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Alexander Cunningham

British army engineer and amateur archaeologist

Sir Alexander Cunningham KCIE CSI (23 January 1814 – 28 November 1893) was a British army engineer with the Bengal Engineer Group who later took an interest in the history and archaeology of India. In 1861 he was appointed to the newly created position of archaeological surveyor to the government of India; and he founded and organised what later became the Archaeological Survey of India. He wrote numerous books and monographs and made extensive collections of artefacts. Some of his collections were lost, but most of the gold and silver coins and a fine group of Buddhist sculptures and jewellery were bought by the British Museum in 1894.

QuotesEdit

  • As Mahoba was for some time the headquarters of the early Muhammadan Governors, we could hardly expect to find that any Hindu buildings had escaped their furious bigotry, or their equally destructive cupidity. When the destruction of a Hindu temple furnished the destroyer with the ready means of building a house for himself on earth, as well as in heaven, it is perhaps wonderful that so many temples should still be standing in different parts of the country. It must be admitted, however, that, in none of the cities which the early Muhammadans occupied permanently, have they left a single temple standing, save this solitary temple at Mahoba, which doubtless owed its preservation solely to its secure position amid the deep waters of the Madan-Sagar. In Delhi, and Mathura, in Banaras and Jonpur, in Narwar and Ajmer, every single temple was destroyed by their bigotry, but thanks to their cupidity, most of the beautiful Hindu pillars were preserved, and many of them, perhaps, on their original positions, to form new colonnades for the masjids and tombs of the conquerors. In Mahoba all the other temples were utterly destroyed and the only Hindu building now standing is part of the palace of Parmal, or Paramarddi Deva, on the hill-fort, which has been converted into a masjid. In 1843, I found an inscription of Paramarddi Deva built upside down in the wall of the fort just outside this masjid. It is dated in S. 1240, or A.D. 1183, only one year before the capture of Mahoba by Prithvi-Raj Chohan of Delhi. In the Dargah of Pir Mubarak Shah, and the adjacent Musalman burial-ground, I counted 310 Hindu pillars of granite. I found a black stone bull lying beside the road, and the argha of a lingam fixed as a water-spout in the terrace of the Dargah. These last must have belonged to a temple of Siva, which was probably built in the reign of Kirtti Varmma, between 1065 and 1085 A.D., as I discovered an inscription of that prince built into the wall of one of the tombs.
    • Archaeological Survey of India, Volume I: Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65, Varanasi Reprint, 1972, Pp. 440-41. Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Volume I.

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