The main function of the Archaeological Survey of India is to explore, excavate, conserve, preserve and protect the monuments and sites of National & International Importance.
Different branches and offices of Archaeological Survey of India look after various aspects in order to keep the monuments well preserved, protected and ensure the above functions.
The office of the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India is generally referred to as Headquarters or Directorate office.This office functions as the control centre for all the activities of Archaeological Survey of India.
Building Survey: Building Survey carries out the survey work of the architectural survey of secular buildings of various nature. The detailed plans are prepared of these buildings.
Temple Survey : Temple Survey project carries out the architectural survey of temples in different parts of the country, they prepare the detailed plan of the surveyed structure.
As the name suggests this branch of Archaeological Survey of India is responsible to carry out large-scale excavations. At present there are five branches under the Archaeological Survey of India.
The Branches are located at the following Places:
There are numerous prehistoric or, the stone-age sites in the country. This branch is exclusively for archaeological work related to prehistoric sites.
The gardens around the monuments are taken care of by the Horticulture Branch. The office of the Chief Horticulturist is at Agra.
The country is divided into number of zones for the purpose of archaeological work. These are called circles. At present there are 18 circles and 2 mini-circles. The zones of these circles are not bounded by the State boundaries. Circles are headed by the Superintending Archaeologists and the Mini-Circles by the Deputy Superintending Archaeologists. Circles are the nucleus of the Survey. Circles are responsible for the exploration of new and potential archaeological sites, scientific clearance and small scale excavations, conservation, preservation and protection of centrally protected sites and monuments under its jurisdiction. Various wings/sections are managed by specialist personnels in order to assist the Superintending Archaeologist. Circle is further sub-divided into a number of Sub-Circles, basically for the regular upkeep, maintenance and administrative control over the sites and monuments under their jurisdiction.
The Archaeological Survey of India was re-organised in 1920 with the object of looking after the archaeological remains of this vast country and exploring & excavating new sites with a view to revealing India’s ancient past. With the passage of time the activities of Archaeological Survey of India increased rapidly and the need was felt for putting the preservation of ancient remains, antiquities and museum exhibits on a firm scientific basis. To meet this need, the Chemical Branch of the Survey was established in 1917, with the appointment of an Archaeological Chemist, his primary duty was to do the scientific examination and chemical treatment and preservation of museum-objects and other antiquities recovered in the course of excavations.
The Laboratory of the Archaeological Chemist, at first organised in the Indian Museum , Calcutta, was later on shifted to Dehra Dun (Uttar Pradesh). Large scale chemical preservation of monuments was begun in 1937, when the decaying sculptures of the famous caves at Elephanta were chemically treated with very spectacular results
The growth and development of archaeological chemistry in India could not remain isolated from the scientific progress in other countries, which had made rapid strides in researches in chemistry, physics and geology, as the result of which numerous techniques, of immense use in the scientific conservation of ancient monuments and cultural relics of various kinds, had been developed. Most of these methods were adopted by the Chemical Branch in its own work, for it was soon realized that the interpretation of ancient Indian techniques and material could be carried out best by the application of results of research in these various branches of science; consequently, chemical analysis, scientific examination and microscopic investigation of specimens of various kinds such as mortar and plaster, glass and glaze, terracotta and faince, metals and alloys and pigments and painted stuccos from mural paintings were systematically carried out.
Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions, and ‘inscriptions’ literally means any writing engraved on some object. In India, rocks as well as lithic, metallic, earthen or wooden pillars, tablets, plates, pots, bricks and other objects were generally used for inscriptions. Often, writing in relief such as we find in the legends on coins and seals which are usually produced out of moulds or dies, and also records painted on cave walls or written in ink on wooden tablets are regarded as inscriptions although these writings are not actually engraved.This Branch is responsible for the study of inscriptions found at sites or, elsewhere in the country in order to enlighten the Department and scholars.