B. B. Lal

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B. B. Lal in 2017

Braj Basi Lal (2 May 192110 September 2022), better known as B. B. Lal, was a renowned Indian archaeologist. He was the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 1968 to 1972, and has served as Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Lal also served on various UNESCO committees.


  • I don't say so, but my spade tells me so.
    • B.B. Lal's reply to his critics (traditional Hindus). As related and quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2012). The argumentative Hindu. New Delhi : Aditya Prakashan. Chapter: Ayodhya’s three history debates.
    • In the 1970s, Prof. B.B. Lal's excavation campaign “Archaeology of the Ramayana sites” [Lal 2008:15-28] found a common material culture at Ayodhya, Chitrakuta and other Ramayana sites all datable to a common period. It earned him the wrath of an audience of traditional Hindu godmen, who tend to place the Ramayana events at a far greater time-depth.
  • It is true that the Rigveda does not provide us details of the inner layout of these forts, but surely the text was not meant to be a treatise on Vastusastra. May it be remembered that it is essentially a compilation of prayers to gods and should be looked at as such. All the evidence that it provides regarding the material culture of the then people is only incidental.
    • Aryan invasion of India: perpetuation of a myth, In: Edwin F. Bryant and Laurie L. Patton Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. — 1st ed. — London: Routledge, 2005. p.67.
  • The great civilization of the Indian subcontinent, has had its roots deep in antiquity, some seven to eight thousand years ago, and its flowering in the third millennium B.C. still lives on. In contrast, when we look round the world we are surprised by the fact that the Egyptian and Mesopotamia civilizations that flourished alongside this Indic Civilization have all disappeared, leaving hardly any trace behind. Why? The Indian psyche has indeed been pondering over this great cultural phenomenon of 'livingness', and this quest.
  • What is that ‘something’, some inherent strength? Doubtless it lies in the liberal character of the Indian civilization, which allows for cross-fertilization with other cultures, without losing its own identity. Even time (kala), the great devourer, has stood testimony to the fact that the deep foundations of Indian culture could not be shaken either by internal upheavals, however great may have been their magnitude.... " the soul of India lives on!"
  • Here it may perhaps be stated straightaway that so far no unimpeachable evidence has been adduced to prove or even to disprove either of the above-mentioned theories. (about Indo-Aryan invasions or migrations) In such a situation there is little wonder that guesses run wild and pride and prejudice safely prey on them.
    • Quoted from B.B. Lal in : Indian History and Culture Society., Devahuti, D., & Indian History and Culture Society. (2012). Bias in Indian historiography. 6.
  • Under a project called ‘Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites’ excavations were carried out between 1975 and 1986 at five sites, viz. Ayodhya, Sringaverapura, Bharadvaja Asrama, Chitrakuta and Nandigrama, all associated with that epic.
  • At Ayodhya, as many as fourteen trenches were laid out at different spots, one of which was the area known as the Janmabhumi. Over here is a trench hardly three metres to the south of the compound wall of the structure known as Babri Masjid, a series of square brick-bases, running in parallel east-west and north-south rows, were discovered within about 25-30 cm. below the surface. Since one row of these pillar-bases lay under the edge of the trench towards the compound wall of the mosque, it is likely that there may exist many more such pillar-bases in the unexcavated area in that direction. Stratigraphic evidence indicates that these pillar-bases are ascribable to a period around A.D. 1100. From the level associated with the destruction of these pillar-bases has been found glazed pottery ascribable to fourteenth-fifteenth century A.D.
  • In the mosque there are fourteen stone pillars some of which appear to be in position and oriented east-west and north-south. On the basis of the decorative motifs, sculptures, etc. these pillars are also ascribed to the eleventh century A.D. In all probability, there the brick-bases found in the excavations and the stone pillars standing in the mosque belong to one and the same structural complex which stood at the site immediately before the Babri Masjid.
    • 3 December 1990 B.B. Lal” “A note on the brick-bases of pillars found in the excavations in the Janma-Bhumi area at Ayodhya. quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited., in Jain, M. (2017). The battle of Rama: Case of the temple at Ayodhya. 95ff
  • The supporters of the Aryan-invasion theory have not been able to cite even a single example where is evidence of 'invaders.' represented either by weapons of warfare or even of cultural remains left by them.
    • 8 B.B. Lal, The Earliest Civilization of South Asia, p.283.
    • quoted in Danino, M. (2009). A BRIEF NOTE ON THE ARYAN INVASION THEORY. PRAGATI| April-June 2009

Quotes about B.B. Lal

  • Though he himself never allowed his successes to go to his head, it must, in hindsight, be an archaeologist’s dream come true to play a prominent role in major controversies and be proven right in the end. At any rate, such are the highlights of Prof. B.B. Lal’s career.
    • Elst K. (in BR Mani: A Legendary Archaeologist: Prof. BB Lal Felicitation Volume, Delhi 2018) [3]
  • Today, even taking the name of Mahabharata and Ramayana is considered as anti-national and communal by the communist leaders, Babri Masjid Action Committee historians and the pseudo-secularists... I have been thinking about the behavious of our Marxist friends and historians, their unprovoked slander campaign against many colleagues, hurling abuses and convicting anyone and everyone even before the charges could be framed and proved. Their latest target is [so] sobre and highly respected a person as prof. B.B. Lal, who has all his life (now he is nearing 70) never involved himself in petty politics or in the groupism [which is] so favourite a sport among the so- called Marxist intellectuals of this country. But then [slander] is a well-practised art among the Marxists."
    • A.K.Sinha quoted in Elst, Koenraad. Negationism in India: concealing the record of Islam. quoting A.K.Sinha
  • B.B. Lal made his name as an archaeologist in the 1950s and 60s by exploring the Painted Grey Ware culture, which he then identified as the Aryan invader culture during its expansion from the Panjab border zone deeper into India; but along the way he realized that his data offered no support to the AIT which he had been using as a prism through which to interpret the data... Especially in his case, this latter fact is remarkable. It was he who, as a young archaeologist in the 1950s, made his name by finally digging up the long-awaited proof of an Aryan invasion. He had identified a pottery style, the Painted Grey Ware (1200-800), as typifying the Aryans penetrating deeper into India. That is what was taught to us in university, and even recently-published books upholding the Aryan Invasion Theory cite this finding as “proof”. But Lal himself has grown away from it. At the time, he had simply applied the reigning invasionist framework, until he understood that this was but a hypothetical construct unsupported by hard findings. ...
    Thus, the anti-invasionist case put forward by the archaeologists like B.B. Lal and the late S.P. Gupta has often been dismissed without further ado “because they are, not coincidentally, the same ones who claim to have discovered pillar-bases underneath the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and thus supported the Hindu claim to the site”. Of course, this finding on Hindu-Muslim relations in medieval history wouldn’t make any difference to their case on the Aryan question in ancient history, at least not to scientists. ... But in this case there is an even more pertinent fact: the finding of the pillar-bases, ridiculed by self-appointed “experts” and their foreign dupes, has been confirmed. Both the Archaeological Survey of India and the Allahabad High Court have, after gathering solid evidence during thorough excavations as well as questioning many “experts” (whose performance under oath was extremely embarrassing, undercutting whatever credibility they had been credited with, see Jain 2013:201-273), ruled that there had indeed been a Hindu temple until it was demolished and its foundation (“pillar-bases”) reused to underpin a mosque. These archaeologists were lambasted worldwide for upholding a case that has ultimately been proven correct.... On the Aryan question too, they may well end up being proven correct. Conversely, the anti-Hindu academics worldwide who parroted the “experts” and expressed seething (though borrowed) hatred for the temple party, have been shown to have been babes in the wood, led by the nose by political agitators using the aura of the academic positions they had cornered to promote a very artificial lie, launched in the late 1980s against what had been a consensus about a pre-existing temple among all concerned parties. (see Elst 2011) On the Aryan question too, they might end up finding that they had safely chosen the side of a dominant opinion fated to be proven wrong... In our midst is the nonagenarian dean of Indian archaeology, Prof. B.B. Lal. I first heard from him in the 1980s at university in Leuven, Belgium, where Prof. Pierre Eggermont taught us that Lal had at last identified the Aryans on their way deeper into India, viz. through the Painted Grey Ware. That is how Lal first made his name: by identifying the theoretically deduced Aryan invasion with something tangible. Indeed, that is how Pradhan (2014:67) cites him even now: “Lal considered Painted Grey Ware to be intrusive”. Yet, Lal has later described that identification as false and written books denying an invasion, e.g. Lal 2002. Like most Indian archaeologists, he has had to face the fact that all attempts to find traces of the Aryan invaders had proved erroneous. You all have heard him say it right here: “Vedic culture and the Harappan cities are but the two sides of the same coin.”
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • Most older OIT champions are converts from the AIT. The most important conversion to the Out-of-India position was by the dean of Indian archaeology, Prof. BB Lal, deceased last year at age 101. As we personally learned in our student days from leading Indologist Pierre Eggermont, it was Lal who first added an archaeological scaffolding to the linguists’ hypothesis of an Aryan immigration. In the 1950s, he had mapped out the newfound Painted Grey Ware in the Mahābhārata cities, and theorized that this must be typical for the Aryans on their way deeper into India. From the 1980s onwards, he understood that this had merely been an application of the Aryan Invasion paradigm, not proof of it as he and the AIT crowd had believed. The last decades of his life he wrote several books against the AIT, summing his position up as: “Vedic and Harappan are two sides of the same coin.” Pray, why can the mature BB Lal, with many other feathers in his cap (e.g. identifying the Harappan script’s now-unquestioned writing direction), be cavalierly ignored while the young BB Lal could be trumpeted as the decisive voice of archaeology in the Homeland debate?
  • The most telling illustration has been provided by the silence over the new archaeological findings. .... When the findings of the excavations which had been conducted over a decade ago became public, and these left little doubt about the fact that there had indeed been a temple at the site, archaeology itself was denounced. Papers made themselves available for tarnishing one of the most respected archaeologists in the world - the former Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India who had led those excavations. ... The lesson is plain: should such double-standards continue, Hindu opinion will become even less amenable to the minatory admonitions of our editorialists than it has already become.
    • Arun Shourie, Indian controversies: Essays on religion in politics
  • This Nehruvian-Left bias began right from the days of independence. For example, scholars, especially in humanities, like Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup and many others found themselves without employment. As mentioned above, if a scholar found some academic job, he or she would be hounded out if there was suspicion about his or her loyalty to the Red cause. The existence of a ‘JNU lobby’ is a well-known fact in academia and the media. Scholars like B B Lal and others can be insulted and doubts raised about their antecedents built over years of hard work if they change their views which are not in conformity with their friends’ established views. He was put out of charmed circles and slandered for his discovery of Ram Temple below the Babri structure. K. Mohammed a senior ASI director was trashed because he confirmed B B Lal’s discovery as part of his team in 1978 during discovery, and because he declared that Ram Temple issue was complicated by Left historians who egged on extremist Islamists to go against the truth.
    • Ratan Sharda - RSS 360 °_ Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bloomsbury India (2018)
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