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Decolonizing South Asia through Heritage- and Nation-Building

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This essay builds upon the premise that heritage and decolonization share histories of obsessive emphases upon exclusive, unique and fiercely acquisitive identities. Considering that the scholarship of decolonization increasingly fixes attention upon the displays of the colonial in the realms of the former imperial powers, the aims here are to shift attention to the curation of the national within the post-colony. The essay explores histories of archaeological collections, collecting practices, museums, and exhibitions within India to illustrate the imbrication of the practices of heritage making and politics of decolonization. It highlights the pedagogic value of biographies of collections and exhibitions for analyzing the shared histories, and engages with the Authorized Heritage Discourse (AHD) of nation-making for interrogating the practices of naturalizing cultural heritage.
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Decolonizing South Asia through Heritage- and Nation-Building
Author(s): Sudeshna Guha
Source:
Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism
, Winter 2019, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Winter 2019), pp. 31-45
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/futuante.16.2.0031
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Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism
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Figure 1. Posters displaying the Heritage of India, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, December 2017. Photograph by the author.
Courtesy of India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
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31
Future Anterior
Volume XVI, Number 2
Winter 2019
Introduction
British scholarship of Indian history during the colonial period
produced an essentialist construct of an Indian cultural tradi-
tion that was deemed unchanged since antiquity and recover-
able through archaeological excavations. Thus in his History of
India (1870) Meadows Taylor explained that “the Hindoos hold
the same Pagan faith and follow the same customs as their
forefathers who fought with Alexander the Great on the banks
of the Indus,” and through his histories of Indian architecture
James Fergusson declared that “in a country such as India
the chisels of her sculptors are... immeasurably more to be
trusted than the pen of her authors.”1 Significantly, archaeolo-
gists of South Asia have built upon the above colonial truths
for making a move, albeit intuitively, toward decolonizing the
archaeological scholarship.2 The archaeological constructs of
the deep antiquity of India’s civilizational ethos guides the na-
tionalist discourse of Indian heritage, which we may glean from
the posters of the convention (Figures 1 and 2) of the General
Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites
(ICOMOS) held in 2017 in New Delhi. Importantly, the posters
convey some of the common ways in which histories of art,
architecture, sciences, technology, and crafts are created and
co- opted for endowing materiality to the ideational phenome-
non of civilizational heritage, which is constituted as immuta-
bly ancient but which is endowed with hallmarks of modernity
such as the legacy of precision.
The “ocial heritage,” or Authorized Heritage Discourse
(AHD), which the posters convey, works to naturalize heritage
by exhibiting “materiality, monumentality, grandiosity, time,
depth, aesthetics and all that is ‘good’ in history and culture.”3
The posters, however, mask the experiential aspect of heritage:
“a cultural process of meaning- making” that “engages with acts
of remembering... to create ways to understand and engage
with the present.”4
ICOMOS is the largest nongovernmental organization
(NGO) working for the conservation, interpretation, and com-
munication of the cultural heritage of the world. It establishes
professional standards of ethics for heritage management, and
the convention in Delhi was of great importance for India as it
entailed the selection of an Indian member to the General As-
sembly of the organization. The theme of the Delhi convention,
Sudeshna Guha Decolonizing South Asia through
Heritage- and Nation- Building
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32
which was conceptualized by India, was “Heritage and De-
mocracy.” Largely evaded during discussions, however, was
whether or not the preservation of built heritage can serve all
equally, and, if so, how can the public participate as policy-
makers of conservation projects?5 The “Delhi Declaration of
Heritage and Democracy” armed that cultural identities
should not be compromised by uninformed and insensitive
planning, and that the dissemination of information regarding
heritage resources must take place in a transparent manner.6
Recommendations within the Declaration provided for a larger
area of protection around historical monuments and archaeo-
logical sites in India than the prohibited space of two hundred
meters, which had been mandated by the Ancient Monuments
and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Vali-
dation) Act, or AMASR Act, of 2010.7 The Declaration, therefore,
sought to make many more people living near historical sites
equal shareholders of their legacy and management.8
Yet although democratic in the aim of facilitating wider
public participation in heritage management, the Declaration
enshrines the AHD by regarding conservation and management
as objective and external technical processes, and not as part
of the “subjective heritage performances” that entail acts of
Figure 2. Posters displaying the
Heritage of India, India Habitat Centre,
New Delhi, December 2017. Photograph
by the author. Courtesy of India Habitat
Centre, New Delhi.
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33
selections of objects and practices for heritage- making.9 In-
deed, the recommendations of the Delhi Declaration were soon
invalidated through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeologi-
cal Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, which was passed by
the Indian legislature in December 2017. The Bill “empowers
central government to allow public works based on the recom-
mendation of National Monuments Authority (NMA)... that
seek to carry out construction for public purposes in a prohib-
ited area,” and defines public works as those “which include
construction of any infrastructure that is financed and carried
out by central government for public purposes.”10 In failing to in-
form the public what such constructions may be, the Bill echoes
the colonial governance of public works in India, in which the
public had no say in the works that ostensibly benefitted them.
Both the Delhi Declaration and Amendment Bill of 2017 there-
fore draw attention to the inherent contradiction in the theme
of democracy and heritage. For, we may ask, how can managed
heritage be reflective of democracy?
This essay engages with that question through historical
reflection on Indian nation building, especially at the cusp of
independence. It focuses upon the nationalist politics of de-
colonization for interrogating the cultural imperialisms of the
post- colonial states, which is overlooked within the growing
scholarship of decolonization that relates to issues of eth-
ics and responsibilities of curating and historicizing colonial
collections.11 Predictably, the exclusionary politics of national
heritage thrives through the administration of marginalization,
which in India is paradoxically nurtured through nationalist
slogans of unity in diversity.
The valuation of heritage, as historians of the social sci-
ences demonstrate, resides within ways in which the ideational
phenomenon functions in relation to communities that link
themselves to it.12 Yet in India, and perhaps throughout South
Asia, heritage is largely regarded as immutable and latent,
and studied as an inherent cultural resource in conformity with
the dictionary meaning of the English word: that “which has
been or may be inherited” or a “condition or state transmitted
from ancestors” (OED).13 The government of India builds upon
truths of universal heritage, which the AHD promotes, and de-
clares that “a country as diverse as India is symbolized by the
plurality of its culture.”14 Yet increasing ocial investments in
the heritagization of India’s cultural politics reveal the semi-
nal role that the ociation of an Indian heritage has played
“in husbanding community, identity, continuity and indeed
history itself.”15 In illustrating the deft manner through which
constructs of heritage are fashioned anew, histories of heritage
management provoke research enquiries into transactions of
identity creation.
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34
Heritage Politics: Region versus Nation
The early history of the Varendra Research Society (Rajshahi,
Bangladesh) provides an example of the competing schemes
of local and ocial heritage- making, which at times demand
the conflation of identities distinctly earmarked as regional and
national. The scholarly Society was established in 1910 with a
museum and library at the behest of two Bengali antiquaries,
Akshay Kumar Maitra (1861– 1930) and Ramaprasad Chanda
(1873– 1942) for “promoting the study of archaeology, anthro-
pology, history, literature and art in relation to India, with spe-
cific reference to Bengal.”16 The founding members perceived
the archaeological explorations and excavations of Varendra
(Barind, North Bengal) as a means of recovering “the ethnic
origin of the Bengalees,” and the preliminary excavations at
Paharpur (Naogaon district, Bangladesh) in 1922– 23 enhanced
the Society’s academic profile as helping “Bengalees in acquir-
ing knowledge of their ancient culture.”17 The subsequent exca-
vations, which were undertaken by the Archaeological Survey
of India (ASI) until 1933– 34, exposed Bengal’s golden age by
revealing the cultural wealth of the Pala period, which included
the extensive Buddhist monastery Somapura Mahavira of the
eighth and ninth centuries that was inscribed with World Heri-
tage status in 1985.
By its silver jubilee year in 1935, the Varendra Research
Society’s endeavors in exposing and collecting the “neglected
archaeological relics of Varendra” had furnished the museum
with over a “thousand pieces of sculpture... [a] remarkable
assortment of casts, stone- and copper- plate inscriptions,
coins and a library with about 2000 ancient manuscripts.”18 To
commemorate the occasion, the members promoted this rich
historical collection of North Bengal as being of “great impor-
tance to the nation as a whole.”19 Yet the colonial government
consistently neglected to fund the undertakings of the Society,
despite lauding its achievements. This negligence, of which the
Society regularly complained, conveys the competing inter-
ests of the schemes of local, regional, and national heritage-
making.20 The conflicts such schemes breed mark the identity
politics of decolonization, and are patently visible within the
disparate claims for the ownership of cultural properties.
In 1949, the newly independent Government of India re-
quested the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to review the
Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904 in order to bring
it “into line with the Constitution Act.”21 During a state- wide
relisting of monuments, the central government instructed
the Survey to accommodate the rock cut caves of Elephanta
and Kanheri into the Union List that comprised monuments
of national importance worthy of protection by the nation. In
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35
staking its claim the government strongly rejected Bombay
Presidency’s request for custodianship of the two sites by
noting that “the Bombay Government is carrying out extensive
improvements in the National Park at Kanheri and dual control
by the State and Centre over the Buddhist Caves at Kanheri
has given rise to some diculties... the Bombay Government
aims to convert the Elephanta caves into a holiday resort.”22
The government’s peremptory strike for the custodianship of
Kanheri and Elephanta conveys the cultural politics of Indian
nationalism of the 1950s, when policies and laws regarding
“monuments the cultural heritage of India” were established
in “more than usual legal speed.”23 The imperialisms of nation-
alism, which this example conveys, embody the history of the
founding collections of the National Museum of India.
Collecting the National Heritage
The National Museum was established on August 15, 1949,
and a suitable collection for the nascent institution was con-
ceptualized through the “masterpieces of Indian art” that
were displayed in the first international exhibition of The Art
of India and Pakistan, which was held in London through the
initiatives of the Royal Academy between November 1947 and
February 1948.24 Many provincial museums, private collectors,
and princely states loaned their prized objects to the London
exhibition, and on the return of the exhibits to New Delhi,
the Indian government decided to host a public Exhibition of
Indian Art at Government House (subsequently, the Rashtrapati
Bhavan). The Exhibition, held between November 6, 1948, and
April 30, 1949, was declared a great success and, at its closing,
the government made a formal appeal to the Indian owners of
the exhibits for loans in perpetuity to the nation.25
The ocial history of the National Museum tells us that
many erstwhile rulers of the former princely states and cura-
tors of state museums parted with their “excellent art- objects,”
which “repaired the loss” of the instances of withdrawal.26
However, the ocial archives convey a slightly dierent ver-
sion of this narrative, exposing the frustration and ire of the
owners towards the bullying tactics of the government. The
Maharaja of Bikaner, for example, was willing to give “certain
sculptures and wooden works of art,” but “not prepared to give
away the paintings which the D.G. of Archaeology considers
would enrich the National Museum.”27 And noting the “laud-
able move of developing a representative National Museum of
Art in the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai
Man Singh II (1912– 70) rejected the possibility of loaning the
“exhibits from Jaipur sent for the Indian Exhibition in London”
through the declaration that:
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36
I have already created a National Trust for the Jaipur Art
treasures and it is my desire that while they should be
preserved for the benefit of all and for coming genera-
tions they should not be moved from Jaipur. Apart from
any sentimental reasons, as these old relics of art are my
family heirlooms, I feel very strongly that Jaipur, which has
always been well known for its works of art and attracts
a large number of scholars and tourists should retain its
valuable art relics to encourage local arts all together and
not split them up.28
Ten years later, in 1959, Man Singh II founded the Jaipur Mu-
seum. The Trust for the upkeep of the institution was estab-
lished in 1970, however, after his death, when the name was
formalized as Sawai Man Singh II Museum.
Jaipur had sent thirteen packages of valuable exhibits
to London and the Maharaja had complained into 1951 of the
abject neglect of the Indian government to acknowledge the re-
turn of the items to New Delhi and of their unwelcome position
there. By then, Jodhpur, another princely state in Rajasthan,
was also haranguing the government to return to the state
the objects lent to the London exhibition.29 The government
candidly admitted “the delay in returning those articles” as
“perhaps due to our greed!,” which accompanies the “hope
that the public spirited owners may be persuaded to make a
gift to the National Museum.”30 However, it strove to trivialize
the objections of the former maharajas quite systematically
through bureaucratic delays, and quipped that “they have
not yet got rid of their attitude of suspicion. If we have a little
patience, we shall be able to get them all.”31 The unwillingness
of many royals to part with their historical collections reflected
the attitude of many provincial (state) museums. In wishing
back the exhibits in their collections, the Government Museum
Bangalore best articulated the reasons through the state-
ment that
if all the exhibits are permitted to be retained by the
National Museum of Indian Art, New Delhi, the sculpture
gallery recently formed... will be deprived of almost all
the important exhibits... collected from dierent parts in
the Mysore state with much diculty [and] besides, acqui-
sition of fresh specimens would entail a good deal of cost
and take time.32
The Indian government’s eorts to constitute a national collec-
tion entailed the procurement of a large collection of antiqui-
ties of the ASI as a loan in perpetuity to the National Museum.
The loan emphasizes the service of archaeology to the Indian
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37
nation, which followed the discoveries, in the 1920s, of the
Bronze Age Indus Civilization of the third millennium BCE.33 The
national co- option of the spectacular prehistoric urban civiliza-
tion was undertaken at the cusp of independence through a
public exhibition, The Inter- Asian Exhibition of Art, which was
held in March 1947. The Exhibition accompanied The Inter-
Asian Relations Conference at Delhi, which was a brainchild
of Nehru, and was widely reported as providing:
a liberal education in India’s historic past and her rela-
tions with (1) China and Eastern Turkestan (2) Central Asia
including the Kushan dynasty (3) Southeast Asia and Java
(4) with Tibet and Nepal [...] a visual panorama of his-
torical and aesthetic associations between India and her
Asian neighbours.34
The lead curator Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala explained that
the displays illustrated “one central theme: India’s cultural
intercourse with other countries of Asia in the ancient world.”
As the opening objects of the Exhibition, the Indus artifacts
displayed “India on the archaeological map of the most
ancient world, mark[ing] out the country as the builder of
international contacts even in the remote proto- historic period
of about 3000 BC.”35 They, thereby, illuminated the long his-
tory of Greater India into the third millennium BCE. The truth-
making exhibition of Ancient India’s achievements as a cultural
colonizer on the eve of Modern India’s decolonization appears
profoundly ironic.
Troublesome Heritage of the National Spoils
By mid- 1948, a large collection of the Indus Civilization within
museums of Pakistan came into India’s share through a post-
partition distribution of the assets of the ASI. The division of
the collection involved fraught negotiations, which reflected
the fear of the two nations of losing “plum objects.”36 The an-
tiquities, mainly of Mohenjodaro, Harappa, and Chanhudaro,
and other related sites of the Indus Civilization, constitute
India’s founding collection of the Harappan (Indus) Civilization,
whose physical extent was then known only within the territo-
ries of Pakistan.37 They were prominently displayed in the newly
founded National Museum as India’s share of its lost civiliza-
tional history.38
This history of collection partitioning is very visible in the
exhibitions of the jewelry of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, and
Ancient Taxila (Pakistan), at the National Museum, New Delhi.
The ornaments are at present displayed in the new Alamkar
gallery, which opened to the public in 2014. For example,
among the exhibits of Case 1 are the “girdle” of carnelian
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38
and “jadeite necklace,” representatives of bigger pieces found
during excavations at Mohenjodaro’s DK mound in 1925– 26
and 1926– 27 respectively. Both were refashioned into smaller
pieces, possibly in July 1949, after the closure of the Exhibition
of Indian Art at the Government House (New Delhi). The parent
jadeite necklace (field no. DK 1341) comprised seven pendants
of “agate- jasper” strung in an intricate manner through wire
loops on a thick gold wire that held the other beads.39 The divi-
sion of the necklace, enabling shares to go to both India and
Pakistan, involved the removal of the gold wire and stringing
back together the beads and pendants.
The instructions for splitting the jewelry of Harappa and
Mohenjodaro between India and Pakistan were quite precise,
and the Indian jadeite necklace has an extra pendant since
Pakistan received a larger share of the gold jewelry from Taxila.
The minutes of the Museums Branch of ASI, which inform of
the division, reported that “out of 145 objects of gold and silver
jewelry in the Taxila Museum, only 47 have been brought to
India.... In terms of gold in tolas, about twice as much gold
has been left behind in the Taxila Museum.”40 The proce-
dure of partitioning collections was never more than matter-
of- fact: a brief note by the former director general of ASI,
R. E. M. Wheeler (1944– 48) to his successor N. P. Chakravarti
(1949– 50) states: “On Tuesday, the 14th we completed the par-
titioning of the Royal Academy collections and on Wednesday
squared everything with the customs authorities.... As usual,
Figure 3. View of the display of the
founding collections of the Indus
Civilization of the National Museum,
1960– 61. Courtesy of National
Museum, New Delhi.
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39
India won the toss on the two occasions when we had to toss
for odd things. You seem to have won down the line.”41
Even a cursory mapping of the displays of the Indus and
Taxila jewelry at the National Museum since 1949 illustrate
that the items have never borne labels informing visitors as
to why they are displayed as halved pieces. During the 1990s,
meanwhile, when a university in North America requested the
Indian government to loan the “carnelian girdle” and “jadeite
necklace” for an international exhibition of the Indus civiliza-
tion in New York, the request was not met.42 The Museum and
Indian government’s reticence to engage with the national
spoils of the Partition convey the conscious acts of forgetting
and erasure, which the politics of nationalism nurtures.
Glimpses of a Nation- Serving Archaeology
In listing the early achievements of the National Museum, the
first director- general Grace Morley (1960– 66) emphasized that
the institution “represented India as a whole” and “contributes
to contemporary thought by its demonstration of the basic
unity underlying the great diversity of Indian culture.”43 Morley
strove to highlight the successful curation of India’s national
collection in exhibiting the secular nationhood that India had
constituted for itself at independence. Four decades later, the
curation of the Harappa Gallery at the National Museum serves
a dierent kind of Indian nationhood— one that spearheads
the heritagization of a Hindu nation.
The Harappa Gallery, which was inaugurated in 1994 to
commemorate the hosting of the World Archaeology Congress
by India at New Delhi, aimed at dazzling the international dele-
gation with the magnificence of India’s Harappan Civilization. It
has remained largely unchanged to- date, and a salient feature
Figure 4. Object Label for Jadeite
Necklace (No. 1) and other Ornaments,
Case 1, Alamkar, National Museum,
2019. Courtesy of National Museum,
New Delhi.
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40
is the large introductory text panel of over a thousand words
at the entrance corridor, which informs visitors of the suppos-
edly myriad elements of Hinduism within the make- up of the
Civilization. Visitors learn that the Harappans worshipped the
“peepul” tree, water, fire, Rudra, and Sivalinga on a yoni pitha,
knew of the true domesticated horse (Equus Caballus), and
namaskara and yoga mudra, and were creators of a rangashala
(described as a stadium) at Dholavira. The truth- making
photographs of antiquities in situ emphasize the veracity of
the questionable— interpretations, and object labels embody
the exhibits as representatives of Hinduism, such as the one
for a strikingly beautiful Cemetery H pot from Harappa, which
informs readers that its painted motifs conveys Hindu beliefs
of death.
The Gallery also displays the collections as types: terra-
cotta figures, ornaments, vessels, seals, gamesmen, toys,
weights, objects of shell, bone, ivory, and pottery. It therefore
fashions a visual history of the essential features of the Indus
Civilization, and through the categories conveys a hermeti-
cally sealed understanding of that which may constitute the
Harappan. Such exhibitions of “persuasive resemblance” feed
nationalist projects through the conflation of identities.44 The
nationalized Harappan Civilization displayed in the Gallery
thus provides a vision of the “timeless lien on territory and cul-
ture,”45 making little attempt to convey the inherently regional
nature of the Bronze Age phenomenon.
Figure 5. Introductory Text panel,
Harappa Gallery, 2017. Photograph
by the author. Courtesy of National
Museum, New Delhi.
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41
The Heritage of a New Polity
Histories of museums in South Asia provide many examples
of similarities in place- making labors within the colonial
and post- colonial eras, such as the Bihar Museum in Patna,
which opened to the public on October 2, 2017. Proclaimed as
international in scope (and built by a Japanese architectural
firm at considerable expense), the Bihar Museum displays
the ancient history of the new state of Bihar, which came into
being in 2000. The history galleries prominently display ar-
chaeological collections once housed in the Patna Museum for
conveying the magnificence of India’s first imperial kingdom,
the Mauryan dynasty (c. third century CE), and Ancient India’s
major religions: Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. The new
state invests in this glorious past not only to promote the brand
of “blissful Bihar” but also to enact capacity building for its
tourism industry.46
Yet the Bihar Museum has a predecessor. Plans for the
Patna Museum were mooted by the colonial government with
the creation of a new state of Bihar and Orissa in 1912. The
Museum was established, in 1917, for displaying the ancient
history of the new state. Among the collections sought were
the artifacts from excavations undertaken by ASI, between 1913
and 1917, at Bulandibagh and Kumrahar, which bespoke of
Pataliputra, the imperial Mauryan capital that had once thrived
in Patna. The “archaeological production of Pataliputra was
designed to endow this with a ‘place world’ tangible physical-
ity... as a pre- existing physically available place,” and the ex-
hibitions of the antiquities of Bulandibagh and Kumrahar at the
Patna Museum rooted the ancestry of Patna and the new state
as the epicenter of Ancient India. Subsequent scholarship of
the antiquities was largely guided through theories of ancient
India’s indigenous artistic developments, and it informs of the
myriad ways in which “nationalist identities were deeply imbri-
cated in the same disciplinary and institutional spaces opened
up by colonial archaeological and museum practices.”47
The Bihar Museum follows the Patna Museum in convey-
ing the compulsive endeavors of heritagizing through exhibi-
tions of deep antiquity.48 It “represents artistic heritage from
ancient times... to create a sense of belonging for people
of the State... to learn and progress”; the brief of the expert
committee has been “to fill in the historical gaps within the
topography of modern Bihar so that there are no dark ages.”49
The grand exhibition of the ancient heritage of modern Bihar
strives to display best practice. Yet the galleries of “tribal art,”
planned with an anthropological intent, display an abject ne-
glect of “source” communities, as the exhibitions are mounted
without consultations with the state’s vast population of jana-
jatis, or “tribals.” The curatorial neglect of cultural property
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42
rights provides a glimpse of the undemocratic practices of the
internationally poised public museums of India, which harbor
expectations of facilitating participatory processes in their
aims of displaying best practice.
Toward Decolonizing
Histories of collections and exhibitions demonstrate that the
functions and valuations of many antiquities within societies
that produced and consumed them have remained unknown.
Of the exhibits in the Bihar Museum, the opening object of the
history galleries, the Didarganj Yakshi is one such example, as
are many exhibits in the Harappa Gallery of the National Mu-
seum, including the “miniature vessels” and those labeled as
amulets. Yet, through their arresting beauty and uniqueness,
such antiquities have the power to stop viewers in their tracks.
In awakening curiosity and wonder, they embody the potential
to “undo the museum’s claim to authoritative knowledge.”50
Although the “new media” that increasingly infiltrates the mu-
seum spaces of India allows a “return to curiosity,” the curato-
rial practices of Indian museums seem largely unmindful of this
phenomenon.51 Heritage interventions through museums, as
this essay has shown, change conditions of cultural production
and notions of value through time. Yet, museum professionals,
archaeologists, and historians of South Asia who rally against
curatorial neglect fail to engage with collections management
as a method and intellectual space of enquiry. Responsible
curation demands the displays of the experiential and social
aspects of both collections and museums. The powerful agency
of the object world in resisting meaning- making therefore cre-
ates opportunities for devising methods of intervention into
the AHD, which otherwise strives upon endowments of identity.
Histories of curation and collections thereby illuminate the
power of the material in moves toward decolonizing.
Biography
Sudeshna Guha is Associate Professor of History at Shiv Nadar University (India).
She researches on notions of evidence and histories of archaeology and visualiza-
tion and, thereby, on methodologies of material culture studies. She has published
widely, and is the editor of The Marshall Albums: Photography and Archaeology
(Alkazi Collection of Photographs/ Mapin, 2011), author of Artefacts of History: Ar-
chaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts (Sage, 2015), and is at present finishing
a monograph, Objects and Histories (Hachette India). Her current research projects
are “Heritage and Its Archaeologies,” which engages with histories of museums,
collections, and curatorial practices; and “Sikkim and the Making of a Frontier
State,” which analyses the shifting identities and interactions with resources for
mapping the changing politics of frontier zones.
Notes
1 Philip Meadows Taylor, A Student’s Manual of the History of India: From the
Earliest Period to the Present (London: Longman, Greens and Co., 1870), vii; James
Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture (London: J. Murray, 1876), x.
The verdicts were firmly based upon the “historical fact” that India’s ancient, and
lost, civilization could only be archaeologically excavated since the Hindu texts
were all “fictitious and extravagant... hopeless to deduce from them any contin-
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43
ued thread of authentic narrative.” Mountstuart Elphinstone, The History of India
(London: John Murray, 1843), 19. Many South Asian archaeologists, even today,
exhibit the authority of archaeological knowledge over text- based scholarship by
building upon the above premise.
2 Example is the archaeological construct of “an identifiable Cultural Tradition” from
the seventh millennium BCE to date. For details, see Sudeshna Guha, Artefacts of
History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts (New Delhi: Sage, 2015),
209– 24. Noteworthy is the pioneering archaeological study of The Roots of Ancient
India in which the author declared that “the story of prehistoric India which stretches
back to a time so remote that it conforms to a Hindu Kalpa of untold generations
reaching to a primordial world, nonetheless repeats again and again the pat-
tern which was not to change until the east India Company ships moved up the
Hooghly.” Walter A. Fairservis Jr., The Roots of Ancient India (New York: Macmillan,
1971), 381.
3 Laurajane Smith, The Uses of Heritage (London: Routledge, 2006), 11.
4 Smith, Uses of Heritage, 44. See also Barbara Kirschenblatt- Gimlett, Destination
Culture: Tourism, Museums, Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1998), 7.
5 Giles Tillotson, “The Future of the Past,” India Today, January 22, 2018. https://
www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20180122-taj-mahal-heritage
-conservation-agra-tourism-mughal-architecture-1131373-2018-01-10.
6 See https://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/Charters/GA2017_Delhi
-Declaration_20180117_EN.pdf (accessed June 15, 2019).
7 See https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/Ancient%20Monuments%
20and%20Archaeological%20Sites%20and%20Remains%20Act%202010.pdf,
Section 20 B, 4 (accessed June 15, 2019).
8 The Preamble of the Delhi Declaration of Heritage and Democracy states that
“Respecting a people- centric culture- specific approach in various geographical re-
gions inhabited by a multitude of diverse communities that have contributed to the
creation of the composite heritage of a place,” June 15, 2019, https://www.icomos
.org/images/DOCUMENTS/Charters/GA2017_Delhi-Declaration_20180117_EN.pdf.
9 Smith, Uses of Heritage, 88.
10 See https://currentaffairs.gktoday.in/lok-sabha-passes-ancient-monuments
-archaeological-sites-remains-amendment-bill-2017-01201851314.html (accessed
November 2019).
11 Two recent examples of searing critique of the displays of the colony in Britain are
John Giblin, Imma Ramos, and Nikki Grout, “Exhibiting the Experience of Empire:
Decolonizing Objects, Images, Materials and Words,” Third Text 33, nos. 4– 5 (2019),
and Daniel Hicks, “Will Europe’s Museums Rise to the Challenge of Decoloniza-
tion,” The Guardian, March 7, 2020.
12 E.g., Tim Winter, “The Political Economies of Heritage,” in Heritage, Memory and
Identity, ed. Helmut K. Anheier and Raj. I. Yuddhistir (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage,
2011), 70– 81; Ien Ang, “Unsettling the Nation: Heritage and Diaspora,” in Heritage,
Memory and Identity, 82– 94.
13 See also Steven Hoelscher, “Heritage,” in A Companion to Museum Studies, ed.
Sharon Macdonald (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2011), 198– 218, who states that
the translation of heritage carry significance nuances (202). A rare critique of the
positivist scholarship of heritage in South Asia is in Swadhin Sen et al., “We Can
Protect the Past?: Rethinking the Dominating Paradigm of Preservation and Conser-
vation in Reference to the World Heritage Site of Somapura Mahavihara, Bangla-
desh,” Journal of Social Archaeology, 6, no. 1 (2006): 71– 99. https://doi.org
/10.1177/1469605306060563.
14 See http://indiaculture.nic.in/world-heritage; http://www.indiaculture.nic.in
/scheme-safeguarding-intangible-cultural-heritage-and-diverse-cultural-traditions
-india (accessed July 2019).
15 David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), xv.
16 Annual Report of the Varendra Research Society 1935– 36 (Rajshahi: Varendra
Research Society, 1936): 1.
17 Annual Report of the Varendra Research Society 1933– 34 (Rajshahi: Varendra
Research Society, 1934): 1.
18 Annual Report of the Varendra Research Society 1925– 26 (Rajshahi: Varendra
Research Society, 1926): 4. Annual Report of the Varendra Research Society
1935– 36, 2.
19 Annual Report of the Varendra Research Society 1935– 36, 2.
20 Although evidence of competing interests require more archival explorations,
glimpses of dierential allocation of resources by Bengal Government to the Indian
Museum (Calcutta) and Dacca Museum (Dhaka, Bangladesh, inaugurated in 1913 by
Lord Carmichael) provide a cue. They also inform us of the promise of the complex
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44
histories of the dierential valuations of museums within provinces, as being of
national, regional, local, and other, statures. With regard the Varendra Research
Society, the Secretary noted in 1928 that “our appeal for funds which I regret to
say was not pushed with sucient vigour met with a feeble response. The Rajshahi
Municipality while it increases our taxes cut down even its usual donation of
Rs. 100 to Rs. 50. The Government of Bengal, inspite our earnest representations
and even personal associations to the Hon’ble the Minister and H.E. the Governor,
has reduced the grant for the Curator from Rs. 250 to Rs. 150 per month (December
1927) on the ground of inadequate support from the public, and discontinued the
Research Scholarship attached to the Society from July 1927, when the Research
Scholar gave up his scholarship on being appointed Curator.” Annual Report of the
Varendra Research Society 1927– 28 (Rajshahi: Varendra Research Society), 3.
21 D.O. letter, no. F.3– 86/48 A.2, 2 December 1949, Ministry of Education to Chief
Secretaries of the States. Division of Monuments and Sites between the Central Ar-
chaeological Dept. and Provinces and States, National Archives of India (henceforth
NAI).
22 D.O. letter, no. A &F.D. 3306/7542- E/17499- B, dated 1 May 1950, from P.V.R. Rao,
Ministry of Education to N.P. Chakravarti, Director- General of Archaeological Survey
of India (henceforth DG ASI), Division of Monuments and Sites, NAI.
23 Quoted by J. H. S. Waddington, Supt. Department of Archaeology Northern Circle
in his letter, no. 8740 dated 28 July 1950, from Agra, to N. P. Chakravarti, DG ASI,
Division of Monuments and Sites, NAI.
24 For histories of the London and New Delhi exhibitions, see Tapati Guha- Thakurta,
Monuments, Objects, Histories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004),
175– 204.
25 Cf. Vasudev Sharan Agrawala, “Exhibition of Indian Art,” Journal of Indian Mu-
seums 5 (1948): 18– 27; Guha- Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories.
26 Jitendra Kumar Roy, “The National Museum of India,” Ancient India 9 (Silver
Jubilee Number, 1953): 246– 49, 247.
27 Letter, 16 January 1949, from H. H. Maharaja of Bikaner to Secretary, Ministry
of States, No. 7616- L/49, Serial No. 4. Appeal issued to certain States/Unions for
the Donation of Certain Exhibits lent formerly to the GOI, to the Central National
Museum, File No 4(13)- L/49, NAI.
28 Letter, 11 December 1951, from Rambagh Palace, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II to
V. Shankar, ICS, Joint Secretary, Ministry of States. Ibid.
29 A letter, dated 25 March 1950, no. 16134, from Comptroller of the Household of
H.H. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur Jodhpur to Secretary, India Committee, Royal Acad-
emy, Exhibition of Indian Art, London, listed the objects that were demanded by the
Maharaja but not returned, which included: Powder Horn (ivory), portraits of Maha-
rajas Abhaisinghji, Takhatsinghji, Bijaisinghji, Razmanama (2 copies), Sindhan old
gun, and metal bow with gold Damascus work. Ibid.
30 Letter, 1 June 1951, no. F.- 5– 11/51G.2 (A), from Ashfaque Hussain, Ministry of Edu-
cation, to General Amar Singh, Master of H.H. Maharaja of Jaipur’s household. Ibid.
31 Note of 27/12/1949, Secretary of Ministry of State. Rulers Reluctant to Part with
their Cultural Treasures, File No. 4 (13)- Ls/49, NAI.
32 D.O. letter, no. 302, dated 12 February 1950 from Director of Industries & Com-
merce, Mysore, to Secretary, Education Department, Bangalore. Ibid.
33 Sudeshna Guha, “Photographs in Sir John Marshall’s Archaeology,” in The
Marshall Albums: Photography and Archaeology, ed. S. Guha (Ahmedabad: Mapin,
2011), 136– 78.
34 Dr Syud Hossain, “Glimpses of the Asian Relations in Conference,” Indian News
Chronicle, April 4, 1947. For a history of the Conference see Thakur, Vineet. “An
Asian Drama: The Asian Relations Conference, 1947,” The International History
Review, 41, no. 3 (2019): 673– 95. DOI:10.1080/07075332.2018.1434809.
35 Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala, “Inter- Asian Exhibition of Art and Archaeology,”
Journal of Indian Museums 3 (1947): 28– 37, 28.
36 Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala, “A Note on the Collections for the National Museum,”
Journal of Indian Museums 4 (1948): 61– 62, 61. A numerical list of the Indus objects
in museums of Pakistan is in “Appendix 1: Statement of Antiquities in the Museums
of Pakistan,” Partition— Division of Museums and Archives, NAI. Histories of parti-
tioning the Survey’s collection in Sudeshna Guha, “Heritage and the Curation of the
Archaeological Scholarship of India,” in The Past in the Present, Essays in Honour of
Professor Paddayya, ed. V. Selvakumar, S. K. Aruni, and H. Dave (New Delhi: Aryan
Books International, forthcoming); Nayanjot Lahiri, Marshalling the Past: Ancient
India and Its Modern Histories (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2012).
37 The term Harappan Civilization, is, without exception, used in India. However, the
terminology conveys a nationalistic choice, and therefore the use in the essay of
Indus Civilization, the name given to the Bronze Age phenomenon during the early
1920s.
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45
38 See Guha, “Heritage and the Curation,” for histories of displays of the Indus Civili-
zation at the National Museum, New Delhi, since 1949.
39 See John Hubert Marshall, ed., Mohenjodaro and the Indus Civilization (London:
Arthur Probsthain, 1931), 2:519– 20.
40 D.O. letter, 29 July 1947, appended to “A Note on Partition of the Antiquities in
the Museums Branch,” Partition— Division of Museums and Archives, File 33/62/47,
ASI archives. A note of the assessment and shares: “The Mohenjodaro necklace
(Item No. 9 list IA, Royal Academy Catalogue No. 23) consists of 10 jade beads, 55
spacers of gold disk, 7 pendants and 10 semi- precious stones. Out of it, India’s
share should consist of 5 jade beads, 27 spacers of gold disc, 4 pendants and
5 semi- precious stones. India should be allotted 4 pendants out of 7, since in divid-
ing Taxila gold necklace No. 8885 Sirkap, only 12 beads and a terminal were given
to India as against 13 beads and one Terminal to Pakistan. The two gold necklaces
from Taxila (items 5 and 15 of list) are to be divided equally.”
41 Note from Wheeler to Chakravarti, of 18 November 1949, Partition— Division of
Museums and Archives, File no. 33/62/47, NAI.
42 The exhibition Great Cities, Small Treasures: The Ancient World of the Indus Valley
at Asia Society, New York (11 February– 3 May 1998). The Indus objects may well
belong to the AA category of objects in the National Museum, which cannot leave
the country. There is little clarity of their status among the curators as also of the
histories of the creation of the categories, AA and A.
43 Grace Morley, “Museums in India,” Museum 18, no. 4 (1965): 220– 50, 245;
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468- 0033.1965.tb01591.x
44 Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in a Nation State (London:
Routledge, 2005), 101– 2.
45 Chiara de Cesari and Michael Herzfeld, “Urban Heritage and Social Movements,”
in Global Heritage: A Reader, ed. Lynn Meskell (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2015),
171– 95, 171.
46 See http://bstdc.bih.naic.in/. For Bihar’s tourism policy of 2003, see http://
tourism.gov.in/sites/default/files/Bihar.pdf (accessed January 2019).
47 Sraman Mukherjee, “New Province, Old Capital: Making Patna Pataliputra,” The
Indian Economic and Social History Review 46, no. 2 (2009): 241– 79, pp. 272– 73;
https://doi.org/10.1177/001946460904600204.
48 For a history of the Patna Museum, see Gupta, Parmeshwar Lal. “Forward,” Patna
Museum Catalogue of Antiquities: Stone Sculptures, Metal Images, Terracottas and
Minor Antiquities (Patna, 1965), i– iv.
49 https://biharmuseum.org/more/more-about-museum/; http://www.speakpatna
.com/viewtopic.pp?=228 (accessed January 2019).
50 Michelle Henning, Museums, Media and Cultural Theory (Maidenhead: Open
University Press, 2006), 144.
51 Michelle Henning, “New Media,” Companion to Museum Studies, 302– 18, 303.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
In 1912, Bihar and Orissa was carved out of the erstwhile Bengal Presidency as a separate Province. The next year saw the beginnings of one of the most lavishly financed archaeological excavations of colonial India in the new province—the Pataliputra excavations funded by Ratan Tata and supervised, on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India, by D.B. Spooner. The excavations discovered Patna, the new Provincial capital, as the ancient city of Pataliputra. This essay traces the history of archaeological excavations at Patna between 1913 and 1918. However, it does not engage with Pataliputra as a pre-given, physically available site, which could be discovered through archaeological excavations. Against the backdrop of provincial reconfigurations across Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in the opening decades of the twentieth century, the paper explores the politics of place-making and provincial self-fashioning in early twentieth-century colonial Bihar. It maps how Pataliputra was brought into being through the place-making labours of colonial archaeology. And in tracking the different and changing trajectories of making Patna Pataliputra, the essay unearths how nationalist identities were deeply imbricated in the same disciplinary and institutional spaces opened up by colonial archaeological and museum practices.
Uses of Heritage, 44. See also Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimlett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums
  • Smith
Smith, Uses of Heritage, 44. See also Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimlett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 7.
The Future of the Past
  • Giles Tillotson
Giles Tillotson, "The Future of the Past," India Today, January 22, 2018. https:// www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20180122-taj-mahal-heritage -conservation-agra-tourism-mughal-architecture-1131373-2018-01-10.
Exhibiting the Experience of Empire: Decolonizing Objects, Images, Materials and Words
  • Nikki Grout
  • Daniel Hicks
Two recent examples of searing critique of the displays of the colony in Britain are John Giblin, Imma Ramos, and Nikki Grout, "Exhibiting the Experience of Empire: Decolonizing Objects, Images, Materials and Words," Third Text 33, nos. 4-5 (2019), and Daniel Hicks, "Will Europe's Museums Rise to the Challenge of Decolonization," The Guardian, March 7, 2020.
Unsettling the Nation: Heritage and Diaspora
  • Tim Winter
E.g., Tim Winter, "The Political Economies of Heritage," in Heritage, Memory and Identity, ed. Helmut K. Anheier and Raj. I. Yuddhistir (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2011), 70-81; Ien Ang, "Unsettling the Nation: Heritage and Diaspora," in Heritage, Memory and Identity, 82-94.
Ministry of Education to Chief Secretaries of the States. Division of Monuments and Sites between the Central Archaeological Dept. and Provinces and States, National Archives of India
  • D O Letter
D.O. letter, no. F.3-86/48 A.2, 2 December 1949, Ministry of Education to Chief Secretaries of the States. Division of Monuments and Sites between the Central Archaeological Dept. and Provinces and States, National Archives of India (henceforth NAI).
Exhibition of Indian Art
  • Cf
  • Vasudev Sharan Agrawala
Cf. Vasudev Sharan Agrawala, "Exhibition of Indian Art," Journal of Indian Museums 5 (1948): 18-27; Guha-Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories.
The National Museum of India
  • Jitendra Kumar
Jitendra Kumar Roy, "The National Museum of India," Ancient India 9 (Silver Jubilee Number, 1953): 246-49, 247.
Appeal issued to certain States/Unions for the Donation of Certain Exhibits lent formerly to the GOI, to the Central National Museum
  • Letter
Letter, 16 January 1949, from H. H. Maharaja of Bikaner to Secretary, Ministry of States, No. 7616-L/49, Serial No. 4. Appeal issued to certain States/Unions for the Donation of Certain Exhibits lent formerly to the GOI, to the Central National Museum, File No 4(13)-L/49, NAI.
Comptroller of the Household of H.H. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur Jodhpur to Secretary, India Committee, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Indian Art, London, listed the objects that were demanded by the Maharaja but not returned, which included: Powder Horn (ivory), portraits of Maharajas Abhaisinghji
  • A Letter
A letter, dated 25 March 1950, no. 16134, from Comptroller of the Household of H.H. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur Jodhpur to Secretary, India Committee, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Indian Art, London, listed the objects that were demanded by the Maharaja but not returned, which included: Powder Horn (ivory), portraits of Maharajas Abhaisinghji, Takhatsinghji, Bijaisinghji, Razmanama (2 copies), Sindhan old gun, and metal bow with gold Damascus work. Ibid.