Alexander Cunningham, the founder of Archaeological Survey of India was born on January 23rd, 1814. He came to India at the age of 19 in the year 1833 as second lieutenant of Bengal Engineering Cops.
Excavation at Sarnath
When posted in Varanasi, the religious center by the river Ganges at a young age of 21, in the year 1835, he started excavation in nearby Sarnath.
Sarnath Excavation Site
These excavations at Sarnath that he carried out with his own money, led to identifying the deer park, where Buddha gave his first sermon.
Deer Park, Sarnath
Which is why in pictures of Buddha’s sermon, there is a depiction of few deer in the background, for, the deer also listened to the sermon of Buddha.
Infact, the syllable Sar in Sarnath means deer in Samskrt and Pali language.
Buddha giving Sermon, Deer in the background
Those were the days when orientalism was a fashion among the governors of British administration.
Alexander Cunningham’s detailed reports of excavation is something every archaeologist should be proud of. His reputation as a meticulous archaeologist came through from this. He has been one of the pillars of Indian history, even though he was not a student of history. Every historian trusts his report.
These efforts of Alexander Cunningham led to the formation of Archaeological Survey of India in the year 1861 by which time he had risen in rank to become Major General Alexander Cunningham.
India is beholden to Alexander Cunningham for discovering India through archaeology.