Private commitment to Pataliputra

D. MURALI | Updated on May 13, 2011


Excavation work at the ruins of Pataliputra, in 1913, saw funding from a private patron on a scale that the Archaeological Survey of India had not witnessed before, writes Nayanjot Lahiri in ‘ Finding Forgotten Cities' (

“This patron was Sir Ratan Tata, the younger of the two sons of Jamshetji Tata, India's pioneering steel magnate. Unlike his father, he was not known for his industrial talents. Instead, it was another kind of work that brought him accolades – the philanthropic support he extended to a number of people and projects,” she narrates.

The book mentions many examples of how private contributions assisted archaeology.

“In the first decade of the twentieth century, more than a lakh of rupees for repairing the Dilwara temples at Abu was raised entirely by the Jain community that patronised it.

Again, a little after Ratan Tata made his offer, the Muslim community of Kashmir – by no means wealthy like the Jains – funded the repair of the Jami Masjid at Srinagar, the chief ceremonial mosque of Kashmir.”

However, what made Tata's support noteworthy was that he was the first patron who was willing to finance archaeological work unrelated to either the religion or the region to which he himself belonged, the author highlights.

‘Mr Ratan Tata's Excavations at Pataliputra' began with a cheque for Rs 15,000, after the discovery of the ‘Hall of Ashoka.'

Over the years, more than Rs 60,000 was to be spent on these excavations, writes Lahiri.

This scale of private commitment was unprecedented for those times and apparently allowed the employment of as many as 1,300 labourers in the excavations, she informs.

Riveting account.

Published on May 13, 2011

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