The subcontinent lost a distinguished resource in archeology in the passing away of the great Pakistani Indologist, Ahmad Hasan Dani on January 26. Dani was born in Basna (now in Chhattisgarh) in 1920 and became the first Muslim to graduate from Banaras Hindu University (1944). His works on Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and the Sarasvati civilization have had a profound impact on our understanding of the subcontinent’s history. Dani was one of the few scholars who continued to challenge the two popular, yet divergent theories of whether the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was Dravidian (supported by scholars like Asko Parpola), or Aryan (“Out of India Theory“). He also continued to question theories of IVC’s cultural and religious continuity into early Vedic Hinduism, disagreeing, again, with his contemporaries on the issue.
In 1949, Dani was the first to propose a connection between this reference to “Hariyupiah” in the Rig Veda and the IVC center of Harappa:
In aid of Abhyavartin Cayamana,
Indra destroyed the seed of Varasikha.
At Hariyupiya he smote the vanguard of the Vrcivans,
and the rear fled frighted.
(Rig Veda, XXVII.5)
Professor Dani was a recipient of the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (“Crescent of Excellence”), Pakistan’s second highest honor. During his career, he published more than 30 books, and lived and worked all across the subcontinent, including Dhaka, Peshawar and South India. He was fluent in 14 Indo-European and Dravidian languages. Professor Dani’s intervention in 2005 prevented the construction of an amusement park over an archaeological site in Harappa. His research has helped a region burdened by 400 years of subjugation and slavery, rediscover itself. May he rest in peace.