Popularizing Chainpur's Past

Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:
Popularizing Chainpur's Past

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Alexander Cunningham, founder of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), visited Chainpur's monuments in 1881, within a decade of the Survey's permanent founding. The ASI resulted from the convergence of two coalescing components of British efforts to know South Asia: the discipline of historiography and new institutions of knowledge. The establishment of a variety of learned institutions in Britain and India (such as the Royal Society, the Asiatic Society, and the Indian Museum) reflected both the increasing significance of networks of amateur and professional scholars and the role of institutions in facilitating those networks and promoting the results of scientific investigations to the public. The ASI's work to identify and preserve Bakhtiyar Khan's mausoleum and the Mundeswari temple in and near Chainpur demonstrates not only the conditions in which private individuals and the British state founded institutions of knowledge and the centrality of religion in British historiography and archaeology. Both Britons and Indians viewed the ASI's efforts to “discover” Chainpur's history as part of a larger private and government effort to make India's past available to a newly imagined Indian public.

Keywords: archaeology; history; historiography; museum; archaeological survey of India; Alexander Cunningham; Royal Society; Asiatic Society; preservation; Patna museum

Chapter.  13500 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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