Italy is renewing its historical ties with India by commemorating the legacy of one of its iconic Oriental scholars and Indophiles Luigi Pio Tessitori, who unearthed the Indus Valley site of Kalibangan in Rajasthan in the early 20th century.
In a special ceremony, the Italian Cultural Centre in the Capital dedicated its multi-purpose hall to Tessitori, naming it after him. It was followed by a series of presentations on Tessitori by historian Nayanjot Lahiri and professor Furio Honsell, the mayor of Udine and the former vice-chancellor of University of Udine, who is lecturing in the Capital throughout the week.
Tessitori, born in Udine in Italy in 1887, died of pneumonia in Bikaner in 1919 at the age of 32. He documented the Bardic traditions of Rajasthan as a photographer, researched extensively on The Ramayana, and wrote comparative treatises.
While studying the ancient civilisations and history of India, Tessitori discovered that some ruins around Bikaner showed a pre-Mauryan character dating back to the Indus Valley. He sought the help of John Marshall of the Archaeological Survey of India and identified the ancient Harappan lineage known as Kalibangan.
Tessitori is a local hero in Bikaner — with a landscaped grave and a bust in the city — was invited to Bikaner by former ruler, Ganga Singh. The Italian carried the ancient culture and traditions of India to his homeland at a time when awareness about the country’s rich heritage between 1900-1914.
His works were subsequently published in both Italian and English. They were preserved in both Italy and India.
Tessitori, who was a scholar of Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit and Marwari, also a collector of Indian antiquities and manuscripts. He explored nearly 100 historical sites in Rajasthan.
The mayor of Udine, Furio Honsell, an authority on Tessitori and his work, said he was determined to ‘connect Bikaner and Udine as twin cities in memory of Tessitori’s work.’
‘Several years ago, the government of Italy had initiated the process to declare Udine and Bikaner twin cities. The process never really came through but I am determined to revive it,’ said Furio Honsell.
This Indo-Italian exchange will continue through October with an exhibition of Islamic paintings and artefacts, ‘Akbar: The Great Emperor of India’, that will open at Palazzo Sciarra, Fondazione Roma Museo on 22 October.
An exhibition of about 60 rare photographs of Indian freedom fighters by early Italian modernist and revolutionary Tina Modotti also opened at the Italian Cultural Centre .