It was between 1900 and 1916, when Marc Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-British archaeologist, led extensive expeditions for the excavation of the buried ruins in Tarim Basin in Central Asia. He set out to confirm his theories about the rich past of the Silk Route. Entering the Taklamakan Desert, Stein uncovered Buddhist paintings and sculptures and Sanskrit texts. From there he travelled to Niya in the East, where he and his team discovered wooden tablets written in 105 CE. Apparently, no earlier Indian documents of day-to-day life have yet been discovered. This discovery supports another archaeologist Xuangzang&’s claim that the region was conquered by Indians around 200 BCE. Another expedition led by Stein recognised the wealth of the Silk Road. Stein contributed hundreds of artefacts, manuscripts and silk. He uncovered ancient tombs, found lost languages, discovered the first printed book and many more Chinese treasures. The explorer&’s travels led him to the caves of the Thousand Buddhas, near Dunhuang.
IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts) and the Hungarian Culture Centre in India has organised an exhibition "Fascinated by the Orient: Life and works of Sir Marc Aurel Stein" at IGNCA from 24 March to 10 April, as a tribute to Stein. Salman Haider, former foreign secretary and former High Commissioner to London, inaugurated the exhibition.
"Stein was a benefactor of the Library (of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the British Museum), and preserved some of the finest artefacts and memoirs of that era," said the curator of the exhibition, Dr Agnes Kelecsenvi. "The exhibition has about 10 dedicated boards illustrating the Hungarian interest of the Orient, his family, education background and some of his notable expeditions including the Central Asian, Iranian and the Archaeological Survey of India."
The venue has around 100 photographs displayed, which were taken by Stein including maps and manuscripts that he collected during his expeditions to the Silk Route and Central Asia. His works at the exhibition has been sourced from the library of the Hungarian collections at the British Museum, where it has been preserved. "It’s a pleasure to be part of this evocative exhibition, which showcases huge cultural diaspora from India," said Salman Haider onthe occasion. "Aurel Stein,in one of his memoirs on the Central Asian desert, describes how he found a pit, basically rubbish dump, and found great evidence on how people lived in that era. We have had the benefit of being the repository of rich collection of artifacts from Central Asia and I encourage all to see what India possesses."