Legend archaeologist BB Lal passed away at 101

NEW DELHI: The legendary archaeologist Braj Basi Lal (famously known as BB Lal) passed away at the ripe age of 101. Born in 1921, Lal went on to serve as the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.

Lal was the director general of the Archaeological Survey of India between 1968 and 1972, and led the excavation at the Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya which proved the existence of an ancient temple at the site.

In November 2021, President Ramnath Kovind felicitated Professor BB Lal with Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award. The centenarian was named among the list of awardees earlier in January that year. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan Award in the year 2000.

The veteran archaeologist had led a project named Archaeology of Ramayana between 1975 and 1976 to examine certain sites having references in Ramayana. There were nine members in the team out of which five archaeologists namely, Professor Lal, Dr KP Nautiyal, SK Srivastava, RK Chaturvedi and KM Asthana were from Jiwaji University.

Three members namely, Mahdava N Katii, LM Wahal and MS Mani were from the ASI and one member named Hem Raj was from the Department of Archaeology, Uttar Pradesh. According to Professor Lal, a five-site excavation project was carried out at Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringaverapur, Bharadwaj Ashram and Chitrakoot to date the sites associated with Ramayana.

He said that while excavating the area immediately south of the Babri structure, he found pillar bases. He wrote a seven-page preliminary report about the discovery of pillar bases near the Babri structure. However, following the discovery, all technical facilities were withdrawn from the area and the project was halted.

It was not resumed despite repeated requests of Professor Lal and remained suspended for 10-12 years. The final report was never submitted but his preliminary report was published by the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1989 in its volume on Historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The work of BB Lal in unearthing the remains of an ancient temple under the Babdi structure constituted a major argument in support of Ram Mandir, which eventually led the Supreme Court to rule in favour of the Mandir.