Renowned archaeologist, art historian and Padma Bhushan awardee R Nagaswamy, who was the first director of Tamil Nadu government's Department of Archaeology died in Chennai on Sunday. He was 91. He is survived by two sons and two daughters. His wife had predeceased him. Nagaswamy passed away at 2.30 pm in his Chennai home briefly after he expressed uneasiness, his son-in-law Baskar Kailasam told PTI.
Nagaswamy was an expert witness in a London court in the famous Pathur Nataraja case and played a key role in bringing back the Chola-era bronze Nataraja to Tamil Nadu.
Former Director of Archaeology, Kerala and the Archaeological Survey of India T Satyamurthy called Nagaswamy's death an irreparable loss to the field of archaeology. A great scholar in Tamil and Sanskrit, he had published numerous research papers on the art of the ancient Tamil country. As an archaeologist, he had excavated many sites in Tamil Nadu, including Korkai, the ancient Pandyan port.
Indian art lovers would forever remember him for his unmatched services and he had trained hundreds of Tamil enthusiasts in Tamil epigraphy. His contribution by way of filing an affidavit in the Ayodhya case is remarkable, Satyamurthi told PTI.
Noted epigraphist and archaeologist S Ramachandran, condoling Nagaswamy's death said: "Nagaswamy was such a dynamic archaeologist who led from the front. He inspired generations of aspiring epigraphists and archaeologists through his field work."
"Nagaswamy founded the Institute of Epigraphy and Archaeology in 1973 in the government department. He was instrumental in bringing Tamil scholars into the realm of Tamil epigraphy and Tamil archaeology and inculcated a historical spirit in Tamil scholars," he said.
Ramachandran, who retired from the TN Archaeology Department as an epigraphist added, "No wonder Nagaswamy is hailed as the father of Tamil archaeology."
After its formation, Nagaswamy became the first director of the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Archaeology in 1966. He retired in 1988. He was awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 2018 for his outstanding contribution to archaeology.
He was a recipient of various other awards, including the Tamil Nadu government's 'Kalaimamani' Award. A noted scholar, researcher and art historian, he has published many books including the 'Masterpieces of Early South Indian Bronzes.' He has written over 40 books in Tamil, English and Sanskrit and published over 100 books through the department.
Nagaswamy began his career as a curator for art and archaeology at the museum here and was later appointed Assistant Special Officer, as part of a team of officials, to facilitate the formation of the state government's Department of Archaeology.
After retirement, he engaged himself in various archaeology-related activities. He was a consultant for the Central government in the Documentation of Cultural property, Thanjavur Brahadisvara Project (UNDP programme), according to the Tamil Arts Academy, Nagaswamy's webpage.
Nagaswamy was a postgraduate in Sanskrit language and literature and also held a doctorate in Indian arts.