miscellany - The golden era of archaeology

miscellany - The golden era of archaeology

During the second half of 19th century, interest in the study of archaeology and other related fields began to emerge in different Kannada-speaking regions. In Princely Mysore, it acquired a different dimension thanks to the dedication of many people. Among them is Dr Mysore Hatti Krishna Iyengar (M H Krishna). He is instrumental in getting Mysore an identity in the world map of archaeology.

Born on August 19, 1892 in Mysore, M H Krishna’s interest in History, Archaeology and other allied subjects led him to become a historian. His rapport with Archaeology began in 1921, when his services were sought for preparing a catalogue of coins for a museum in Bangalore. Later, he showed enthusiasm in pursuing research in other related branches of Archaeology.

Significant strides
Along with M Venkatakrishnaiah (a author and educator), he wrote a book on Indian history. It became so popular that it was even prescribed as a textbook for high school and pre-university students. Later, he did his postgraduate studies from University of Madras in 1917. In 1921, he was appointed as lecturer in history at Maharaja’s College, Mysore. Later, in 1924, he went to do his doctoral studies at University College London, UK.

Upon his return, he was appointed as professor of History in Maharaja’s College, Mysore. He also served as the Dean Faculty of Arts, and as a member of the University of Mysore’s Senate and Academic Council. During his time here, he invited eminent scholars to deliver lectures and motivated the activities of University Historical Association.

The Department of Archaeology, founded in 1885, was making significant strides during this time. Dr Krishna succeeded R Shama Sastri in 1928 as its director and
remained so until 1947. It was during his tenure, that the department reached
new heights, excelling in fields like numismatics, excavations, architecture
and sculpture, and facilitating editing and publication of several manuscripts. The epigraphy section was strengthened and around 2,000 ancient inscriptions were collected, edited and published. One great discovery in his tenure was the Chandravalli inscription.

M H Krishna was a great numismatist and studied a large number of coins including the ones belonging to royal dynasties like the Hoysala, Chalukya and Vijayanagar. He also documented them as catalogues. He also studied coins which were found in excavations carried outside Kannada-speaking regions.

The department, under his leadership, gave much importance to surveys and
excavations. They were conducted at Chandravalli, Brahmagiri and other such areas. The department conducted surveys of important places of architecture and sculpture. To take it one step further, he began using a scientific method of archaeological excavation called stratigraphy. In this method, layers or stratas were identified and studied. It also gave priority to the conservation of ancient monuments.

A literary survey was also conducted during his period and as a result of this, many literary works and manuscripts were brought to light. Some such works that were found include Hydernama that was composed by Nallappa (a contemporary of Hyder Ali), Vidyaranya Kalyana and many Kaiflyats. All these activities were documented in the annual reports that were published by the department. These reports run into 18 volumes and were published between the years 1929 and 1946.

M H Krishna was also a member of several professional bodies related to history and archaeology and other inter-disciplinaries such as the Royal Asiatic Society. He was a prolific writer too and wrote many books and research articles. He died on December 23, 1947 leaving behind a rich legacy.

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