B. B. Lal
Braj Basi Lal

(1921-05-02)2 May 1921
Died10 September 2022(2022-09-10) (aged 101)
Occupation(s)Archaeologist, Director-General Archaeological Survey of India (1968–1972)
Known forWork on Indus Valley civilization sites, Mahabharat sites, Kalibangan, Ramayana sites

Braj Basi Lal (2 May 1921 – 10 September 2022) was an Indian writer and archaeologist.[1] 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.[2]

His later publications have been noted and criticised for their historical revisionism,[3] taking a controversial[4] stance in the Ayodhya dispute, claiming to have found the remains of a columned Hindu temple beneath the subsequently destroyed Babri Masjid mosque.[5]

He received the Padma Bhushan Award by the President of India in 2000,[2] and was awarded India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2021.[6][7]

Early life and education

Lal was born in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 2 May 1921.[8][9] Lal obtained his master's degree in Sanskrit from Allahabad University, India.[10][11]


After his studies, Lal developed interest in archaeology and in 1943, became a trainee in excavation under a veteran British archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler, starting with Taxila,[11] and later at sites such as Harappa.[12] Lal went on to work as an archaeologist for more than fifty years. In 1968, he was appointed the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India where he would remain until 1972. Thereafter, Lal served as Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla.[2] The B. B. Lal Chair at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT, Kanpur) has been established by his son Vrajesh Lal to encourage research in science and technology related to archaeological work.[2] He served as Head of Department in School of Studies in Archeology, Jiwaji University, Gwalior from 1970 to 1975.

Archaeological work

Between 1950 and 1952, Lal worked on the archaeology of sites accounted for in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, including Hastinapura, the capital city of the Kurus. He made discoveries of many Painted Grey Ware (PGW) sites in the Indo‑Gangetic Divide and upper YamunaGanga doab.[12]

In Nubia, the Archaeological Survey of India, Lal and his team discovered Middle and Late Stone Age tools in the terraces of the river Nile near Afyeh. The team excavated a few sites at Afyeh and cemetery of C-group people, where 109 graves would be located.[13][14] Lal worked on the Mesolithic site of Birbhanpur (West Bengal), Chalcolithic site of Gilund (Rajasthan) and Harappan site of Kalibangan (Rajasthan).[15]

In 1975–76, Lal worked on the "Archaeology of Ramayana Sites" project funded by the ASI, which excavated five sites mentioned in the Hindu epic RamayanaAyodhya, Bharadwaj ashram, Nandigram, Chitrakoot and Shringaverapur.

Prof. B. B. Lal has published over 20 books and over 150 research papers and articles in national and international scientific journals.[2][12] The British archaeologists Stuart Piggott and D.H. Gordon, writing in the 1950s, describe Copper Hoards of the Gangetic Basin (1950) and the Hastinapura Excavation Report (1954–1955), two of Lal's works published in the Journal of the Archaeological Survey of India, as "models of research and excavation reporting."[12]

In his later publications, Lal has taken a pro-Hindutva stance and engaged in historical revisionism,[16][17][18][19] taking a controversial[20][21][19][22] stance in the Ayodhya dispute, and arguing in favor of the discredited[note 1] Indigenous Aryans point of view.[note 2] His later works have been characterized by D. N. Jha as "a systematic abuse of archaeology,"[23] while Julian Droogan writes that Lal "has used the term blut und boden [sic], a patriotic connection between one's blood and the soil of one's homeland, in connection with supposed religious continuity in the archaeological record of the subcontinent."[18] Ram Sharan Sharma characterized Lal's later work as driven by communalism and irrationalism, disembedded from "objective and scientific criteria."[24]

Ayodhya dispute

Main articles: Ayodhya dispute and Archaeology of Ayodhya

Lal took a controversial[20][21][19][22] stance in the Ayodhya dispute. Between 1975 and 1980 excavations took place at Ayodhya, with Lal writing in 1977, in the official ASI journal, that finds were "devoid of any special interest."[25] In a seven-page preliminary report submitted to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1989, Lal "only mentioned" that his team found "pillar bases," immediately south of the Babri mosque structure in Ayodhya.[26] In 1990, after his retirement, he wrote in a RSS magazine that he had found the remains of a columned temple under the mosque,[21][16][25] and "embarked on a spree of lectures all over the country propagating th[is] evidence from Ayodhya."[16] In Lal's 2008 book, Rāma, His Historicity, Mandir and Setu: Evidence of Literature, Archaeology and Other Sciences, he writes (that):

Attached to the piers of the Babri Masjid, there were twelve stone pillars, which carried not only typical Hindu motifs and mouldings but also figures of Hindu deities. It was self-evident that these pillars were not an integral part of the Masjid, but were foreign to it.[27]

Lal's conclusions have been contested by multiple scholars, questioning both the stratigraphic information and the kind of structure envisioned by Lal.[21][25] According to Hole,

Later independent analysis of photographs of the trench in which Lal claimed to have found the pillar bases found that they were actually the remains of various walls of different, non-centemporaneous structural phases, and could not have been load-bearing structures (Mandal 2003) [...] other than one photograph, Lal has never made the notebooks and sketches of his excavations available to other scholars so that his interpretation could be tested.[19]

Hole concludes that "the structural elements he had previously thought insignificant suddenly became temple foundations only in order to manufacture support for the nationalists' cause."[19][note 3] This accusation has been countered by KK Mohammed, who was a student archaeologist accompanying BB Lal. KK Mohammed claims that BB Lal didn't highlight his findings related to the issue because temple was not a big issue back then and he didn't want to provoke people. He claims, that after a decade, leftist historians, suo moto gave a statement that BB Lal hadn't found any evidence of temple. This, as per KK Mohammed, forced BB Lal to highlight his earlier findings from excavations. KK Mohammed claims that the criticism of Lal's work in Ayodhya was an attempt by leftist historians in connivance with extremist Muslim groups with a view to mislead Muslims.[33][34]

Indigenous Aryanism

Main articles: Indigenous Aryanism and Sarasvati river

In his 2002 book, The Saraswati Flows On, Lal rejected the widely accepted[note 4] Indo-Aryan migration theory, arguing that the Rig Vedic description of the Sarasvati River[note 5] as "overflowing" contradicts the mainstream view that the Indo-Aryan migration started at ca. 1500 BCE, after the Sarasvati River had dried up.[note 6] In his book ‘The Rigvedic People: ‘Invaders’? ‘Immigrants’? or Indigenous?’, Lal argues that the Rigvedic People and the authors of the Harappan civilisation were the same,[11] a view outside mainstream scholarship.[note 1]

Awards and honors

Personal life

Lal lived in Delhi and had three sons. Lal died at his home in Hauz Khas on 10 September 2022, at the age of 101.[39][40]

List of publications

See also


  1. ^ a b No support in mainstream scholarship:
    • Romila Thapar (2006): "there is no scholar at this time seriously arguing for the indigenous origin of Aryans".[36]
    • Wendy Doniger (2017): "The opposing argument, that speakers of Indo-European languages were indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, is not supported by any reliable scholarship. It is now championed primarily by Hindu nationalists, whose religious sentiments have led them to regard the theory of Aryan migration with some asperity."[web 1]
    • Girish Shahane (14 September 2019), in response to Narasimhan et al. (2019): "Hindutva activists, however, have kept the Aryan Invasion Theory alive, because it offers them the perfect strawman, 'an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument' ... The Out of India hypothesis is a desperate attempt to reconcile linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence with Hindutva sentiment and nationalistic pride, but it cannot reverse time's arrow ... The evidence keeps crushing Hindutva ideas of history."[web 2]
    • Koenraad Elst (10 May 2016): "Of course, it is a fringe theory, at least internationally, where the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is still the official paradigm. In India, though, it has the support of most archaeologists, who fail to find a trace of this Aryan influx and instead find cultural continuity."[37]
    • Michael Witzel, the "indigenous Aryans" position is not scholarship in the usual sense, but an "apologetic, ultimately religious undertaking."[38]
  2. ^ See:
    * B. B. Lal (2005). The Homeland of the Aryans. Evidence of Rigvedic Flora and Fauna & Archaeology. Aryan Books. ISBN 8173052832.
    * Braj Basi Lal (2015). The Rigvedic People: 'Invaders'?/'Immigrants'? or Indigenous?. Aryan Books International. ISBN 978-81-7305-535-5.
  3. ^ In 2003 another excavation took place, in which, according to the ASI report, 50 pillars of a huge structure were found, "indicative" of a temple.[28] K. K. Muhammad, member of the 1976–1977 excavation team, "maintains that there is enough archaeological proof of a grand temple below the Babri Mosque," stating that "more than 50 pillar bases in 17 rows were exposed," according to him remains of "a temple below the Babri Mosque and dated back to the 12th century AD."[29] Yet, according to archaeologists Supriya Verma and Menon Shiv Sunni, who observed the excavations on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, "the ASI was operating with a preconceived notion of discovering the remains of a temple beneath the demolished mosque, even selectively altering the evidence to suit its hypothesis."[30] According to Varma, "there is no archaeological evidence that there was a temple under the Babri Masjid," stating that "Underneath the Babri Masjid, there are actually older mosques."[31] According to archaeologist D. Mandal, who was also critical of Lal's stance, although the "pillar bases" appear to be aligned, they are not "pillar bases," and belong to different periods. That is, they had never existed together at any point of time; they were not really in alignment with one another; they were not even pillar bases, but junctions of walls, bases of the load-bearing columns at the intersections of walls.[32]
  4. ^ Roni Jacobson (1 March 2018): "Five thousand years ago nomadic horseback riders from the Ukrainian steppe charged through Europe and parts of Asia. They brought with them a language that is the root of many of those spoken today—including English, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and Persian. That is the most widely accepted explanation for the origin of this ancient tongue, termed Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Recent genetic findings confirm this hypothesis."[35]
  5. ^ Identified with the Gagghar-Hakra river, which had dried up by 2000 BCE; see Sarasvati river#Objections.
  6. ^ According to Lal, in the mainstream view the Indo-Aryan migrations led to the end of the Indus Valley civilization; this is not what mainstream scholarship says.


  1. ^ "Explained: Who is B B Lal, the Padma Vibhushan awardee who led an excavation at Ramjanmabhoomi site?". Adrija Roychowdhury. The Indian Express. 28 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e B. B. Lal Chair at IIT Kanpur Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur website.
  3. ^ Bhan 1997, p. 11; Witzel 2006, p. 205; Droogan 2012, p. 67; Hole 2016.
  4. ^ Coningham & Young 2015, p. 85; Bernbeck & Pollock 1996; Hole 2016; Romey 2006, p. 105-106.
  5. ^ Bernbeck & Pollock 1996; Bhan 1997, p. 11; Romey 2006, p. 105.
  6. ^ a b "PIB Press Release: This Year's Padma Awards announced". Pib.nic.in. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  7. ^ "Shinzo Abe, Tarun Gogoi, Ram Vilas Paswan among Padma Award winners: Complete list". The Times of India. 25 January 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  8. ^ Coningham & Young 2015, p. 83.
  9. ^ "Invitation to the fifth chapter of Sanskriti Samvaad Shrinkhla" (PDF). Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. 19 July 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  10. ^ B. B. Lal, 'Let not the 19th century paradigms continue to haunt us!' Archived 4 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 19th International Conference on South Asian Archaeology at University of Bologna, Ravenna, Italy on 2–6 July 2007, online link, archaeologyonline.net
  11. ^ a b c "Archaeologist B.B. Lal talks about his book 'The Saraswati Flows On' : Books". India Today. 12 November 2001.
  12. ^ a b c d Book review by Dr V. N. Misra, Book review of The Saraswati Flows on: the Continuity of Indian Culture, by Chairman of Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies journal Man and Environment; (vol. XXVI, No. 2, July–December 2001)
  13. ^ Archaeological endeavours abroad, Archaeological Survey of India Official website.
  14. ^ a b Winters C (2012). "A comparison of Fulani and Nadar HLA". Indian J Hum Genet. 18 (1): 137–8. doi:10.4103/0971-6866.96686. PMC 3385173. PMID 22754242.
  15. ^ Humes, Cynthia Ann (2012). "Hindutva, Mythistory, and Pseudoarchaeology". Numen. 59 (2/3): 193. doi:10.1163/156852712X630770. ISSN 0029-5973. JSTOR 23244958.
  16. ^ a b c Bhan 1997, p. 11.
  17. ^ Witzel 2006, p. 205.
  18. ^ a b Droogan 2012, p. 67.
  19. ^ a b c d e Hole 2016.
  20. ^ a b Coningham & Young 2015, p. 84.
  21. ^ a b c d Bernbeck & Pollock 1996.
  22. ^ a b Romey 2006, p. 105-106.
  23. ^ Dwijendra Narayan Jha (2014), Rethinking Hindu Identity, Routledge, p.14
  24. ^ Sharma, R. S. (2005). India's Ancient Past. Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. Communal approach. ISBN 019568785X.
  25. ^ a b c Romey 2006, p. 105.
  26. ^ "I found pillar bases back in mid-seventies: Prof Lal". Indian Express. 6 March 2003. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  27. ^ "Ayodhya: High Court relies on ASI's 2003 report". Economic Times. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  28. ^ David Rohde (27 August 2003, Excavation's Finding at Mosque Site in India Could Fuel Dispute, New York Times
  29. ^ Shekhar, Kulmar Shakti (1 October 2019). "Ram temple existed before Babri mosque in Ayodhya: Archaeologist KK Muhammed". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  30. ^ Verma, Supriya; Sunni, Menon Shiv (2010), "Was There a Temple under the Babri Masjid? Reading the Archaeological 'Evidence'", Economic & Political Weekly
  31. ^ Archeologist Who Observed Dig Says No Evidence of Temple Under Babri Masjid
  32. ^ "Secrets of the Shrine | Sandipan Deb". Outlookindia.com. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  33. ^ "In first excavation, we found Hindu Symbols in Mosque: KK Muhammad". The Times of India. 24 January 2024. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  34. ^ "Left historians prevented resolution of Babri Masjid dispute, says KK Mohammed, former ASI regional head-India News , Firstpost". Firstpost. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  35. ^ Roni Jacobson (1 March 2018), New Evidence Fuels Debate over the Origin of Modern Languages, Scientific American]
  36. ^ Thapar 2006.
  37. ^ Koenraad Elst (10 May 2016), Koenraad Elst: "I am not aware of any governmental interest in correcting distorted history", Swarajya Magazine
  38. ^ Witzel 2001, p. 95.
  39. ^ "Veteran archaeologist BB Lal passes away, PM pays tribute". The Tribune. PTI. 10 September 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  40. ^ "Who is B B Lal, the Padma Vibhushan awardee behind excavation at Ramjanmabhoomi site?". The Indian Express. 10 September 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  41. ^ a b Memoirs, On Excavations, Indus Seals, Art, Structural and Chemical Conservation of Monuments, Archaeological Survey of India Official website.


Printed sources


  1. ^ Wendy Doniger (2017), "Another Great Story"", review of Asko Parpola's The Roots of Hinduism; in: Inference, International Review of Science, Volume 3, Issue 2
  2. ^ Girish Shahane (14 September 2019), Why Hindutva supporters love to hate the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory, Scroll.in

Further reading

Preceded byAmalananda Ghosh Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India 1968–1972 Succeeded byM. N. Deshpande