Ram Chandra Gaur, archaeologist and historian, was born on 4 July 1929 at Faizabad, U.P. Losing his father when he was 14 and being the eldest among his brothers, he pursued his higher studies under difficult circumstances. Gold medallist at his B.A. examination, Allahabad University, he passed his M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Greater India, in 1952. He worked as Assistant Archaeologist, and Curator at the State Museum, Lucknow, 1955-58, during which he made a survey of the medieval site of Kara.
He joined the Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, as Lecturer in 1958, and became involved in the archaeological work that Professor S. Nurul Hasan, Head of the Department, wished to develop.
However the excavations which emblazoned Professor Gaur’s name as an archaeologist of international fame was that of the ancient site of Atranjikhera in District Etah, U.P. During these excavations he scrupulously followed all the prescribed canons of excavations. The excavations began in 1962 and Gaur published his monumental report, Excavations at Atranjikhera: Early Civilization of the Upper Ganga Basin , in 1983.
Even before the time the report was published, Professor Gaur’s papers in various journals had already changed the perception of the Painted Grey ware culture from a copper to an iron- age culture. Despite the very important finds that he brought to public notice, he remained very careful always, so that even when the technical report suggested that a piece of glass found in the PGW strata was part of a bottle, he himself refrained from endorsing the claim. This excavation of Atranji Khera helped bring Aligarh on the world map of Indian archaeology.
Professor Gaur directed excavations at another site, Lai Qila (Dist. Bulandshahr), which was subsequently destroyed. He thought the site to be very significant for a possible link between the OCP and PGW phases.
In 1978 Professor Gaur became Director of the Aligarh team engaged in excavations at Fatehpur Sikri, as part of a national project, which was initiated by Professor Nurul Hasan as the Union Education Minister. During the course of various seasons of diggings, he unearthed the presence of a long avenue of shops leading to the palace complex, the Khushbu Khana (royal perfumery), which had temporarily been converted into a Jesuit chapel during the reign of Akbar, the royal stables (cheetah khana, shutar khana and horse stables) as well as a number of nobles’ houses. The site which had been identified as “Ibādatkhana” by Mahrahrawi and S Athar Abbas Rizvi was also cleared.
Many honours came his way. The Aligarh Muslim University appointed him Reader in 1967 and Professor of Archaeology and Ancient Indian History in 1978. When he retired on 31 July 1989, he was the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, and Chairman, Department of History. He was Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Archaeology University of London, 1971-72. While at London he not only had attended a number of International conferences in London and Paris but had also the honour of being made a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1973.
He was also appointed as the General President of Indian Archaeological Society in 1988.
Professor Gaur’s last ten years were quite tragic as a consequence of a cerebral infection which kept him in a coma for a long period of time. Yet his strength of will seemed to triumph over everything. With the full support of his family he went on working to the last. His reports on Lal Qila and Fatehpur Sikri excavations appeared during the years that he was so disabled and could speak and move only with difficulty. And yet he also compiled and published during the same time his catalogue of the major items of statuary and sculpture at the Aligarh University’s Archaeological Museum, which he had so assiduously assembled, and to which he gave the name “Sir Syed Collection” in honour of the AMU’s founder.
To honour his memory and in recognition to his immense contribution to the field of Indian Archaeology, a special gallery at Musa Dakri Museum was dedicated to his name in 2018. The gallery was formally inaugurated by the Dr Tariq Mansoor, the Vice Chancellor, AMU on 27th August 2019. It houses the archaeological material and artefacts from various excavations conducted by him and others at the Department of History, AMU
• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi