Archaeology, the science that brings us closer to the mysteries of our past, owes much to the dedicated efforts of people passionate about unearthing these majestic secrets. One such personality is K.K. Muhammed. He is renowned for reconstructing more than 100 temples and was a part of the team who led the discovery of the Ram Temple at the site of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. His tireless efforts, keen eye, and deep passion for archaeology have made him a revered figure among scholars and enthusiasts alike. The government conferred upon K.K. Muhammed Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in 2019, for his remarkable contributions to the field, unveiling countless treasures that shed light on India’s rich cultural heritage. He recently made an appearance as a guest on the Ranveer Allahabadia Podcast to share some interesting anecdotes from his life.
Early Life & Education
- Karingamannu Kuzhiyil Muhammed was born on May 1, 1955, in the district of Thrissur, Kerala, India.
- From a young age, he displayed a keen interest in history and archaeology, which led him to pursue a Bachelor’s in History from Calicut University.
- His thirst for knowledge and commitment to his passion led him to further his education by obtaining a Master’s in History from Aligarh Muslim University.
- He later joined the School of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, and completed a 2-year diploma course in archaeology in 1977.
- After their studies, he joined Aligarh Muslim University, where he served as a technical assistant and an assistant archaeologist in the Department of History.
Babri Masjid’s Excavation
The turning point in his life came when he was a part of the Babri Masjid’s excavation team. As a student at the School of Archaeology, he was part of the team led by BB Lal, who was heading the excavation. The team included officials of the ASI and 12 students from the School of Archaeology. They found brick foundations that supported the pillars of a pre-existing temple. They spent around two months on various explorations at Ayodhya. Based on these facts, Mr. Muhammed made a statement in 1990 that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid, which drew him a lot of flak.
K.K. Muhammed’s ASI Journey
- His journey in ASI began in 1981.
- He started his career as an assistant archaeologist and quickly rose through the ranks due to his exceptional skills and unwavering dedication.
- Babri Masjid though a major one, was not the only excavation to his credit.
- During the 1980s, he was a member of a team comprising representatives from the Archaeological Survey of India and Aligarh Muslim University, who visited Fatehpur Sikri.
- With the help of a painting from Akbarnama, he convinced the others to excavate the mound leading to the discovery of Ibadat Khana.
- Another noteworthy achievement in his career was the restoration of the Barsoor and Samlur Temples in the Dantewada District near Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh.
- This region had been plagued by Naxal activities, making the restoration project challenging. However, Mr. Muhammed was able to engage and cooperate with Naxal activists, ultimately conserving the temples to their present-day state in 2003.
- The Bateshwar complex near Gwalior was under the control of Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, presenting unique challenges to restoration efforts. Nonetheless, Mr. Muhammed’s adeptness in communication enabled him to gain the cooperation of the dacoits, leading to the restoration of 60 temples during his tenure.
He has served as the Superintending Archaeologist in the Archaeological Survey of India at the head offices in-
|Years of his Tenure
K.K. Muhammed’s Autobiography
In 2016, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (“I, the Indian”), his autobiography, was released. The book generated significant controversy because he claimed that Marxist historians, including figures like Irfan Habib, aligned themselves with extremist Muslim groups, hindering the search for a peaceful resolution to the Ayodhya dispute. Furthermore, he expressed that the ASI had been rendered ineffective during the initial seven years of BJP rule, which landed him in a soup with the then Union culture minister, Mahesh Sharma.
His contributions to archaeology in India are truly remarkable. He has been instrumental in bridging the gap between archaeology and the public. His concerted efforts to educate the masses about the importance of preserving and understanding our heritage are invaluable. Through numerous lectures, seminars, and publications, he has created awareness and instilled a sense of pride in India’s rich cultural legacy. As India moves forward, his legacy will undoubtedly remain a shining testament to the importance of preserving and celebrating our historical roots.