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Archaeologist MK Dhavalikar - the teacher who breathed life into data

MK Dhavalikar - 16 May, 1930 – 27 March, 2018

pune Updated: Mar 29, 2018 12:01 IST
Ananya Barua
Ananya Barua
Hindustan Times, Pune
Archaeologist,Dhavalikar,Deccan College
Dhavalikar was a versatile individual, with his knowledge repertoire including not only all fields of archaeology but, also arts, culture and cinema(HT Photo)

The epitome of knowledge and inquisitiveness is how students remember well-known archaeologist and former director of Deccan College, Madhukar Keshav Dhavalikar as he provided them with academic shelter and the freedom to discover their calling. The students, staff and relatives now fondly recall memories with Dhavalikar, who passed away on Tuesday. He was 87.

“Dhavalikar was a rare combination of a good teacher and a good researcher. He would push his students and his colleagues to be the best version of themselves,” said professor Vasant Shinde, an internationally renowned archaeologist, and presently the vice-chancellor of Deccan College, post graduate and research institute, deemed university, Pune. He shared that his teacher, Dhavalikar, had a substantial contribution to his successful career.

“I used to work in a factory before joining Deccan College. I had joined the post graduate course simply to earn a substantial degree. However, over a period of time, my entire outlook about my career transformed as he helped me see what I really wanted to do. There have been times when I have been laid back with my work, but his stern reminder that I had not completed my work, use to send chills down my spine, urging me to put my best foot forward. As a teacher he was brilliant, and as an archaeologist he was unmatched,” Shinde added.

According to this acquaintances, Dhavalikar was a versatile individual, with his knowledge repertoire including not only all fields of archaeology but, also arts, culture and cinema. “His knowledge has pollinated across the country. He was one of the very few archaeologists who would analyse and relate the socio-cultural context to the data collected from a site. In other words, he could breathe life into the ages old dust-smeared dry data. For instance, he could touch a simple old pot and analyse each mark and texture to trace it back to the era and even the kind of hands which created it,” said Shubhangana M Atre, a student turned faculty at Deccan College. She had begun her journey as a simple housewife who had joined an Indology course at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth in 1977. However, having studied Dhavalikar’s class there, she found her calling in the field and joined Deccan College under his guidance in 1979.

Citing a recurrent phrase that Dhavalikar used to tell his students, Atre added, “He use to say that archaeology is a cave, you can see the footprints of the person going in, but will never see the footprints coming out.”

Dhavalikar was born on May 16, 1930 in Patas village in Daund tehsil, and after his death at the age of 87, he is survived by two daughters, sons and grandchildren. In 2010, he was awarded the fellowship of the Bombay branch of the royal Asiatic society and Rabindranath Tagore fellowship in cultural research by the ministry of culture, government of India. Later in 2011, he received the Padma Shri for his outstanding contribution to the field of archaeology. Some of his prominent works include, excavations at Inamgaon Volume 1, Part 1 of 1988, and The Aryans: Myth and Archaeology of 2007.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 11:58 IST