Arsh Ali

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

2018: Achievements at age 17

Ketaki Desai, HARAPPA TO HIEROGLYPHS: Meet the 17-yr-old who digs archaeology, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

Ali visited Egypt to establish the link between Ashoka and the spread of Buddhism
From: Ketaki Desai, HARAPPA TO HIEROGLYPHS: Meet the 17-yr-old who digs archaeology, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

Egyptian Buddhism’ doesn’t seem like the kind of subject to interest a 17-year-old. But for Arsh Ali, it’s the subject that has consumed him for the past few years. He recently delivered a talk on it as part of the National Museum’s India and the World lecture series. While teens his age spend most of their time on social media, Ali, who is perhaps the country’s youngest archaeologist, prefers shovels and soil.

Ali, who lives in Allahabad, was only 15 when he set off on his first excavation to the Harappan site of Binjor in Rajasthan, with the Archaeological Survey of India. Next, came the Indus valley site of Rakhigari, led by Dr Vasant Shinde from Deccan College. He’s currently translating the Vedas into hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian writing system. “When I was in class 2, I started studying hieroglyphs. There are lakhs of symbols so you need to know the grammar,” he says.

Dr B R Mani, director general of the National Museum, who invited Ali to be a part of their India and the World lecture series, describes him as a ‘wonder boy’. “I met Arsh in Guwahati in 2015 at a seminar and was instantly impressed by the number of things he had done in different areas of excavation, history and art at such a young age. He’s perhaps the only person in India who knows hieroglyphic writing,” he says.

Walking through Delhi’s National Museum, he points out objects that catch his eye. He’s at once didactic in his explanations and childlike in his enthusiasm for everything from Japanese pottery to biology.

Ali has been attending an open school since 2016, which allows him pursue his various interests. “There was a stage when I was failing my classes and had attendance problems because of my extra-curricular activities,” he says.

This year has been busy with visits to Buddhist sites, such as Sanchi and Supara in India and Cairo and Saqqara in Egypt to establish the link between Emperor Ashoka and the spread of Buddhism in Egypt and the rest of the Hellenic world.

It was the presence of the Dharmachakra, a Buddhist symbol, engraved on Egyptian tombstones that piqued his interest. It was seen by other experts as an anomaly, but Ali was sure there was more. “The evidence that Ashoka sent emissaries to Egypt to spread Buddhism is quite clear. I expected to find two or three links, but ended up finding 50 to 80. What really made me confident that these links could be made was an Ashokan inscription I saw in a book in which Ashoka clearly names Egyptian pharaohs and Greek kings, and says that he sent ‘dharma’ to these kingdoms,” he says, and then begins to recite the inscription in Brahmi, another script he is familiar with.

In his visit to Egypt, he also found Brahmi inscriptions on pots and evidence of Indian pepper.

Ali says it’s his mother Fatima who encouraged his interest in history. When he was 14, she arranged for him to take the Advanced Placement college-level examinations that American high school students do. “My mother also got in touch with the Archaeological Survey of India, and convinced Dr Syed Jamal Hasan, the former director of excavations and explorations, to meet me after which he authorized me for digs,” he says.

Personal tools