The Archaeological Survey of India is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture that is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country. It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
|Archaeological Survey of India|
|Headquarters||24 Tilak Marg, New Delhi, India - 110001|
|Ministry of Culture, Government of India|
|₹974.56 crore (US$140 million) (2018-2019)|
ASI was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General. The first systematic research into the subcontinent's history was conducted by the Asiatic Society, which was founded by the British Indologist William Jones on 15 January 1784. Based in Calcutta, the society promoted the study of ancient Sanskrit and Persian texts and published an annual journal titled Asiatic Researches. Notable among its early members was Charles Wilkins who published the first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita in 1785 with the patronage of the then Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings. However, the most important of the society's achievements was the decipherment of the Brahmi script by James Prinsep in 1837. This successful decipherment inaugurated the study of Indian palaeography.
Armed with the knowledge of Brahmi, Alexander Cunningham, a protégé of Prinsep, carried out a detailed survey of the Buddhist monuments which lasted for over half a century. Inspired by early amateur archaeologists like the Italian military officer, Jean-Baptiste Ventura, Cunningham excavated stupas across the length and breadth of India. While Cunningham funded many of his early excavations himself, in the long run, he realised the need for a permanent body to oversee archaeological excavations and the conservation of Indian monuments and used his stature and influence in India to lobby for an archaeological survey. While his attempt in 1848 did not meet with success, the Archaeological Survey of India was eventually formed in 1861 by a statute passed into law by Lord Canning with Cunningham as the first Archaeological Surveyor. The survey was suspended briefly between 1865 and 1871 due to lack of funds but restored by Lord Lawrence the then Viceroy of India. In 1871, the Survey was revived as a separate department and Cunningham was appointed as its first Director-General.
Cunningham retired in 1885 and was succeeded as Director General by James Burgess. Burgess launched a yearly journal The Indian Antiquary (1872) and an annual epigraphical publication Epigraphia Indica (1882) as a supplement to the Indian Antiquary. The post of Director General was permanently suspended in 1889 due to a funds crunch and was not restored until 1902. In the interim period, conservation work in the different circles was carried out by the superintendents of the individual circles.
The post of Director General was restored by Lord Curzon in 1902. Breaking with tradition, Curzon chose a 26-year-old professor of classical studies at Cambridge named John Marshall to head the survey. Marshall served as Director General for a quarter of a century and during his long tenure, he replenished and invigorated the survey whose activities were fast dwindling into insignificance. Marshall established the post of Government epigraphist and encouraged epigraphical studies. The most significant event of his tenure was, however, the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization at Harappa and Mohenjodaro in 1921. The success and scale of the discoveries made ensured that the progress made in Marshall's tenure would remain unmatched. Marshall was succeeded by Harold Hargreaves in 1928. Hargreaves was succeeded by Daya Ram Sahni, supervisor of Marshall's excavation of Harappa in 1921−22, who in 1931, became the first Indian Director General of the survey.
Sahni was succeeded by J. F. Blakiston and K. N. Dikshit both of whom had participated in the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro. In 1944, a British archaeologist and army officer, Mortimer Wheeler took over as Director General. Wheeler served as Director General till 1948 and during this period he excavated the Iron Age site of Arikamedu and the Stone age sites of Brahmagiri, Chandravalli and Maski in South India. Wheeler founded the journal Ancient India in 1946 and presided over the partitioning of ASI's assets during the Partition of India and helped establish an archaeological body for the newly formed Pakistan.
Madho Sarup Vats and Amalananda Ghosh succeeded Chakravarti. Ghosh's tenure which lasted until 1968 is noted for the excavations of Indus Valley sites at Kalibangan, Lothal and Dholavira. The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act was passed in 1958 bringing the archaeological survey under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture. Ghosh was succeeded by B.B. Lal who conducted archaeological excavations at Ayodhya to investigate whether a Ram Temple preceded the Babri Masjid. During Lal's tenure, the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act (1972) was passed recommending central protection for monuments considered to be "of national importance". Lal was succeeded by M. N. Deshpande who served from 1972 to 1978 and B. K. Thapar who served from 1978 to 1981. On Thapar's retirement in 1981, archaeologist Debala Mitra was appointed to succeed him - she was the first woman Director General of the ASI. Mitra was succeeded by M. S. Nagaraja Rao, who had been transferred from the Karnataka State Department of Archaeology. Archaeologists J. P. Joshi and M. C. Joshi succeeded Rao. M. C. Joshi was the Director General when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 triggering Hindu-Muslim violence all over India. As a fallout of the demolition, Joshi was dismissed in 1993 and controversially replaced as Director General by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Achala Moulik, a move which inaugurated a tradition of appointing bureaucrats of the IAS instead of archaeologists to head the survey. The tradition was finally brought to an end in 2010 when Gautam Sengupta an archaeologist, replaced K.M Srivastava an IAS officer as Director General.He was again succeeded by Pravin Srivastava, another IAS officer. Srivastava's successor and the present incumbent, Rakesh Tiwari is also a professional archaeologist.
The Archaeological Survey of India is an attached office of the Ministry of Culture. Under the provisions of the AMASR Act of 1958, the ASI administers more than 3650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance. These can include everything from temples, mosques, churches, tombs, and cemeteries to palaces, forts, step-wells, and rock-cut caves. The Survey also maintains ancient mounds and other similar sites which represent the remains of ancient habitation.
The ASI is headed by a Director General who is assisted by an Additional Director General, two Joint Directors General, and 17 Directors.
The Survey has had 29 Directors-General thus far. Its founder, Alexander Cunningham served as Archaeological Surveyor between 1861 and 1865.
India's first museum was established by the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in 1814. Much of its collection was passed on to the Indian Museum, which was established in the city in 1866. The Archaeological Survey did not maintain its own museums until the tenure of its third director-general, John Marshall. He initiated the establishment of various museums at Sarnath (1904), Agra (1906), Ajmer (1908), Delhi Fort (1909), Bijapur (1912), Nalanda (1917) and Sanchi (1919). The ASI's museums are customarily located right next to the sites that their inventories are associated with "so that they may be studied amid their natural surroundings and not lose focus by being transported".
A dedicated Museums Branch was established in 1946 by Mortimer Wheeler, which now maintains a total of 44 museums spread across the country.
The ASI maintains a Central Archaeological Library in the Archaeological Survey of India headquarters building in Tilak Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi. Established in 1902, its collection numbers more than 100,000 books and journals. The library is also a repository of rare books, plates, and original drawings.
The Survey additionally maintains a library in each of its circles to cater to local academics and researchers.
The day-to-day work of the survey was published in a series of periodical bulletins and reports. The periodicals and archaeological series published by the ASI are:
Apart from the ASI, archaeological work in India and conservation of monuments is also carried out in some states by state government archaeological departments. Most of these bodies were set up by the various princely states before independence. When these states were annexed to India after independence, the individual archaeological departments of these states were not integrated with the ASI. Instead, they were allowed to function as independent bodies.
In 2013, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that at least 92 centrally protected monuments of historical importance across the country which have gone missing without a trace. The CAG could physically verify only 45% of the structures (1,655 out of 3,678). The CAG report said that the ASI did not have reliable information on the exact number of monuments under its protection. The CAG recommended that periodic inspection of each protected monument should be done by a suitably ranked officer. The Culture ministry accepted the proposal. Author and IIPM Director Arindam Chaudhuri said that since the ASI is unable to protect the country’s museums and monuments so they should be professionally maintained by private companies or through the public-private-partnership (PPP) model.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court of India said that the ASI was not properly discharging its duty in maintaining the World Heritage Site of Taj Mahal and asked the Government of India to consider whether some other agency be given the responsibility to protect and preserve it.
Sir Alexander Cunningham (23 January 1814 – 28 November 1893) was a British army engineer with the Bengal Engineer Group who later took an interest in the history and archaeology of India. In 1861 he was appointed to the newly created position of archaeological surveyor to the government of India; and he founded and organised what later became the Archaeological Survey of India. He wrote numerous books and monographs and made extensive collections of artefacts. Some of his collections were lost, but most of the gold and silver coins and a fine group of Buddhist sculptures and jewellery were bought by the British Museum in 1894.B. B. Lal
Braj Basi Lal (born 2 May 1921), better known as B. B. Lal, is an Indian archaeologist. He was the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 1968 to 1972 and has served as Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Lal also served on various UNESCO committees.He received the Padma Bhushan Award by the Government of India in 2000.Epigraphia Indica
Epigraphia Indica was the official publication of Archaeological Survey of India from 1882 to 1977. The first volume was edited by James Burgess in the year 1882. Between 1892 and 1920 it was published as a quarterly supplement to The Indian Antiquary.One part is brought out in each quarter year and eight parts make one volume of this periodical; so that one volume is released once in two years. About 43 volumes of this journal have been published so far. They have been edited by the officers who headed the Epigraphy Branch of ASI.Gudiyam Cave
Gudiyam Caves are rock shelters in South India and known for prehistoric stone tools and culture. They were first identified by British geologist Robert Bruce Foote. This ancient site is situated in the Thiruvallur district near the Poondi reservoir, 60 km (37.3 mi) from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the caves were used by Paleolithic Man. The site has been excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1963 and 1964. Systematic paleolithic studies in this region indicate these sites suggest extensive movement of early hominids across the landscape about 200,000 years ago. Sixteen such shelters have been identified by the Archaeological Survey of India in Allikulli Hill ranges near Poondi.John Marshall (archaeologist)
Sir John Hubert Marshall, CIE, FBA (19 March 1876, Chester, England – 17 August 1958, Guildford, England) was the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1928. He oversaw the excavations of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, two of the main cities that comprise the Indus Valley Civilization.Kaitabheshvara Temple, Kubatur
The Kaitabheshvara temple (also spelt Kaitabhesvara or Kaitabheshwara, known also as Kotisvara) is located in the town of Kubatur (also spelt Kubattur or Kuppattur, and called Kuntalanagara or Kotipura in ancient inscriptions), near Anavatti in the Shimoga district of Karnataka state, India. The temple was constructed during the reign of Hoysala King Vinayaditya around 1100 AD. The Hoysala ruling family was during this time a powerful feudatory of the imperial Western Chalukya Empire ruled by King Vikramaditya VI. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the architectural signature of the temple is mainly "Chalukyan". Art historian Adam Hardy classifies the style involved in the construction of the temple as "Later Chalukya, non mainstream, far end of spectrum". The building material used is soapstone The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.Kalleshvara Temple, Ambali
The Kalleshvara temple (also spelt Kalleshwara or Kallesvara) is located in the town of Ambali in Bellary district of Karnataka state, India. According to an Old Kannada inscription (dated 1083) placed in the sabhamantapa (lit, "gathering hall"), the temple was constructed during the reign of the Western Chalukya Empire King Vikramaditya VI (also called Tribhuvana Malla). This temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.Kedareshvara Temple, Balligavi
The Kedareshvara temple (also spelt Kedareshwara or Kedaresvara) is located in the town of Balligavi (known variously in ancient inscriptions as Belagami, Belligave, Ballagamve and Ballipura), near Shikaripura in the Shimoga district of Karnataka state, India. Dotted with centres of learning (agrahara), Balligavi was an important city during the 11th - 12th century Western Chalukya rule. The term Anadi Rajadhani (ancient capital) used in medieval inscriptions to describe this town tells a tale of great antiquity. Art historian Adam Hardy classifies the style involved in the construction of the temple as "Later Chalukya, non mainstream, relatively close to mainstream". He dates the temple to late 11th century, with inscriptional evidence of additions made up to 1131, by the Hoysalas during their control over the region. The building material used is soapstone. The Archaeological Survey of India classifies the style of architecture as distinctly Hoysala. The Hoysala ruling family was during this period a powerful feudatory of the imperial Western Chalukya Empire, gaining the trappings of independence only from the period of King Vishnuvardhana (1108-1152 A.D). The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu
Kedareshwara Temple (also spelt "Kedaresvara" or "Kedareshvara") is a Hoysala era construction in the historically important town of Halebidu, in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, India. It is located a short distance away from the famous Hoysaleswara Temple. The temple was constructed by Hoysala King Veera Ballala II (r. 1173–1220 A.D.) and his Queen Ketaladevi, and the main deity is Ishwara (another name for the Hindu god Shiva). The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.Kudakkallu Parambu
Kudakkallu Parambu is a prehistoric Megalith burial site situated in Chermanangad of Thrissur District of Kerala. The site have 69 megalithic monuments spread over a small area. Different types of burials are in this area includes Topikkal, Kudakkal, multiple hood stones and stone circles. Archaeological Survey of India says that these monuments are built around 2000 BCE. Archaeological Survey of India has declared it as a centrally protected monument.Kuthur Ramakrishnan Srinivasan
Kuthur Ramakrishnan Srinivasan (1910–1992) was an Indian archeologist, historian and the author of a number of books on Indian history and culture. He was best known for his archeological work on the Cave Temples of Mahabalipuram. The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 1991.List of Monuments of National Importance in Karnataka
This is a list of Monuments of National Importance (ASI) as officially recognized by and available through the website of the Archaeological Survey of India in the Indian state Karnataka. The monument identifier is a combination of the abbreviation of the subdivision of the list (state, ASI circle) and the numbering as published on the website of the ASI. 506 Monuments of National Importance have been recognized by the ASI in Karnataka.Heritage monuments in Karnataka is subdivided by the ASI into two circles: Bangalore and Dharwad. The list for Dharwad is long, so it has been split up on a district basis.List of State Protected Monuments in Haryana
This is a list of State Protected Monuments as officially reported by and available through the website of the Archaeological Survey of India in the Indian state Haryana. The monument identifier is a combination of the abbreviation of the subdivision of the list (state, ASI circle) and the numbering as published on the website of the ASI. 23 State Protected Monuments have been recognized by the ASI in Haryana. Besides the State Protected Monuments, also the Monuments of National Importance in this state might be relevant.Lothal
Lothal (IPA: [loˑt̪ʰəl]) is one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, located in the Bhāl region of the modern state of Gujarāt and first inhabited c. 3700 BCE. Discovered in 1954, Lothal was excavated from 13 February 1955 to 19 May 1960 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the official Indian government agency for the preservation of ancient monuments. According to the ASI, Lothal had the world's earliest known dock, which connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea. However, this interpretation has been challenged by other archaeologists, who argue that Lothal was a comparatively small town, and that the "dock" was actually an irrigation tank.Lothal was a vital and thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching the far corners of West Asia and Africa. The techniques and tools they pioneered for bead-making and in metallurgy have stood the test of time for over 4000 years.Lothal is situated near the village of Saragwala in the Dholka Taluka of Ahmedabad district. It is six kilometres south-east of the Lothal-Bhurkhi railway station on the Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar railway line. It is also connected by all-weather roads to the cities of Ahmedabad (85 km/53 mi), Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Dholka. The nearest cities are Dholka and Bagodara. Resuming excavation in 1961, archaeologists unearthed trenches sunk on the northern, eastern and western flanks of the mound, bringing to light the inlet channels and nullah ("ravine", or "gully") connecting the dock with the river. The findings consist of a mound, a township, a marketplace, and the dock. Adjacent to the excavated areas stands the Archaeological Museum, where some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India are displayed.
The Lothal site has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its application is pending on the tentative list of UNESCO.Mallikarjuna Temple, Kuruvatti
The Mallikarjuna temple is located in the town of Kuruvatti (also spelt Kuruvathi) in the Bellary district of Karnataka state, India. The temple was constructed in the early 12th century rule of the Western Chalukya Empire (also known as the Later or Kalyani Chalukya empire). The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.Art historian Adam Hardy classifies the architectural style and guild involved in the construction of the temple as a "trans-Tungabhadra branch" of the "mainstream Lakkundi school" of the Later Chalukya style of architecture.
The art historian Ajay Sinha classifies the Kuruvatti style to be a third idiom, the other two being the Lakkundi and Itagi (or Ittagi) schools. He describes the overall achievement at Kuruvatti as "majestic", despite a lack of artistic over indulgence. The building material used is soapstone According to Sinha, a 1099 A.D. inscription at the temple claims it was constructed in service of the god "Abhinava Someshvara" and that the temple also went by the name "Ahavamallesvara". He recants that both names are associated with the deceased Chalukya King Someshvara I who committed voluntary suicide at Kuruvatti in 1062. Sinha feels the temple may have been constructed between 1070 and 1100 in his memory by his heir apparent, the King Vikramaditya VI.Panchakuta Basadi, Kambadahalli
Panchakuta Basadi (or Panchakoota Basadi) is a temple complex located in the Kambadahalli village of the Mandya district, Karnataka state, in southwestern India. It is one of the finest examples of South Indian Dravidian architecture of the Western Ganga variety, related to the Jain faith and iconography. According to the historian K.R. Srinivasan, the temple complex, which was built by the kings of the Western Ganga Dynasty is assignable to the period 900–1000 CE. The historian I. K. Sarma however assigns an earlier date of 8th century, based on traces of early Pallava-Pandya and Chalukya-Pallava influences. Kambadahalli (whose name in the Kannada language literally translates to "village with pillar") which is located 18 km from the famous Jain heritage town of Shravanabelagola, on the Mandya-Shravanabelagola highway, gets its name from the Brahmadeva pillar (Manasthambha) erected in front of the temple complex. From inscriptions, it is known that the temple complex has been renovated during later centuries, including the during the rule of the Hoysala Empire. The monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a "national monument". Srinivasan describes it as a "landmark in South India architecture".Panchalingeshwara Temple, Govindanahalli
Panchalingeshwara Temple (also spelt Panchalingeshvara) in Govindanahalli, Mandya district, Karnataka state, India, was constructed around 1238 A.D. during the reign of the Hoysala empire King Vira Someshwara. The name "Panchalingeshwara" literally means "five linga" (pancha - five and linga - the universal symbol of the god Shiva). The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. The famous sculptor of Hoysala times, Ruvari Mallitamma, is known to have made contributions to the temple.Someshwara Temple, Kolar
The Someshwara temple (also spelt Someshvara or Somesvara), situated in Kolar town of Karnataka state, India, is an ornate 14th century Vijayanagara era Dravidian style construction. Someshwara, another name for the Hindu god Shiva is the presiding deity in the temple. The temple is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a monument of national importance.Western Chalukya temples
Some famous temples built by the Western Chalukyas, referred to as the "Later Chalukya art" that flourished in and around the Tungabhadra River districts of modern Karnataka state, India, are included in the table below.