not really" since we are still a developing country, and what possibly could we do with having some full-time guards for our archaeological monuments of such high merit, not to mention admission-tickets and on-site museums.
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