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A profile of Mr. P. P. Pandya, a region loving Archaeologist
-Rajendra Dave

Dr. H. D. Sankaliya, a world famous archaeologist had written on sad demise of a person that “It is a great loss to the Archaeology in general and Archaeology Department in particular.. We are extremely sorry that such a promising scholar should be taken from our midst.” Prof. K. K. Shashtri has written… “ Gujarat lost a promising archaeologist-researcher. The work of exploring the hidden layers of history of ancient places of Saurashtra remained unfinished.” A famous archaeologist of Gujarat, Mr. A. V.Pandya gave tribute by these words… “Severe loss has occurred to the archaeological field of Gujarat due to this said incident.”

The person for whom the above quotes were used was Mr. Purushottam Premshanker Pandya (who was famous as P.P.Pandya in the archaeological field of India). He was an Archaeologist at Rajkot in the then bilingual state of Mumbai. He worked till his last breath and died of short term illness at very young age of 39 years, 2 months and 12 days.

Mr. Purushottam Premshanker Pandya was born on 8th November, 1920 in Kotda Sangani village of Rajkot District in a reputed Audichya Brahmin family. This family had settled in Kotda Sangani after the “Woncal Settlement”. His father Premshanker Jeevanram Pandya had studied in Engineering at M.S. University, Baroda. He had rendered his services as a “Jerif” in the erstwhile Kotda State and was highly respected person. He was the 2nd child among the six children of Premshanker Pandya and was an elder son from two sons.

After studying in Himmatsinhji Middle school up to 1936 he studied further in Kamribai High School at Jetpur town, appeared in the matriculation examination conducted by then Bombay University and became the topper among all the successful candidates from the school. He continued his study at Shamaldas College, Bhavnagar. He passed F.Y. Science in 1939, Inter Arts in 1941 and Inter Science in 1943 from there and shifted to Rajkot for continuing the study in B.A. He completed his B.A. in 1945 with English as the subsidiary and Mathematics as the main subject from Dharmendrasinhji College. During this period, he deeply studied and pondered over the Gandhi Literature also.

Thus, he studied in various colleges of Saurashtra since 1938 and participated in the political, social and Gandhiji’s constructive activities simultaneously. He left the college in 1941 and with the blessings of Bapu, went through one year’s training in Ahimsak Vyayam Sangh (Non violent Gymnastic Organization), at Malad, Mumbai. During the initial days of the year 1942, he served in various suburbs of Mumbai in the situation created in Mumbai on account of the forthcoming 1942 movement. He worked in the rural areas of Saurashtra during the 1942 movement. During these years, he got the opportunities to study the Ancient Indian culture deeply. He keenly studied various aspects of the country and the people like; how the integrity was maintained in the Indian Culture which is full of diversity, due to which circumstances India became shattered, how the human life evolved, which characteristics were preserved in different communities etc. Right from his childhood, he had nurtured his ambition to do the research on Ancient Indian Culture and the evolution of human life from prehistoric period to the present. He took admission in Sheth B.J. Institute of Learning and Research for the years from 1945 to 1947 to achieve the Master Degree (M.A.) in the subject Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology to satisfy his thirst and ambition. He accepted a job as a teacher. He carried on his study for M.A. while doing a job and also carried on various social-political activities simultaneously.

In September, 1949, as the erstwhile Saurashtra State was planning to develop its Archaeology Department, it invited the applications for 2 years’ practical training under the Director General of Archaeology Deptt. Govt. of India. Mr. P.P. Pandya submitted his application on 27 September 1949. In response to his application, he was told to accept the post of the curator of the museum, under the Deptt. of Archaeology, Saurashtra State, before proceeding for the training. With the condition that he would be selected for the practical training, he accepted to serve Saurashtra State and joined as a curator of the museum at Jamnagar on 21st April, 1950. In May 1950, he was sent on tour of entire Saurashtra to undergo the training under Dr. M.N. Deshpande, Superintendent of Archaeology, Western Circle, Govt. of India. He was supposed to go for advance training under the same officer after completing the training of Archaeological Exploration but it was postponed due to some reasons. Thereafter, in October 1950, he was invited for a practical training in archaeology under the Director General of India. However, even if he was offered a scholarship of Rs. 150/- per month, he was not sent for the practical training till the time limit for utilizing the scholarship expired. Due to this, he took the practical training for prehistoric, primeval historic and historic exploration from Dr.H.D. Sankaliya and Dr. B. Subba Rao at his own expense. He also completed the training for archaeological survey of the banks of Narmada and Mahi rivers under both these scholars.

He accomplished the practical training in archaeological excavations during the following archaeological excavations carried out at various sites by the scholars in Archaeology.

Excavation at Somnath Temple, carried out by Mr. B. K. Thapar of Govt. of India, in Sept.-Oct. 1950. (2) Excavation at Vasai and Bed, situated in Jamnagar District of Saurashtra in 1951 (3) Excavation at Akota near Baroda, carried out by Dr. Subba Rao of M.S. University, Baroda (4) Excavation at Navda Toli and Maheshwar, carried out by Dr. Sankaliya and Dr. B-Subba Rao (5) Excavation at Mota Machiyala in Saurashtra carried out by the Archaeology Department, Govt. of India. (6) Excavation at Rangpur in Saurashtra, carried out by the Superintendent of Archaeology, Western Circle, Govt. of India. (7) Excavation at Vadnagar, North Gujarat, carried out by Dr. B. Subba Rao (8) Excavations at Harappan sites, at Rupad, situated on the banks of Satlaj River in Punjab, carried out by the Archaeology Department, Govt. of India.

During this period he passed his examination for M.A. with Higher second class. He stood first in the University in the Archaeology Subject.

As narrated above, he took training in archaeological explorations and excavations at his own expense and learnt the scientific methods of archaeological exploration and excavation. In addition to these trainings, he obtained the scientific training in other branches of archaeology like conservation of monuments etc. also. Besides this, he studied the Ancient sculptures and Architecture of India. He studied number of temples, castles, caves and Museums also. Thus he enriched his knowledge in his most favorite subject – Archaeology – with the practical training.

To do the comparative study of the sculptures and to study the scientific methods of their placing in museum, he visited National Museum-New Delhi, Central Asian Antiquities Museum-New Delhi, Prince of Wales Museum-Mumbai, Baroda Museum, Jaipur Museum, Ajmer Museum, Gwalior Museum, Dhar Museum, Indore Museum, Mathura Museum, Bhubaneshwar Museum and Nagpur Museum at his own cost.

To discuss the puzzles of Indian history and Archaeology and to examine the latest found antiques, he attended the meetings held by Indian History Congress, Museum Association of India, Numismatics societies, Jaipur (1951), Gwalior (1952) and Walter (1953). All India Oriental Conference at Ahmedabad in 1953, the Indian Science Congress at Baroda in 1954 and read the research-study papers there. He also studied the antiquities found from the excavations and explorations from 1954 to 1957, at Central Advisory Board of Archaeology Exhibition symposium during 1955-56, and 1956-57.

While working in the favorite field, he worked incessantly, visited all the ancient hillocks, temples and caves of Halar, Central Saurashtra and Sorath regions and found out the unexplored pre-historic, primeval-historic and historic clues and connected Saurashtra with erstwhile India with the help of traces like tools of the stone age, microlithic tools, fragments of earthen vessels, etc. found out from these ancient hillocks and newly found groups of temples and sculpture-architecture of Khambhalida caves. He found out the micro lithe from Halar region and established its connection with the micro lithe found from the bank of Narmada river in Central India.

There was a post of Superintendent of Archaeology-Head of the Archaeology Deptt-in Saurashtra State. Besides the whole Archaeology Department, the museums of Saurashtra werealso under the control of this post. On retirement of the then Superintendent of Archaeology, Public Service Commission of Saurasahtra State invited the applications to fill up this vacant post. P. P. Pandya and others applied for the post. After an interview, P.P.Pandya was selected and Govt. of Saurashtra appointed him as the Superintendent of Archaeology on 1st March, 1955. Due to his trainings taken at various places, taking participation in the above mentioned meetings and conferences, and reading his research papers in these meetings and conferences, he was known to all the scholars of archaeology of the country. All these scholars welcomed the appointment of P.P.Pandya as the Head of the Archaeology Deptt. of Saurashtra State. However, this appointment proved to be a cause of conflict for Mr. Pandya ! Mean minded mentality of some people, created the barriers in the way when this scholar got the opportunity to bloom in full fledge. What can one call this situation except the “irony of fate”? !.

The activities of exploration, excavation, museum development-especially the planning of development of Kachchh museum, creation of central library, conservation of monuments etc. gained acceleration after P.P. Pandya became the Superintendent of Archaeology. Excavation of Nagra hillock of Somnath was done for two years. Excavation of Rozda hillock on the bank of Bhadar river near village Rozdi of Gondal Taluka was done for two years. A skeleton belonging to Harappan era was taken out from nearby area of Dadva village. Reports of all these activities continued to be published in the volume “Indian Archaeology-A Review”, published annually by the Director General of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, Govt. of India, New Delhi. As and when the reports got published, the archaeologists of India continued to visit the sites of the excavations to keep in touch with the study of the remnants obtained from the excavation and found out during the exploration. Director General of Archaeology in India, New Delhi took personal interest.. and the fact that Saurashtra is a treasure for Archaeology, came in the light.

Till then, very little information about the pre-historic culture of Saurashtra was available. Only the mythological mentions without any concrete proofs regarding ancient history were available. Much light was thrown on Culture of Sindhu Valley (Harappa Culture) in Saurashtra, as a result of research done by Mr. P. P. Pandya. After creation of Pakistan, there were only two sites like Mohenjo-Daro in India namely, Rupad in Punjab and Rangpur (near Limbdi) in Saurashtra. But more than 50 such sites could be explored due to his research. One of these sites is Shrinathgadh (Rozdi) near Gondal from where traces of Harappa civilazation are found in considerable amount. Alphabets of Harappan language can be seen on a pot shred found from this site. Besides, much light was thrown on the ancient dark age of Saurashtra by the excavation at Lakha Baval, Amara and Somnath. Remnants of the period from seventh century to 1200 B.C. were found with the help of which, a series of clues of the cultural history of Saurashtra was made available. Besides this, 100 sites showing the relation with Roman Era during primeval historic period were found out. He had found out interesting facts regarding construction of the temples by studying the architectures of the period from 9th century to 12th century.

On merging of Saurashtra state into Bilingual Mumbai state on 1-11-1956, the post of Superintendent of Archaeology of Saurashtra State was converted into the Archaeologist of Mumbai state. Entire Saurashtra, Kachchh and Gujarat region were put under his jurisdiction. The Head Quarter of the Archaeology Department of this new State was created in 1955 at Old Mumbai, and the Departments of Archaeology, previously under Saurashtra and Aurangabad, were put under the Archaeology Department of Bi-lingual Mumbai State. This change necessitated some administrative changes in set up and designations of the posts. Equality in designations and salaries were also to be decided. Though this matter was under process, Mr. P. P. Pandya didn’t give importance to the matter of designation and salary and kept on his favorite work of research and study in archaeology same as he was doing before the creation of Bi-lingual Mumbai State. His zeal continued to be enhanced as the Archaeology Department of the new state appreciated his work very much.

He found out more than 50 Harappan (Proto historic), 15 Microlithic, 2 Paliolithic (stone age), more than 100 primeval historic sites and a group of temples belonging to Chalukya period.

He carried out the excavations at Vasai, Bed, Somnath, Pithadiya, Atkot, Moti Dharai and Rozdi independently, while carried out the excavation at Lakha Baval, Amara and Somnath jointly with M.S. University.

The complete chain of history of Saurashtra for the period from 1200 B.C. to 600 A.D. came to the light due to his work.

In 1958, Union Public Service Commission invited the applications for the post of Assistant Superintendent of Archaeology in ArchaeologyDepartmen, Govt. of India. Mr. P. P. Pandya applied through the Head of the Departmen. Union Public Service Commission selected him and Ministry of Education and Scientific Research in Govt.of India sent him an offer to accept his appointment as an Assistant Superintendent of Archaeology vide letter dated 31-3-1958. When he asked Dr. Subba Rao whether or not to accept this offer, Dr. Subba Rao greeted him and advised to take opinion of Dr. Sankaliya and wrote.. “The salary is so tempting that it is difficult for me to give any advice. When Dr. Sankaliya was asked to give his opinion, he wrote..” After a long time we have got a person who is doing work in Saurashtra, an area which was neglected for a very long time.. if they do not keep you in this state then the work in Gujarat will suffer a great deal. Of course, the question of money is there; but I think, as I advised to Subba Rao, that should be secondary if one gets sufficient to get on in life”. Keeping in view this advice, P.P.Pandya didn’t accept the offer for the appointment. This caused him a big financial loss. Not only that, opportunities of future promotions from that post also were lost.

While finalizing the set up of this Department in Mumbai State, the Grade of Pay for the post on which he was working was kept low. Dr. Sankaliya wrote personal letters in this regard to the erstwhile Finance Minister of Mumbai State ( who became the first Chief Minister of Gujarat afterwards). However, the financial loss couldn’t be avoided.

The reports of the research works done by Mr. P.P. Pandya, continued to be published every year in “Indian Archaeology-A review”, a publication of compilation of the articles, compiled by the Director General of Archaeology, Head of the Archaeology Department, Govt. of India. The information of the services he had rendered for Saurashtra continued to be available to the scholars of Archaeology.

His publications on this subject can be listed as under;
1. “Explorations in Halar and Sorath District – Saurashtra”, the paper he read at All India Oriental conference, Ahmedabad in 1953. Many scholars, along with Dr. Sankaliya, greeted him considering this paper an important work.

2. “Chronology of Primeval historic cultures of Saurashtra (written in Gujarati language)”, research Assay presented in Archaeology section of seminar organized by Gujarati Sahitya Parishad at Ahmedabad in 1959.

3. Ancient Buddha Monuments of Saurashtra. (Written in Gujarati language)

4. An Honorable place of Saurashtra-Kachchh in the history of archaeology. (written in Gujarati Language)

5. Ancient places of Saurashtra ( written in Gujarat language)

6. “A consideration on late Gupta Sculptures from Patan Anahilwad – P.P.Pandya and M.A. Dhanky. Published in the Journal by Oriental Institute, Baroda.

7. Indian Archaeology 1957 – A review, compiled by the Director General of Archaeology Deptt. Govt. of India takes this note – The Government of Bombay is Publishing the following :

7a. Excavation at Lakha Bawal, Amara and Somnath.

7b. Interim Report on further Excavation at Prabhas Patan.

7c. Origin and evolution of Gujarati style of Architecture- P.P.Pandya and M.A. Dhanky.

7d. Architectural Activities of Prabhas Patan – P.P.Pandya, M.A. Dhanky and H.P. Shastri.

It is informed by various students and scholars of Archaeology that various research articles-in addition to the publications mentioned above-are also published. Mr. Pandya used to keep the manuscripts of his study, research and thesis of Ph D. etc. at his office,However, no information is available regarding all such literature due to his sudden death.

He was suffering from frequent illness after returning from All India Conference held at Guwahati, Assam in the end of January 1960. He was hospitalized on 11th February and took his last breath on 12th February. He left four sons behind him. Among his four sons, Mr. Piyush Pandya is an Advocate and famous poet, Mr. Manish works in I.O.C., Mr. Hitesh is an Engineer and Mr. Paresh Pandya is Sangeet Visharad and a leading Social Worker. His Grand daughters are Pooja, Vaidehi and Kavina.

On hearing the news of his death, Dr. Sankaliya wrote to Dr. Jivraj Mehta.. “ Shri Pandya, as you know, was a very promising scholar and had done pioneering work in the Archaeology of Saurashtra.. when he was accepted for the post of Assistant. Superintendent, Government of India, the post he had not accepted because of my suggestion (and also yours). This owing to our desire to keep him in Gujarat and Saurashtra….”

Dr. A Ghosh, Director General of Archaeology in India, New Delhi, wrote in his letter.. “One could hardly image that such a young and active person should have met his end so suddenly. In him, I have lost a personal friend and an excellent worker in the field of Archaeology”.