Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of BL Rice, the man who pioneered epigraphic studies in Mysuru State.
Rice was the first director of the Karnataka Archeology Department. But if he were to be reborn at this time, he would have been baffled by the state of abandonment in the discipline of epigraphy.
For, outside the very department he headed, more than a century and a half ago in Mysuru, there was a group of officials from the epigraphy section who protested against the treatment of “mother-in-law” that they received. was reserved.
Epigraphy is the only tool to decipher what has been relegated to the pages of history and buried in the womb of existence for centuries together, and yet the attention epigraphy receives in India is dismal.
And as if to reiterate this contempt for the field, the recently completed restructuring exercise of the Archaeological Survey of India has ended up not assigning a single post to the department that actually holds the key to all documentation of the past.
Talk to Swarajya on condition of anonymity, an official of the department deplored the situation of the department which will soon know the fate of the inscriptions in this country – buried under the rubble of ignorance.
“We didn’t want to disrupt the work, which is why we protested during our lunch hours for an hour on Thursday; but we wonder if it made a difference for the authorities concerned, ”the official said.
“This is an area that requires great skill and requires years of dedicated research to be able to even have a basic command of scripts or languages with which one is familiar. There are already very few people getting into epigraphy given the lack of incentives and career opportunities. To top it off, many positions are being cut for non-appointment. “
“In 2015, for example, there was a revival of two epigraphy articles concerning Sanskrit. But these two positions were not filled and this led to their permanent abolition. It is almost as if the section itself is liquidated ”.
To cover the entire region of northern India, the branch has barely a handful, around six to seven epigraphists, the official explains, wondering how they would suffice for the entire region.
“Where there should have been six to seven epigraphists for each state, given the inscription of the wealth that we have and that we continue to discover in this country, how can we work. We have a lot of pending tasks, but no people.
But why is there no date? What is preventing the hiring of people in this department, which should ideally be staffed with generous staff? “Who will hold people accountable? Our authorities have made great efforts to attract the attention of those concerned, but to no avail. If they had taken these appointments in 2016, would they have been lost? he asks.
When there was a resumption of positions in 2016, all positions except those concerning epigraphy were filled, he informs. Also recently in March, seven posts relating to epigraphy (across languages) saw a revival, but no action has been taken so far for appointments, he adds.
These must be completed within one year, otherwise they will also suffer the same fate and will be permanently deleted.
Files remain blocked, approvals remain pending, and history repeats because no appointments are made. “There is no archeology without epigraphy, yet we attract the least attention”, laments the person in charge.
And as one can see by visiting one of the sites maintained by ASI in the country, importance was given to the hiring of horticulturalists and gardeners, but not specialists capable of decoding the inscriptions that the historical excavations and fortuitous discoveries keep spewing out.
Even in the recent 758 appointments to ASI across the country, the horticulture section has seen the highest nominations, as has conservation, while epigraphy remains in research.
According to reports, 70 positions have been created to recruit horticulturalists including 55 horticultural assistants.
The whole history of ancient and medieval India is based on epigraphy. Any excavation, any discovery requires the intervention of an epigraphist. Yet why this stepmother treatment, ask officials.
Discouraged after making countless requests, they began to demonstrate to draw attention to this issue.
It is appalling to know that the entire department, in various languages, has a total of 31 sanctioned positions, of which 10 are vacant.
They take so much pride in working in this department which, they say, is a “saraswati bhandara“, a treasure of wisdom, they are discouraged that” this house in Saraswati is not getting the attention it deserves.
“Because this is only a Saraswati house and not Lakshmi, it meets this level of contempt. The departments where ‘Lakshmi’ is generated are well taken care of – from nomination to grant support. But unfortunately, we are not one of those, ”he says apologetically.
And it’s not that the nation lacks the talent to train experts in this area.
“This is an area where we can recruit aspirants, train them for at least 3 to 4 years before they go into the field and only then join the seniors where they train under the Parampara of Guru Shiksha – this is how the industry has taken shape over the decades now. But without named “seniors”, this tradition is broken, ”he adds.
Each state should have an office made up of 3-4 epigraphists from those respective states, he believes.
“We receive many inscriptions in various languages of North India like Gujarati, Kashmir, Assamese, in Kharoshti script, but we have no one to read them. The situation in the northeastern states is even worse, because there are no readers. Even if we get the impressions of these inscriptions, how do we decipher them? We don’t have anyone to read them, ”he says.
“Without ancient scriptures, there is no archeology at all. Without decoding the footprints of the past, there is no way to know the history. It is a department created by the British. After launching the Department of Archeology and a magazine called Indian antique dealer which covered all aspects, he had a large number of works focusing on epigraphy. That’s when they thought of creating a separate journal exclusively for epigraphy, given its importance in the scheme of things, ”he recalls, wishing the current system would give him the importance that our colonial rulers once had.
Recalling his early days in the department, he remembers having wet eyes upon hearing the words of a retired epigraphist Swaminathan.
“Everyone berated me when I joined this department. But I am proud and grateful for what it has given me. I was able to visit the whole state of Tamil Nadu, do surveys and study the cultural heritage of my state only thanks to my training here. If there is another birth, I would seek to be reborn as an epigraphist and continue Tamil epigraphy and discover the richness of our past in this department itself, ”he mused as he left.
Such is the power of this branch and its importance in the field of the cultural heritage of our country. However, it is having to “protest” to attract attention.