By Alok Deshwal : The National Archives of India is celebrating its 110th Foundation Day on 11 March 2010, as a repository of non-current records of the Government. It was on 11 March 1891 that the Department was established as Imperial Record Office at Imperial Secretariat Building, Calcutta, with G.W. Forrest as the first Officer-in-Charge of the Department.
Following the transfer of capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911, it was imperative that the Imperial Record Office (IRD) would also be transferred to the new capital. The present building which was designed by Edwin Lutyens became the permanent abode of records of the Government in 1926. After Independence, the IRD was rechristened as National Archives of India and Head of the Organisation was designated as Director of Archives from Keeper of Records. Dr. S.N. Sen, who succeeded A.F.M. Abdul Ali and held office till 1949 gave an overall orientation to the activities of Imperial Records Department/National Archives of India. For the first time, records were thrown open for bonafide research in 1939 and by 1947 all pre 1902 records were available for consultation. A Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) was established in 1940 to conduct researches into problems relating to conservation which was, Dr Sen’s visionary contribution. Training in Archives Keeping was introduced in 1941 and in 1944, a scheme of Post War Re-organisation of Archives offices in India was laid down by the Indian Historical Records Commission. In 1947, the Departmental Journal The Indian Archives came into existence which contains research papers on source material of modern Indian history, conservation of documents, records-management, reprographics, archival awareness and all other allied aspects of functional archives.
Thus, National Archives of India marched towards the path of progress after Independence to play a more dynamic and inspiring role in the archival field of the entire country. It witnessed manifold expansion of its activities since then in the field of accession of public records, acquisition of private papers/ collections and library material, records management, research and reference, publication, training, conservation, reprography, outreach programmes, coordination at national and international level and expansion of office at regional areas. The Department witnessed further impetus to its status in June 1990 when the office of the Director of Archives was re designated as Director General of Archives. At present National Archives of India is an attached office under the Ministry of Culture and has a Regional Office at Bhopal and Records Centres at Jaipur, Puducherry and Bhubaneswar.
National Archives of India has in its custody, a rich collection of Private Papers which have been acquired mainly through donations and gifts from a variety of sources. These papers constitute a valuable supplement to the information contained amongst public records. Major collections of Private Papers are those of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dadabhai Naoroji, M R Jayakar, Maulana Azad, G.K. Gokhale, Sardar Patel, P.D. Tandon, Minoo Masani, etc. It also houses the files of the Indian National Army.
A rich collection of about 1.5 lakhs documents is available among the Oriental Records (OR) comprising manuscripts, parwanas, hukums, kharitas, farmans, etc., in Persian, Arabic, Urdu etc., Among the rare and valuable collections of documents are the Fort William College Collection, Inayat Jang Collection, Mathura Documents, Gujarat documents, Haldiya Papers etc., All these papers are available for consultation as per the Public Record Rules, 1997.
Oriental Records Division has a large collection of Records comprising of rare manuscripts, single unit documents and rare books in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, English, Hindi, Modi, Rajasthani, Marathi, Turkish, Bangla and in many other languages and in various scripts. Some of the major collections are:
The Inayat Jung collection numbering to 1,37,000 approximately, is the Official Mughal Documents. It consists of reports, day to day accounts and revenue figures which were sent regularly to the Diwan of the Deccan by the individual Diwans of the six provinces of the Deccan. Collection can be found of the following Emperor’s – Aurangzeb (period covered 1658-1707); Azam Shah (1707); Shah Alam Bahadur Shah I (1707- 12); Jahandar Shah (1712- 13); Farrukh Seyar (1713- 19); Rafiud Darajat (1719); Rafiud Daulah (1719); Muhammad Shah (1719-48); Ahmad Sha (1750-52) and Shah Alam II (period covered 1768-74).
The Haldia Collection in Persian and Urdu are 1060 documents. These documents throw light on the political role of the Haldia family in Rajasthan.
There are approximately 14,000 other documents in different oriental languages especially in Persian and Urdu. These documents are related to different regions and deal with different aspects of polity, society and culture. For example:-
· A collection of 149 documents which throw light on Emperor Akbar’s policy of religious tolerance as he gave hundreds of Bighas of land grants to 35 temples in Mathura.
· Another collection of 125 documents furnishes details of the qanungoi and other offices held by a zamindar family of Sonepat during 18th – 20th century.
· Another collection of 150 documents throw light on the revenue grants in Bihar under the Mughals.
· A large collection of documents belong to Sandila and Jais region which deal with revenue free grants to individuals, religious heads etc. These documents also bring to light the agrarian structure and the role of various classes in the agrarian economy under the Mughals.
· A collection of 63 documents deal with the urban structures particularly in Gujurat.
· A collection of 70 documents gives information about the spread of slavery with special reference to Allahabad region.
· A collection of 133 documents are related to maths in Gujurat (Pakistan).
· Another collection deals with the Deccan States about the revenue grants, jagir administration etc.
· Another 25 Photostat documents deal with the establishment of Mughal administration in the Cooch Behar region.
· A collection of 125 documents gives information on the rising fortunes of a zamindar family in Malwa region.
· Another collection of 150 shed light on the local administration in Tonk and interference of the East India Company in its day to day working.
· A collection of 31 documents reflect the British policy towards the lakhiraj revenue free grants in Orissa.
The National Archives of India has acquired about 400 manuscripts mainly in Arabic Persian , Urdu, Sanskrit, Sharda and Bangla etc., on different subjects such as religion, history, lexicon, literature, biography, agriculture and medical science etc. by way of purchase or gift. The manuscripts are dating back to 10th century down to the 20th century.
It has also acquired by way of purchase or gift about 300 books in Persian, Urdu, Hindi and other Oriental Languages which deal with different subjects like religion, history, literature, biography, agriculture and medical science, travelogues etc.
An important collection of OR Division is Fort William College Collection of books and manuscripts. This important collection has been inherited from the British East India Company through its prestigious College of Fort William at Calcutta. Major part of the collection was taken back to India Office library, London and remaining manuscripts and books were transferred to the then Imperial Record Office (Presently National Archives of India). The collection comprises of about 200 manuscripts and 1000 books and has very important works. This valuable collection in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Bengali cover subjects like, religion, lexicon, epistolography, literature, history, animal husbandry, astrology, medical sciences etc. The chronological range of this collection is 10th century to 19th century. Some of the worth mentioning titles are: Tarfsir Fath al-Aziz, Jawahar al Tafsir, Fatwa-i-Alamgiri, Fatawa Ibrahim Shahi, Fath al-Qadir, Futuhat-i-Makkiya, Tasawwuf-i-Shi’i, Razm Nama, Bhagwat Gita, Zabur, Zakhirat al-Muluk, Dabistan-i-Mazahib, Shamail al-Nabi, Bahar-i-Ajam, and many more important works of Lexicons. (All the collection of documents, manuscripts and books are arranged as per their Accession Nos. except the Fort William College Collection of Books and Manuscript (recently transferred from NAI library to OR Div.) which is kept as per their Serial Nos.)
The NAI has Oriental Records in Microfilm Rolls of 4,000 Manuscripts of Rampur Raza Library, 16,000 exps. of Miscellaneous Oriental Records and one Roll of Central Asian Antiquities Museum Microfilm
The National Archives of India Library presently has in its custody over 1,70,000 publications comprising Rare books, Reports, Parliamentary Papers and Debates, Monographs, Gazettes, Gazetteers, Travelogues, Native Newspapers, Journals etc., which constitute a most valuable supplementary source of information to the material contained among official records. These publications cover a variety of subjects like modern history and politics, culture, demography, archives, economics, social science, gender studies, tribal studies etc. With the rapid strides being made in information technology, the Library is gearing itself to adopt modern technology to facilitate the task of scholars and make its services more user friendly.