|Biographical detail : ||Internationally acclaimed archaeologist, historian and linguist.
An erudite, Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani, was regarded as an authority on archaeology, culture, linguistic, Buddhism, Central Asian archaeology and history. That made him an extraordinary scholar, at home and abroad.
With his knowledge of Sanskrit Ahmad Hasan Dani became the first Muslim student of Banaras Hindu University where he broke the 25-year-old record of achieving the highest mark in MA (1944), becoming the first Muslim gold medallist in the University.
In 1945, Ahmad Dani received training in the field of archaeology from Sir Mortimer Wheeler in Taxila and Moenjodaro (4,500-year-old city settlement in Sindh province) who come up with a stratified method of excavation for training the new breed of archaeologists. Dani revealed fascinating details about the site, proclaiming it “the first planned city in the world” and demonstrating that its Indus Valley civilisation was one of humanity’s great foundational cultures. He described a sophisticated people who understood irrigation, traded with Arabia and ruled from Afghanistan to Rajasthan. He also showed how they practised yoga and created statuettes of bangled dancing girls and stern-faced priest-kings that delight viewers to this day.
Dani was later posted at the Department of Archaeology of British India at Taj Mahal in Agra.
After the partition of India, Dani migrated to Dhaka, formerly East Pakistan. There he wrote the Muslim history of Bengal, and also enriched museums and explored new avenues of archaeological research putting his talent and labour to unite people on the grounds of civilisation.
Dr Dani also worked as research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1958-59). In 1969, he became Asian Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. In 1974, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting scholar. In 1977, he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr Dani moved to the University of Peshawar in 1962 and remained there till 1971. He conducted a number of archaeological explorations and excavations on the Stone Age and Gandhara civilisation in the Northern Areas.
In 1971, he moved to Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad where he established the Faculty of Social Sciences and served its dean until his retirement in 1980. In 1993, Dr Dani established the Islamabad museum. Between 1992 and 1996, he was appointed advisor on archaeology to the ministry of culture. Between 1994 and 1998, he worked as chairman of the National Fund for Cultural Heritage in Islamabad. In 1997, he became honorary director at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisation.
Prof Dani was awarded honorary fellowships of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (1969), German Archaeological Institute (1981), Ismeo, Rome (1986) and Royal Asiatic Society (1991). He received an honorary doctorate from Tajikistan University in Dushanbe in 1993.
From 1985, Dr Dani was involved in research focussing on documentation of ancient rock carvings and inscriptions on remains from Neolithic age in the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan, along with Harald Hauptmann of Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, University of Heidelberg.
In 1990-91, Dr Dani led Unesco’s International teams for the Desert Route Expedition of Silk Road in China and the Steppe Route Expedition of the Silk Road in the former Soviet Union.
Dr Dani was awarded Pakistan’s Hilal-I-Imtiaz (2000) and Sitara-I-Imtiaz (1969), France’s Legion d’Honneur (1998), Unesco’s Aristotle Silver Medal (1997), Germany’s Order of Merit (1996) and Italy’s Knight Commander (1994).
Having authored over 30 books including Historic City of Taxila, History of Northern Areas, Romance of the Khyber Pass, New Light on Central Asia, Central Asia Today, Human Records on Karakoram Highway, Dr Dani’s last book, is the History of Pakistan (2008), which culminates in the republic’s creation in 1947, and encapsulates 50 years of research. The greatest influence on Pakistan, he argued, was neither the Hindu south nor the Arab west but central Asia, in its Buddhist, Persian and later Sufi guises.
Ahmad Hasan Dani, ethnically a Kashmiri, was born in Basna, Raipur, India. He was fluent in 15 languages including French, Turkish and Tamil.