Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: Our understanding of the Indian subcontinent is going to change

Our understanding of the Indian subcontinent is going to change - The Times of India

Pranab Basu ()
June 3, 1998

Title: Our understanding of the Indian subcontinent is going to
Author: Pranab Basu
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 3, 1998

In terms of archaeological achievements, "We are on the fringes
of a revolution that will prove that vegetation and domesticity
of animals had existed in the Indian subcontinent around 7000 BC
as against our earlier finding that put the date around 4000 BC,"
says Dr Jean-Francois Jarrige, a well known French archaeologist
who was with the team that excavated Indus valley sites in 1963
and has continued to work in the field since. "It is possible to
trace the origin of a people and the connections between peoples,
by studying the skeletal remains using DNA tests," observes Dr
Jarrige who is the director ofthe Museum of Asiatic Arts-Guimet
in Paris. He was in India recently to discuss building all
international archaeological network with Indian archaeologists.
Excerpts from an interview with Pranab Basu:

Q: You have been working in the subcontinent for over twenty five
years. What is the new break-through you have achieved that
invalidates previous hypotheses?

A: We are on the brink of an archaeological revolution that
proves that vegetation and domesticity of animals had existed
around 7000 BC in the Indian subcontinent as against the earlier
findings that put the date around 4000 BC. There are indeed many
common features between the first Neolithic settlement of
Mehrgarh (Pakistan) and the early villages of the late 8th or the
very early 7th millennium BC of Central Asia. The general process
of socio-economic developments shown by the successive sub-
periods follows a pattern consistent with the general cultural
sequence of the settlements of the 7th and 6th millennium BC in
Western Asia and of the 6th millennium BC in Central Asia. Even
if we do not rely excessively on this, argument we cannot put
aside the fact that there is a series of early radiocarbon dates
which support such an assumption. We are getting into a more
important period when our understanding of the Indian
subcontinent is going to be changed, to show that early
influences were multi-directional between the subcontinent and
Near East.

You had said that Museum-Guimet was set up to showcase religions
>from Asia.

Well, the museum was originally designed to serve the history of
religions by Jules Chatron and was built at Lyons in 1878.
Subsequently it was shifted to Paris in 1889. Now the concept has
been extended to cover all aspects of civilisations, and religion
is one of the components. Here visitors come mainly for
education. Nine and ten year old children come here to learn
about Asian religions. They are quite enthusiastic to learn
through the medium of living art and artefacts. Though art is
often perceived to be secular, many people come here to worship.
Our approach is simple; whatever the visitor's purpose may be,
they must respect each religion.

Is it not a paradox that art and artefacts, in spite of
disseminating knowledge and enlightenment, have become targets of
religious extremism?

Yes, that is a paradox. Democracy is a wonderful idea. But there
is a problem that democracy sometimes allows emotions to grow up
to a dangerous point even among well-meaning educated people. But
I am sure that with the spread of education this extremism born
out of intolerance will get diluted.

Tell us something more about the renovation of the museum that
started in 1993.

The character of a museum is to extend hospitality to art,
artists and the visitors. Further, we know that in Asian art it
is the idea of space, blank space, that irrigates matter. Empty
space enlivens as seen in several paintings. If curve and counter-
curve in a figure are vital to see the distinction between full
and empty, then the attention we give to passages, openings and
correspondences between exhibits can never be too great.

The quest for Eastern spirituality among people from the West is
evident since the Middle Ages. What, according to you has
inspired the renewed enthusiasm?

The West is a material world. Humans in the final analysis need
to breathe some spiritual air. Now the feeling is stronger than
ever before. In fact, since the middle of the nineteenth century
Eastern philosophy has provided a considerable amount of artistic
stimulus. But then there are cliches too. Some visitors come here
for a short time and pick up some exotic things from saffron-clad
gurus and sadhus. I am not opposed to such things. In a
democratic world you cannot resist such practices. That is the

Archaeology deals with the past. Yet, it is a modern science. Is
there a tension between the inherited beliefs of the past and the
claims of objectivity on the part of science?

Such great works like The Iliad, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata
provide us valuable insights and a historical perspective. Some
people read such works purely for religious reasons and some
people read them for information and artistic stimulation. Our
job is to find the facts of life in various ages. We are to find
for instance how climate changed vegetation between and during
5000 BC, 6000 BC and 7000 BC. It would be irrational to provide
archaeological evidence that would suggest that God had walked on
the Earth, and try to make footprints available.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements