At the core of the bequest to the Hinduja Foundation is a large number of coins from ancient India. Paintings, bronzes and stone sculptures, terracottas, wood carvings, erotica, textiles and beads also form a substantial part of the collection. These antiquities are of historical interest and are illustrative of the art, craft, literature, science, religion and customs of a bygone era.
The most extensive collection of India's glorious history and culture.
The Lance Dane coin collection is one of the foremost numismatic collections of the period 600 BCE to 600 CE, with most of the coins in silver, copper, lead and potin metal.
The collection features a comprehensive set of punch-marked coins (India's earliest known coinage) that's among the best known in the country. There is a good number of imperial silver punch-marked, as well as certain local Janapada punch-marked issues from Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Kuru, Panchala, Surasena, Avanti, Gandhara, Chandraketugarh and Sakyas.
There's also a large number of local, tribal, monarchical and city issues from the post-Mauryan period. Other coins are related to Abhiras, Anandas, Pandyas, Vallabhi, Guptas the later Guptas, Yadavas of Devagiri, Kalachuris and South Indian dynasties.
Some coin series are probably the most comprehensive that we know of anywhere, like the Satavahana Dynasty (150 BCE to 250 CE) and the Western Kshatrapas (first to fifth century CE) which are amongst the earliest dated coins of India.
Sculptures of gods, goddesses and animals in bronze and stone in the collection represent other aspects of the ancient arts of India. Lance Dane also collected Indian erotica to highlight moksha, the ultimate aim of Hindu life, attained through dharma, artha and kama. And the photo archives here are a valuable record of Indian art and coinage photographed by Lance Dane across India and abroad, including from private collections, museums and trade.
The collection has been a subject of continuing PhD research and is a fount of historical information that can be used for exhibitions to create awareness and appreciation of Indian heritage for students, scholars and the community at large.
Former army officer, dedicated art-seeker, and prodigious art collector, Lance Dane first came to the attention of the Hinduja Foundation through an acquaintance with Paul Abraham, who is also a lifetime collector and numismatist besides being President of the Foundation and advisor at IndusInd Bank. Brought together by their love for Indian antiquities, Lance and Paul spent hours together talking about the former’s incredible journey of collecting artefacts from all over the Subcontinent. With support from Ramesh Sobti, Managing Director at IndusInd Bank, and Paul, Lance’s collection was validated by Dr Shailendra Bhandare, Curator of South Asian and Far-eastern Coins and Paper Money at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University.
A proposal was brought to the Hinduja Foundation by IndusInd Bank to take on the role of preserving Lance’s collection for the education of the public and encouraging research into the ancient heritage of India. It was approved by the trustees of Hinduja Foundation, as part of their longstanding commitment to the promotion of arts and culture across the globe.
An agreement was formally executed between the Hinduja Foundation and Lance Dane, where he gifted the collection unconditionally to the Foundation. With the assistance of IndusInd Bank, the collection was gradually transferred into safe custody. The Hinduja Foundation Antiquity Committee was established under the overall supervision of the Board of Trustees of the Hinduja Foundation as part of this formal agreement to preserve the collection for the dissemination of knowledge in the public domain. Lance served as the founder member of the Committee. Today, the Hinduja Foundation Antiquities Committee consists of Raju Bhatt, Dr Shailendra Bhandare, Paul Abraham, Dr Prakash Kothari and Dr Arvind Jamkhedkar.
Englishman and former army soldier, Lt. Col. Lance Dane, lived in India since its Independence, pursuing his passion of quietly collecting and building an invaluable archive of information and artefacts over nearly 56 years. The word 'quietly' befits Lance well — at the time of his death, his bequest to the Hinduja Foundation included a staggering collection of 35,000 ancient Indian coins ranging broadly from 600 BCE to 600 CE. In addition, there were a few thousand books, a unique collection of bronzes, erotica and hundreds of other artefacts.
The collection also includes photographs of museums and private collections, monuments, temples and archaeological sites, all collected in his methodical manner. Spanning the length and breadth of India, they were gathered painstakingly over decades of extensive travelling. Together, they provide a rich documentary archive for researchers and practitioners of art history and heritage preservation.
Lance Dane was born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1923, and moved to India when he was around six years old. His father was an officer in the Sherwood Foresters, and a young Lance grew up around cultured, educated family friends, many of whom were Indians.
In 1940 at the age of 17, Lance got a war commission in the British Army and played his part in the Second World War, spending time in Burma among other places. He served in the Royal Artillery of the British Army until 1947 — the year when India became an independent nation — and was given the option of returning to Britain, which he accepted. But his love for India was so great that he came back, this time for good.
Little is known of his early years in India, but Lance seems to have worked at a pharmaceutical company before moving to Madras and trying his luck as an advertising professional with Grant Advertising. By this time, he was already a talented photographer and the lovingly-preserved early photographs in his collection reflect his exceptional eye in capturing commercial products. He also moonlighted as an actor in Madras and Pune in the 1980s, and then much, much later in the 2001 Bollywood blockbuster Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India shot in Gujarat. Lance had a guest appearance in the film, and his dear friend Noel Rands played a British umpire.
His friends remember Lance as a private man who was exceedingly kind and loved his close ones deeply. In his diary, Lance wrote, "I feel good when I know and experience love and affection. They are great human foundations to be grasped, enjoyed, shared and remembered — it's a great experience. I think the best in us comes out when we are surrounded by affection, nothing else is like it."
Lance Dane passed away suddenly on May 16, 2012, succumbing to a long and bravely fought battle with illness, but lucid to the end and determined always that his collection be a showcase of the wondrous heritage of ancient India.
Lance, for your incredible bequest, for leaving us this legacy and showing us the way to learning, we remain grateful always