Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani, who has died aged 88, was Pakistan’s leading archaeologist and an authority on south and central Asian archaeology and history. Whether addressing international conferences or guiding schoolchildren on cultural rambles around Islamabad, Dani conveyed an enthusiasm for learning that was infectious.
|Name:||Ahmad Hasan Dani|
|In Urdu:||احمد حسن دانی|
|Famous As:||Archaeology, History, Linguistics|
|Institutions:||Quaid-e-Azam University University of Dhaka University of Peshawar Peshawar Museum|
|Residence:||Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan|
|Education:||PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.|
|Known for:||Research on the Indus Valley Civilization|
|Doctoral advisor:||Mortimer Wheeler|
|Alma mater:||Institute of Archaeology, UCL Banaras Hindu University|
|Government of France:||1990 Palmes Academiques|
|Government of Italy:||1994 Knight Commander|
|Government of Germany:||1996 Order of the Merit|
|UNESCO:||1997 Aristotle Silver Medal|
|Graduated in :||1944 MA degree|
|Fields:||Archaeology, History, Linguistics|
|Awards :||Hilal-e-Imtiaz Sitara-e-Imtiaz Bundesverdienstkreuz Légion d’honneur Palmes Academiques|
|Date:||20 June 1920|
|Place:||Basna, Central Provinces, British India|
|Date:||26 January 2009|
|Rest Place:||Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan|
Ahmad Hasan Dani
In 1945 he had worked with the great British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler on the ruins at Moenjodaro, the 4,500-year-old city settlement in Sindh province, southern Pakistan. Dani revealed fascinating details about the site, proclaiming it “the first planned city in the world” and demonstrating that its Indus Valley civilisation was one of humanity’s great foundational cultures, alongside Egypt, Mesopotamia and China. He described a sophisticated people who understood irrigation, traded with Arabia and ruled from Afghanistan to Rajasthan. He also showed how they practised yoga and created statuettes of bangled dancing girls and stern-faced priest-kings that delight viewers to this day.
Rejecting academic super-specialisation, Dani synthesised disciplines to reconstruct the distant past. He was fluent in 15 languages, including French, Tamil and Turkish. He wrote 30 books. His last publication, a History of Pakistan (2007), which culminates in the republic’s creation in 1947, encapsulates 50 years of research.
An erudite, Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani, was regarded as an authority on archaeology, culture, linguistic, Buddhism, Central Asian archaeology and history. That made him an extraordinary scholar, at home and abroad.
knowledge of Sanskrit
With his knowledge of Sanskrit Ahmad Hasan Dani became the first Muslim student of Banaras Hindu University where he broke the 25-year-old record of achieving the highest mark in MA (1944), becoming the first Muslim gold medallist in the University.
In 1945, Ahmad Dani received training in the field of archaeology from Sir Mortimer Wheeler in Taxila and Moenjodaro (4,500-year-old city settlement in Sindh province) who come up with a stratified method of excavation for training the new breed of archaeologists. Dani revealed fascinating details about the site, proclaiming it “the first planned city in the world” and demonstrating that its Indus Valley civilisation was one of humanity’s great foundational cultures. He described a sophisticated people who understood irrigation, traded with Arabia and ruled from Afghanistan to Rajasthan. He also showed how they practised yoga and created statuettes of bangled dancing girls and stern-faced priest-kings that delight viewers to this day.
Dani was later posted at the Department of Archaeology of British India at Taj Mahal in Agra.
Wrote the Muslim History of Bengal
After the partition of India, Dani migrated to Dhaka, formerly East Pakistan. There he wrote the Muslim history of Bengal, and also enriched museums and explored new avenues of archaeological research putting his talent and labour to unite people on the grounds of civilisation.
Dr Dani also worked as research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1958-59). In 1969, he became Asian Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. In 1974, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting scholar. In 1977, he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
University of Peshawar
Dr Dani moved to the University of Peshawar in 1962 and remained there till 1971. He conducted a number of archaeological explorations and excavations on the Stone Age and Gandhara civilisation in the Northern Areas.
In 1971, he moved to Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad where he established the Faculty of Social Sciences and served its dean until his retirement in 1980. In 1993, Dr Dani established the Islamabad museum. Between 1992 and 1996, he was appointed advisor on archaeology to the ministry of culture. Between 1994 and 1998, he worked as chairman of the National Fund for Cultural Heritage in Islamabad. In 1997, he became honorary director at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisation.
- Prof Dani was awarded honorary fellowships of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (1969), German Archaeological Institute (1981), Ismeo, Rome (1986) and Royal Asiatic Society (1991). He received an honorary doctorate from Tajikistan University in Dushanbe in 1993.
- From 1985, Dr Dani was involved in research focussing on documentation of ancient rock carvings and inscriptions on remains from Neolithic age in the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan, along with Harald Hauptmann of Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, University of Heidelberg.
- In 1990-91, Dr Dani led Unesco’s International teams for the Desert Route Expedition of Silk Road in China and the Steppe Route Expedition of the Silk Road in the former Soviet Union.
- Dr Dani was awarded Pakistan’s Hilal-I-Imtiaz (2000) and Sitara-I-Imtiaz (1969), France’s Legion d’Honneur (1998), Unesco’s Aristotle Silver Medal (1997), Germany’s Order of Merit (1996) and Italy’s Knight Commander (1994).
Having authored over 30 books including Historic City of Taxila, History of Northern Areas, Romance of the Khyber Pass, New Light on Central Asia, Central Asia Today, Human Records on Karakoram Highway, Dr Dani’s last book, is the History of Pakistan (2008), which culminates in the republic’s creation in 1947, and encapsulates 50 years of research. The greatest influence on Pakistan, he argued, was neither the Hindu south nor the Arab west but central Asia, in its Buddhist, Persian and later Sufi guises.
Ahmad Hasan Dani, ethnically a Kashmiri, was born in Basna, Raipur, India. He was fluent in 15 languages including French, Turkish and Tamil.
Dr. Dani was known for his work on the Gandhara Buddhist period and on Central Asian studies. He published over 30 books. In 1949, he wrote the first article linking the Vedic “Hariyupiyah” with today’s Harappa; in 1981 he edited Indus Civilization: New Perspectives. He also excavated the famous pre-Indus Civilization site of Rehman Dheri in northern Pakistan
Amazing Pakistani Scholars
He was considered an authority in social sciences in Pakistan. An illustrious academic and research career in diverse fields of social sciences earned him laurels and respect from own country as well as world over. He is arguably one of the most awarded scholars Pakistan has ever seen. His work in the area of archaeology, history and allied subjects for South Asia region and its civilizations helped re-establish ancient history associated with this land. His research was somewhat unique in a sense that it had a pragmatic welfare direction rather than just being of high academic value.
Over 50 publications of top-notch quality, decades of service in academia and research bodies followed by leadership roles in these, led him to be regarded as a leading authority in social sciences of international caliber. Pakistan and developing countries haven’t seen many of his parallels whose contributions have been recognized by many countries globally in different forms including knighthoods from France, Italy and Germany. In Pakistan, he was awarded with country’s top honors including Pride of Performance, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and Eizaz-e-Kamal.
Dani, an ethnic Kashmiri, was born on 20 June 1920 in Basna, British India. He graduated in 1944, with an MA degree, to become the first Muslim graduate of Banaras Hindu University. In 1945, Dani worked as a trainee in archaeology under the guidance of Mortimer Wheeler. At this time, he participated in excavations at Taxila and Mohenjo-daro. He was subsequently posted at the Department of Archaeology of British India at Taj Mahal, Agra.
After the Partition of India, Dani migrated to East Pakistan. There, between 1947-49 he worked as Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Archaeology. At this time, he rectified the Verandra Museum at Rajshahi. Later, in 1950, he was promoted to the position of Superintendent-in-Charge of Archaeology. For a period of twelve years (between 1950-62), Dani remained Associate Professor of History at University of Dhaka, while at the same time working as curator at Dhaka museum. During this period, he carried out archaeological research on the Muslim history of Bengal.
Dani moved to the University of Peshawar in 1962 as Professor of Archaeology and remained there until 1971. During this time, he led the resetting and renovation works for the Lahore and Peshawar Museums. In 1971, he moved to Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and remained at various positions until his retirement in 1980 when he was made Emeritus Professor.
He received an Honorary Doctorate from Tajikistan University, (Dushanbe) in 1993. During the same year, Dani established the Islamabad Museum. Between 1992–96, he was appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Pakistan, on Archaeology. Between 1994-98, he remained Chairman of the National Fund for Cultural Heritage in Islamabad. Since 1997, Dani has been the Honorary Director at Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations.
After the Partition of India, Dani migrated to East Pakistan. There, in 1947–49 he worked as Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Archaeology. At this time, he renovated the Verandra Museum at Rajshahi. In 1949, he married Safiya Sultana. Together, they had three sons (Anis, Navaid and Junaid) and a daughter (Fauzia). In 1950, Dani was promoted to the position of Superintendent-in-Charge of Archaeology. In the same year, he became General Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan in Dhaka. Later on, in 1955, he took the position of President of the National Committee for Museums in Pakistan. For a period of twelve years (1950–62), Dani remained Associate Professor of History at the University of Dhaka while at the same time working as curator at the Dhaka Museum. During this period, he carried out archaeological research on the Muslim history of Bengal.
University of Peshawar
Dani moved to the University of Peshawar in 1962 as Professor of Archaeology and remained there until 1971. During this time, he led the resetting and renovation works for the Lahore and Peshawar Museums. He became Chairman of the Research Society at the University of Peshawar in 1970. In 1971, he moved to the University of Islamabad to become Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He left the post in 1975 to concentrate on research as Professor of History. Meanwhile, the university was renamed Quaid-e-Azam University in 1976. He continued to work in various positions until his retirement in 1980 when he was made Emeritus Professor. During this period, he also served as President of the Archaeological and Historical Association of Pakistan (1979) and Co-Director of the Pak-German Team for Ethnology Research in Northern Areas of Pakistan (1980).