Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dr. Ahmed Hasan Dani

Great historians are a rare breed everywhere in this world. Most historians one sees are pre-occupied by their own religious-socio-politico thinking and are, consequently, pretty useless and harmfully partial to different ideas and various forms of knowledge.

Dr. Dani was a certainly from different breed. For him, religion never came to settle questions related to fundamental understanding of various cultures straddling our region. No wonder then that he was widely regarded as a foremost historian and archaeologist of our time and of our world. His understanding, specifically of the Gandharan civilization was stupendous. One was astounded to read his books or listen to his conversations. I only heard him once, at a TV show, and I was fascinated by the man who himself has been fascinated by history and its characters. He spoke with such fluidity and such remarkable understanding of his subject, that everyone there understood his idea and his love. And this in a country where history is perhaps only Islamic or only Non-Islamic, a demarcation which never bothered him.

I am still fascinated by him but saddened to read in Dawn today that Dr. sahib has died owing to various ailments which were afflicting him. His life had been wonderfully spent, or one may suppose. But recent events in his favourite research areas of Dir, Peshawar and Swat valley must have saddened him beyond any doubt. For these areas contains some of the most remarkable specimens of Ghandaran art and architecture.

Dr. Dani, apart from being a first-rated archaeologist, was also a linguist having full command over 14 different languages (Bangla, French, Hindi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Seraiki, Sindhi, Tamil, Turkish and Urdu). I am sure all these languages greatly enhanced his international reputation and helped him get hold of even more books to read.

He was recipient of many awards and was with UNESCO for 30 odd years. He is one of the most recognized Pakistanis in the world. And we are surely proud of him.

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