Who’s Afraid of an Emergency?

The NCBS Public Lecture Series

The title to an article in the India Today of 1975 (Who’s afraid of the Emergency?) continues to echo for various reasons. The Emergency — an official subversion of the constitutional rule of law between June 1975 and March 1977 — was a period of questioning for Indian independence and democratic norms. For this edition of the Archives Public Lecture Series, Maya Dodd and Rochelle Pinto will highlight the question of public access, through the example of archival access to the Emergency papers. The archives of the Emergency are a reminder that official archives mediate the politics of the past and the present.

Maya Dodd’s research on the Emergency was an inquiry into the archives of Indian democracy. The Archive and Access project enabled a display of Dodd’s search for these forms of writing across various libraries, especially up to the recent digital publication of some vital sources like the Shah Commission Report, government documents and prison diaries. Primary sources from this period form part of the continuing telling of the Emergency into the present, allowing further questions about public accountability and open archives. And has the impetus today for digital technology and the growth of online commercial archives changed the relationship of secrecy and control between citizen and state? Together in conversation, Dodd and Pinto will query how accessing archives around the Indian Emergency illustrate contemporary practices around archival materials in India.

Venkat Srinivasan
Venkat is the archivist at the Archives, National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India (http://archives.ncbs.res.in/), a centre for the history of contemporary biology in India. Together with software developers at Janastu, he is also developing an archival commons to find and share archival material and narrate stories from these (http://milli.link/)

Maya Dodd is Assistant Dean, Teaching, Learning and Engagement and an Associate Professor at FLAME University, Pune, India. She completed her Ph.D. from Stanford University, and subsequent post-doctoral fellowships at CLGS, JNU and with the Committee for South Asian Studies at Princeton University. She currently serves on the steering committee of DHARTI (The Digital Humanities Alliance for Research and Teaching Innovations) which is an initiative towards organising and facilitating digital practices in arts and humanities scholarship in India. Her work is featured in Exploring Digital Humanities in India: Pedagogies, Practices, and Institutional Possibilities (Routledge, 2020) and Media Culture in Transnational Asia: Convergences and Divergences (Rutgers University Press, 2020) and guided student DH projects can be viewed online too


How can one study the Goa Inquisition?

by Miguel Rodrigues Lourenço

It was in the nineteenth century that intellectuals emerging from the Iberian liberal revolutions and from the independence processes of their American colonies began to look at the Inquisition as a reality of the past.

Having disappeared from European, American and Asian territories between 1812 and 1834, the Inquisition tribunals bequeathed a monumental heritage (buildings) and a documental heritage (archive) that had different fates.

Goa lost both.

Can one research an Inquisition without an archive?

Destroyed at an uncertain date after 1812 and before 1814, the archive of the Goa Inquisition deprived, and continues to deprive generations of knowledge about the past of their societies, particularly with regard to an in-depth understanding of their relationship with the court. How do we understand the functioning of the Inquisition in Goa? How can its longevity be justified? How was it possible for a court judging religious offences to remain active in territories where the majority of the population was not Catholic? What was the real impact of the Inquisition on the lives, behaviours and attitudes of the Catholic and non-Catholic populations living in the former Portuguese possessions where the Inquisition operated? How can we know anything about this reality if we have been deprived of those documents which could reveal more directly this interaction between the Inquisition and society, the trial records?

image by Frederick FN Noronha, Inquisition memorabilia at the Goa Museum

Goan intellectual Miguel Vicente de Abreu (1827-1883) sought to overcome these limits by resorting to the next best thing.

Translating Charles Dellon

That is why, in 1866, he translated and published the best known and most publicised experience of a defendant with the Inquisition of Goa, that of Charles Dellon, a French physician who was prosecuted by the court in 1676. After ihis return to Europe, Dellon prepared a Relation de l’Inquisition de Goa, a text which was widely published in various editions and languages. This was the text with which Miguel Vicente de Abreu tried to overcome the lack of inquisitorial processes at his disposal, having also completed his edition with the inclusion of explanatory documents he had found in the holdings of the Estado da Índia‘s archive, nowadays Directorate of Archives and Archaeology.

Miguel Vicente de Abreu had the right intuition. Although he lived in a world of uncatalogued archival collections and without the convenience of immediate communication of our globalized world – and perhaps, due to that very fact – Abreu realized that the way to access knowledge about the Goa Inquisition required imagination and diversification. In essence, an indirect way to study it. Miguel Vicente de Abreu’s example is still valid today for anyone who wishes to study the history of this court.

It is important, first of all, to understand that the Goa Inquisition was part of a communication system which kept it in permanent connection with the higher inquisitorial authorities in Lisbon: the General Inquisitor and the General Council of the Holy Office (Conselho Geral do Santo Ofício).

Every year, the inquisitors of Goa sent letters to Lisbon, or lists of autos-da-fé, and very often, queries regarding procedure accompanied by papers related to matters in dispute, as well as copies of trial records (processos) destined to be evaluated by the General Council of the Holy Office due to doubts about their dispatch. These copies were kept among the trial records of the Lisbon Inquisition in the Arquivo Nacional/Torre do Tombo (Lisbon) and constitute, today, one of the last traces of the Inquisition’s judicial activity in Goa. Sadly, not many have survived.

As for the remaining documents, they are spread among the holdings of the General Council of the Holy Office. Due to the transfer processes of documentation after its extinction, some books remained in the National Library of Portugal, in Lisbon. These are the cases of the well-known Reportorio of the trials conducted by the Goa Inquisition between 1561 and 1623, elaborated by João Delgado Figueira (of which a useful database was produced) while he was prosecutor of this court, as well as the two volumes of lists of autos-da-fé celebrated by the Inquisition of Goa between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The Goan Inquisition did not maintain regular communication with Portugal alone. The inquisitors residing in Goa also corresponded with the court based in Mexico City.

The ease with which people moved between the Estado da Índia, the Philippines and the Viceroyalty of New Spain meant that the Inquisition of Mexico – which had jurisdiction over the Philippines – requested information from the Goa court on people who had either lived in the Estado da Índia or had been judged by the inquisitors in Goa.

Thus, it is also possible to find, among the documents of the Inquisición collection of the Archivo General de la Nación of Mexico City, records copied by the Goan Inquisition destined to support the trials in progress in Mexico, among which there is at least a partial copy of a trial of the Goa Inquisition.

Image by Frederick FN Noronha

10 volumes of documentation

Before the destruction of the archive of the Goa Inquisition, its last prosecutor made a selection – mostly comprising correspondence originally sent by the General Inquisitors and by the General Council of the Holy Office to the inquisitors – which he forwarded to the Portuguese Court, then residing in Rio de Janeiro – a set of 10 volumes of documentation.

These volumes, fully digitalized, are today in the custody of the National Library of Rio de Janeiro and available in the digital catalog (save for one that has yet to be located, if it still survives).

Following Miguel Vicente de Abreu – the Goa archives

However, one of the routes to deepening our knowledge about the Inquisition that has the greatest potential, is to follow the lesson of Miguel Vicente de Abreu. Consulting documents which were not produced by the court, but which refer to it, may, in the future, illuminate many of the still abundant black holes in the history of this branch of the Inquisition.

Consult, for instance…

The correspondence sent by the Viceroys of India – and the respective replies from the Portuguese kings – that comprise the Monções do Reino holdings at the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology in Panaji and the Livros das Monções of the Arquivo Nacional/Torre do Tombo in Lisbon, or the various documents produced by the Overseas Council (Conselho Ultramarino) at the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, are full of information on the Goa Inquisition. 

Thus, prospects for studying the Goa Inquisition are not bleak. We will never have all the answers to the questions and doubts we have. But it is a start.

Miguel Rodrigues Lourenço is at CHAM – Centro de Humanidades, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas (FCSH), Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. His publications include, A fronteira entre as inquisições de Goa e do México (séculos XVI e XVII), Uma Inquisição diferente: Para uma leitura institucional do Santo Ofício de Goa e do seu distrito (séculos XVI e XVII), A Articulação da Periferia: Macau e a Inquisição de Goa (c. 1582-c. 1650), Macau and the Inquisition: Interview with Miguel Rodrigues Lourenço, La Mesa de los Desafectos: Competencia religiosa y servicio del Santo Oficio en el Estado da Índia (siglos XVI-XVII)

Addressing the settler story in the Foral – a short bibliography

This short bibliography is organised to throw light on some available material on the question of the settling of land in Goa that is quoted in the Foral of 1526, and its link with the gaunkari as an organisation.

The story in the Foral of 1526 suggests that collectively administered gaunkaris with inalienable land existed prior to the Portuguese. It describes how four poor families settled the land and began to cultivate it and when it began to yield, a king from the Ghats assumed power over it on payment of a tribute. The physical details about the coast of Goa in the same Foral recalled the Paraśurāma myth, and the settler story of how agrarian organisation began was therefore linked to the legend which is associated with the Saraswat brahmins in Goa. The following texts throw some light on different aspects of this problem.

These sources indicate possible precedents and contradictions between texts that represent the same region.

Was there a precedent for collectively administered villages in the region?

D. D. Kosambi asked, ‘when did this almost unique form of pioneer enterprise originate?’ Kosambi, Myth and Reality, 165

The uniqueness of the gaunkari possibly lay in its inalienability – the fact that it could not be sold – an attribute possibly implicit in the Portuguese concept of foro – a tribute paid to the king that recognises his sovereignty and implies the inalienability of the land.

The foro began to be paid with the issuing of the Foral of 1526. The Foral of 1526 claimed to extract no more tribute than earlier rulers had done.

So, was there a precedent for collectively administered villages with alienable/inalienable land?

From the fifth to the eleventh century, or from Bhoja to Shilahara rule in Goa, N. Shyam Bhat and Nagendra Rao cite copper-plate inscriptions of land grants to Brahmins. These were in the form of fields, houses, and in some instances, entire villages, providing some instances of when entire villages were granted to communities. N. S Bhat and N Rao, ‘History of Goa with Special Reference to Its Feudal Features’, Indian Historical Review Indian Historical Review, xl (2013), 255–257.

Two methods of cultivation cited were the settling of khazan lands, or floodplains and forest clearance.

Between the fifth or sixth century, they cite grants addressed ‘not only to the officials but also to the inhabitants of twelve villages’ or Bardez as the district is now known, and suggest that the district names that survive to the present, originated in the Bhoja period. Thus, there is a precedent for collectively administered villages in the region.

Meanwhile, in Kerala and Karnataka….

The historian of Kerala, Kesavan Veluthat notes the corporate character of clusters of peasant villages called ur that in the southern stretches of the Ghats and Tamilnadu, constituted a larger unit of nadu from the seventh century on, and its assembly of spokesmen, the nattar. He states that in South Canara and Kerala, such units were not corporate but territorial ones under chiefs. Therefore, there is a precedent for the idea of representative village administration, prior to the Câmara Geral introduced by the Portuguese.

Veluthat states that most important brahmin settlements of Kerala took shape between the closing years of the Sangam age and the seventh century AD. Inscriptions and literary evidence show that it was immediately before this that they occupied Karnataka. Since the Chalukyas claimed to have conquered Kerala and the Kadambas and since they were patrons of brahmanical hinduism, Veluthat suggests that it may have been under Chalukyan-Kadamba existence that brahmin settlements came into existence in Kerala

He adds that armed militia of brahmins known as Cattas in the south had its origin in the north probably in the Gupta period. He also cites military-educational-missionary organisations called ghatika or salai in the south and adds that Mayurvarman, the king who features in the Gramapaddhati, was a brahmin disciple of famous ghatika of Kanci. This is to add to what is known about the nature of brahmin organisations on the western coast.

Kesavan Veluthat, ‘The Nature of Agrarian Corporations in South Canara under the Alupas and Hoysalas’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, lii (1991), 109. Kesavan Veluthat, Brahman Settlements in Kerala: Historical Studies (Calicut: Sandhya Publications, Calicut University, 1978), p.4

On the conflicting representations of brahmins in the Sahyādrikhaṇḍa and in other texts which also throw light on the theory of settled land:

A noteworthy aspect of the Grāmapaddhati (an account of brahmin settlements linked to the region of Tulunadu) and the Sahyādrikhaṇḍa, were the accounts of villages of fallen (implicitly, Saraswat) brahmins, or those who had lost their status after violating caste laws. It has been suggested that these accounts may have been an attempt by rival castes to contain the ambitions of the Saraswats or to distance themselves from a caste whose practices raised doubts about their status. Narratives of brahmin settlements in the seventeenth century and later often feature the struggle for caste realignment concerning in particular, the status of Saraswat Brahmins. Particularly striking is the dissonance between Stephen Hillyer Levitt’s account of the polluted or fallen groups of Brahmins who sought to improve their status, and O’Hanlon and Minkowski’s depiction of Saraswats as already landed and well-established by the time of the Portuguese conquest.

So we see that the same text through which a caste consolidated its status, also recorded the banishment of entire villages of the same caste and the loss of caste status, suggesting that centuries separate sections of the text.

The account of a Dharmasabha of 1664 described by O’Hanlon, convened to ascertain the brahmin status of the Saraswats, reveals the Saraswats’ identification with maths in specific villages of Goa and along the western coast, a contrast to Levitt’s account of their fallen caste status. Whether this dissonance resulted from the process of conversion and displacement by the Portuguese, as O’Hanlon suggests, is unclear.

  • O’Hanlon, ‘Contested Conjunctures’, 777
  • Stephan Hillyer Levitt, The Patityagramanirnaya: A Puranic History of Degraded Brahman Villages (India, 2107).

At the heart of the issue in 1664, was the agricultural work and trade that the Saraswats engaged in, the authors noted, and asked why agricultural work had become such an issue.

  • Rosalind O’Hanlon and Christopher Minkowski, ‘What Makes People Who They Are? Pandit Networks and the Problem of Livelihoods in Early Modern Western India’, Indian Economic & Social History Review, xlv (2008), 397

In the Keralolpatti, a text that appears to extends the Parasurama myth to Kerala, Veluthat reports that it is said that 36,000 brahmins were presented with arms by Parasurama, to “protect and rule Kerala, the 160 katams of land between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari”. In each text, different terms are used for the western coast, and different parts of it are conceived to be included in the terrain that Parasurama drew from the sea. For instance, Veluthat says that the Keralolpatti cited 64 brahmin villages of Kerala, but in this context, ‘Kerala’ implied the land between Gokarn and Kanyakumari, while 32 of the 64 villages were north of the river Perumpula in Tulunadu

Did all the texts referring to the Parasurama myth and the brahmins on the west coast, refer to land and property in the same way?

Each text could offer a variation on the question of land claims and inheritance. Veluthat for instance mentions the village of Payyannur, said to contain brahmins of degraded status. The system of matrliny in this village is said to have been requested by Parasurama to atone for his matricidal sin. This is followed only by brahmins in this village

  • see above, Veluthat, Brahman Settlements

There were several version of the Grāmapaddhati. George Moraes suggests that through the Puttige version of the Grāmapaddhati, Haiga and Tulava Brahmins could have posed a rejoinder to the Saraswats.

  • George M Moraes, ‘Notes on the Pre-Kadamba History of Goa’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, v (1941), 167.

On texts that are linked to the Sahyadrikhand and other defences of coastal brahmins

The Paraśurāma myth extended from Gujarat to Kerala, aside from the figure of Paraśurāma having a different significance in other parts of the country.

  • Thomas E. Donaldson, ‘The Cult of Paraśurāma and its popularity in Orissa’, Silpasamvit/Consciousness Manifest: Studies in Jaina Art and Iconography and Allied Subjects in Honour of Dr. U. P. Shah, xv (1995).

In each region where the Paraśurāma myth had become hegemonic, a cluster of other texts recuperated the myth with a different slant on the origin of a community or on an event or sub-narrative that would reinterpret an aspect of the relation of caste and kingship.

  • Rao, “Reconstructing the Social History of South Kanara – a Study of the Sahyādri Khanda”; Nagendra Rao, “History and Historiography: Making of Tulunadu’s Identity” (National Seminar on the History and Culture of South India, Udupi, 2019), https://www.academia.edu/40308963/History_and_Historiography_Making_of_Tulunadus_Identity;
  • Patil, “Conflict, Identity and Narratives”; Bhasker Anand Saletore, Ancient Karnataka (Poona: Oriental Book Agency, 1936).
  • Christophe Vielle, ‘How Did Paraśurāma Come to Raise Kerala’, (2014).
  • Bhasker Anand Saletore, Ancient Karnataka (Poona, 1936)

Aside from being able to trace the occurrence of the legend down the western coast, therefore, there was also an intra-regional proliferation of texts that posited the relation of groups contiguous to the Saraswat brahmins to the legend.

While some collectively administered land may have needed a collective decision to lease or sell parts of it, there is currently no definite precedent in the region for inalienability of land as a legal concept.

(M)Apping Digital Archives: The safarnama Digital Heritage project

Deborah Sutton




Digital Innovations and Archival Materials 

Digitisation and digital platforms offer transformational potential for the ways in which archival materials are disseminated. This blogpost will describe a recent digital heritage project – safarnama – an app that allows smartphone users to explore three curated collections of archival material relating to urban heritage in Delhi and Karachi.

It will consider the relationship between digital web and app platforms that incorporate digitised materials from existing archival repositories and explore the implications of curating and displaying archival materials in this way. What are the challenges associated with access, curation and sustainability?

Safarnama Heritage Project: using geolocational technology to displace the archive

The Safarnama app (available from the Google Play Store) is a freely downloadable app for android-platform smartphones. The app allows users to download three digital heritage experiences, themed collections of material that app users can explore on their phones. All content is downloaded onto the users phone and each contains between 50 and 70 geolocated ‘points of interest’ with which media are associated (see image 1).


‘Partition City, Delhi’, (created in collaboration with INTACH (Delhi), the Centre for Community Knowledge (AUD) and 1947 Partition Archive), maps materials relating to Delhi’s transformation between 1947 and the end of the 1950s, when the refugees were evicted from the settlement in Purana Qila. 


‘Partition City, Karachi’ was created in collaboration with Pakistan Chowk Community Centre, Karachi, maps materials from the PCCC’s rich archive from 1947 until the end of the 1950s. 

Points of interest from ‘Gadhr se Azaadi’ around Old City


‘Gadhr se Azaadi’  was a collaboration with Seechange that contains media relating to the history of Delhi from the great revolt of 1847 to independence in 1947.

If app users are near a point of interest in Delhi or Karachi, they receive a push notification on their phone, alerting them to a nearby point of interest and digital content (see images 2 & 3). In this way, smart phone users can encounter ‘ambient’ heritage in small bursts, and in several languages, as they travel across these cities. The archival materials incorporated into the experiences are brief, based on the assumption that users will give information about the history of their location no more than a couple of minutes of their time before their phone offers them something more inviting. 

Media relating to announcement of boundary award, geolocated at Central Vista.


media content geolocated at Wavell Canteen, a refugee kitchen adjacent to the Old Delhi Railway Station.

The content of each experience consists of a range of archival materials in a variety of digital formats (text files, jpeg, pdfs, mp3, mp4). All materials incorporated are either in the public realm or were made available under a private licensing agreement.

Materials in the public realm included materials from: National Archives of India, Delhi State Archives, 1947 archive (text files), Bibliothèque Nationale de FranceGetty’s Open Content ProgrammeMetropolitan Museum of ArtFamilies in British India Society, Wikipedia, the internet archiveLibrary of Congress (Prints and Photographs), the RijksmuseumHindustan Times and the Times of India.

Special permission was sought and licenses obtained for materials from Life Magazine, Centre for Community Knowledge (AUD), 1947 Archive (audio recordings), the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting (Photograph Division) and the All India Congress Committee papers (Nehru Memorial Library and Archive).

The safarnama project demonstrates the potential of digitally mapped heritage to ‘decentre’ heritage conventions and to map new narratives of the past that depart from familiar and linear. The safarnama project is an attempt to use handheld devices and geolocational technologies to put digitised archival ‘back’ into living landscapes.

Instead of being sequestered within archives and arranged according to institutional conventions of archival arrangement, safarnama uses a google map layer and push notifications to allow app users to encounter archival materials on their phones as they move around Delhi or Karachi.  Geolocational technology allows place to become the key index of the past, bringing archival materials out of repositories and placing them into conversation with the landscapes to which they relate. 

Digital platform formats also present unprecedented opportunities to combine archival materials in new ways. Safarnama points of interest combine archival materials to bring together a range of disparate materials out of archives: photographs, paintings, maps, textual materials, literary accounts and oral testimonies.

This unique ability allows app users to explore a variety of iterations, and even alternate and contentious, accounts of a place’s past. Conversely, materials brought out from these repositories and placed into urban landscapes can potentially serve as digital ‘breadcrumbs’ that can make app users aware of the collections held by nearby, but underused, repositories. 


Historians as a species

The safarnama project raised a number of unexpected and significant questions about the role of academics and curators in identifying, editing and assembling information for these platforms. We are accustomed to quietly exercising our disciplinary expertise in archival research and then publishing articles and books which synthesise archival materials as evidence for our arguments.

However, safarnama presented materials in a fairly raw form with clear acknowledgement of provenance and only minimal, or no, interpretative text. During the safarnama project, invitations to historians to contribute materials tended to be met with enormous, initial enthusiasm followed by discrete backtracking.

The project has tended to confirm that historians tend to implicitly regard the archival materials we collect perhaps not as our own property, then certainly the produce of significant energy. We retrieve materials from archives in order to create, and evidence, presentable and publishable outputs.

As a species, we tend to be reluctant to share archival information in which we have invested significant time and energy; instead we prefer to hold our materials as private archives from which we draw to publish our own narratives and arguments. Before and beyond publication, we tend to be circumspect about sharing our raw materials or details of their archival provenance.

Digitised Archival Materials

Safarnama allows us to compile and share archival materials in a new way to new audiences but the format also changes the terms of our archival and authorial pre-eminence. 

This project is one of several digital heritage initiatives that have innovated in collecting ad curating native digital content.AugtravellerIndia Lost and Found with Amit Pasricha, Sahapedia’s Cultural Mapping projects at Fort Kochi and in Pune are among several projects that, like safarnama, use digital platforms to assemble and disseminate historic information. Some of the data used by these platforms is archival, some is crowd sourced and others commissioned. These initiatives raise a host of questions about the relationship between public and proprietorial materials. Each of these projects raises important questions about the proprietary rights and commercial uses, of archival mateirals. The potential commercialisation of crowd-sourced digital materials or materials taken from archival collections raises a host of important questions for how the transformations effected by digitisation should be shaped by Historians.

The creation of Safarnama was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and Lancaster University. Being publicly-funded, it has an a priori commitment to being free of charge. The software used is open access, the provenance of all archival materials is acknowledged and neither its materials nor the platform will be commercialised.  

Digitisation and digital archives are a sphere of entrepreneurial activity. Indeed, the creation of  proprietary data, whether derived from the migration of material from archival digitisation projects or through the creation of native digital content, is defended as the only sustainable model for digital initiatives that exist outside state-funded archival digitisation projects. These projects require  content to be placed behind a paywall in order to fund software development, marketing and database maintenance. Digitisation brings democratisation of access only if the planning and placement of materials is placed at the forefront of project design. 

Archival historians must be vigilant of the transformations effected by digitisation and digital platforms as previously public (if not particularly accessible) archival collections are transformed into proprietary and commercial collections. 




Image 1: ‘Pictorial tour around India…’, John Murdoch, 1894, Christian Literature Society, Courtesy, British Library on Flickr

Image 2: “A Gazetteer of the Province of Sindh, etc” 1876, Hughes, A. W., Courtesy British Library on Flickr

Deborah Sutton is Senior Lecturer in Modern South Asian History, at the University of Lancaster, where she teaches courses on, Histories of Violence: How Imperialism Made the Modern World, and ‘These Beastly Obscenities’: Monuments, Images and Antiquities in Imperial India. Her publications include, Gordon Sanderson’s ‘Grand Programme’: Architecture, Bureaucracy and Race in the Making of New Delhi, 1910-1915, in South Asian Studies, ‘So called caste’: S. N. Balagangadhara, the Ghent School and the Politics of grievance, in Contemporary South Asia, and Other Landscapes: Colonialism and the Predicament of Authority in Nineteenth-Century South India, 2009.

Visiting Manipur State Archives

My Experiences in Manipur and the Naga Hills, Sir James Johnstone, 1896

Deepak Naorem

My tryst with the state archives in Manipur began in 2011. I was following a trail of official correspondences regarding war compensation for damages in the state during World War II at the National Archives, New Delhi. Manipur became a dependent frontier state with the establishment of a Political Agency in the State after the first Anglo-Burmese War.

However, the establishment of a proper colonial archive began in the record room of the Political Agency Office of the State Secretariat building in Imphal in 1893, where the documents produced by the state were kept. The documents were initially handwritten or typed by an army of clerks. Later, with the introduction of the state printing press in 1910, copies of the documents and government reports were printed and circulated.

The durbar in Manipur produced several types of documents such as maps, letters, political and religious treatises, genealogies and other types of records. The establishment of the Political Agency in 1835 led to the proliferation of correspondences, reports and letters between the durbar, office of the Political Agency and British administration in Shillong and Calcutta. 

Those records were kept in the record room of the old Secretariat building until March 1982, when the Manipur State Archives was established under the Directorate of Social Welfare, Art and Culture. With the bifurcation of the department, it is now under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Art and Culture.

In the heart of Imphal city

Manipur state archives is located in the heart of Imphal city, near the Keishampat junction, and is easily accessible by both public and private means of transportation.

It is within five minutes walking distance from the Paona international market and the Kangla fort.

The main building looks quite dilapidated as if it has not been repaired or maintained for several years, and it shares the building with the State Central library.

The record room is located in the first floor of the building. Earlier, the record room was located in the right wing of the building, while others amenities such as the microfilm department and digitisation room were located in the left wing.

They had a small dusty reading room with few rickety chairs and a single table, just outside the record room for the visiting scholars.

However, the building does not have any facility for providing drinking water and food to the visiting scholars.

However, in the last few years, significant changes have been made in the layout of the archives. The record room has been moved to the left wing of the building. They have also constructed a much larger and safer study room for the visiting scholars with better furniture.

There are a few small tea-stalls, just outside the gate of the building where scholars can take small chai breaks with local savouries like pakoras(fritters) and singju (spicy vegetable salad).

Otherwise, one of the major markets in the city is at a walking distance, and there are plenty of options for food in the market. Imphal city also has a large number of cafes where scholars can continue to work after the archive hours, over cups of coffee or local tea.

The Records – 1891 onwards

                  A large number of files were transferred from the record room in the old secretariat building to the new archive building in 1982. However, many files are still retained in the library of the old Secretariat building.

Any visit to the record room of Manipur state archives should be followed by a visit to the library in the old secretariat building. The record room has a huge collection of files, especially from 1891 onwards when the state administration was taken over by the colonial state. 

The records are divided into four categories— public records, private records, manuscripts and rare books. It also has microfilms of early newspapers and journals from the early 20th century.

These records are very useful for studying the history of the former princely state of Manipur, and it holds most of the major records such as Manipur State Administrative Reports (1869-1962), Diaries of Political Agents of Manipur (1886-1947), Proceedings of Manipur State Durbar (1907-1947), Manipur state Gazettes (1932-1975), land revenue records and judicial records. These records are informative on questions regarding the frontier policies of the colonial state. 

Private papers

It also has a huge collection of private papers donated by many well-known scholars and public figures of the state. Besides colonial documents, it has a huge collection of pre-colonial manuscripts (locally known as Puyas) written in old Meetei script or in Bangla/Assamese script. This rich corpus of manuscripts has yet to be researched by scholars. Another interesting collection are the large volumes of photocopies and microfilms of files and correspondences related to the former princely state (1826-1950) collected from archives outside the state such as the British Library and archives in Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati etc. Most of the documents are in English, or in Manipuri, in either the old Meetei script or Bangla/Assamese script.

Accessing the Record room

There are several issues while accessing the record room in the Manipur State Archives. Firstly, the catalogue is in a fragile condition, and visiting scholars are often given a list of handwritten catalogues, from which they make selections and requests for requisitioning.

Secondly, this catalogue is far from being exhaustive, and only lists a fraction of the files inside the record room. Hence, it becomes extremely difficult to access some significant files such as Hill Administration records (1891-1972), Electricity and Power records (1891-1947) and Manipur Jail records (1891-1977), etc. Perhaps the remaining records will be catalogued and digitised in the future.

Thirdly, the opening timings of the record room can be uneven. Scholars and students might have to be prepared to wait beyond 9 AM for the opening of the record room. However, some of the junior archivists earnestly help any visiting scholar to navigate through the catalogue and the records in the archive. Over the years, I learnt the importance of their enthusiastic support in successfully gaining access to the rare manuscripts and uncatalogued files in the record room. With their permission, scholars are also allowed to take photographs of some of the documents.


“Bring your institutional credentials”

The administrative office of the archives maintains a strict record of visiting scholars, and they insist on producing an identification document and a supporting letter from the university or research institution. Foreign scholars are expected to produce a copy of their passport and visa.

Imphal city is located in the oval shaped valley in the middle of the state, and is surrounded by lush green mountains which make the weather pleasant throughout the year for visiting scholars.

However, scholars should avoid visiting the state for archival work during the major local festivals such as Yaoshang, Ningol Chakouba and Christmas, as it is unlikely to find the employees of the archive in the record room or anywhere in the office during these festivals.

Deepak Naorem is an Assistant Professor at Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi, New Delhi. His research interests include History of Colonial Northeast India and the Trans-Himalayan Region, History of literary cultures in Southeast Asia and History of Second World War in Southeast India.

Some of his publications are ‘Japanese invasion, war preparation, relief, rehabilitation, compensation and ‘state-making’ in an imperial frontier (1939–1955)’ in Asian Ethnicity, ‘A Contested Line- Implementation of Inner Line Permit in Manipur’, in Kafila on September 15, 2015, ‘Myth Making and imagining a Brahmanical Manipur since 18th century CE’, and ‘Remembering Japan Laan: Struggle for Relief, Rehabilitation and Compensation’, in NE Scholar Journal (July 2018)

The Missionary Archive

Material traces for interdisciplinary research


Manual of the South Arcot District. British Library, Flickr collection

 by Hephzibah Israel

I’ve worked with archives associated with Christian missionary movements in South Asia for nearly twenty years. Each presents us with its own set of idiosyncrasies, some better organised than others, a few easier to access and more welcoming of the researcher armed with pencils, laptops and digital cameras or smartphones. I have over the years reflected on the collections, speculating on missing items, annoyed many a time with that careless archivist who hadn’t bothered to preserve a document that I think will have been of great importance to my research. But it is only over the past year or so that I have started writing a critical reflection on the missionary archive after working with a few new collections to pull together information on autobiographical conversion accounts for the research project ‘Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography’.

Missionary archive as a conceptual category

Although I use the term ‘missionary archives’ as if this were a distinct, self-evident category, I should say at the outset that much of the materials associated with mission societies are currently housed alongside various other collections which have little to do with the Christian missionary movement.

I use ‘missionary archive’ as a conceptual category that comprises a motley range of materials: unpublished documents written by missionaries (letters, diaries, reports, translations, photographs etc.); printed materials authored by missionaries; print materials on any topic and not authored by missionaries but published by a mission press. These were initially collected and housed by each mission society during much of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century but eventually handed over to either national or university libraries in Europe in the latter half of the twentieth century. (There are a few exceptions: for instance, the Leipzig Mission Society’s Archive is still located, curated and directed by the Leipzig Mission.)

The sheer range and geographical spread of missionary archives globally is impressive.   The collections represent most parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as European attitudes to a variety of social, cultural and political issues at ‘home’ and ‘abroad.’ They reveal the travel of ideas in both directions, key changes in administrative policies, agreements and dissonance with imperial ideologies and colonial governance.

By and large, missionary archives are located in European and American cities as well as in the countries that nineteenth-century Christian missions functioned in. I list archives associated with South Asia, since my research focuses largely on South Asia:

Amongst archives of the Protestant missions working in South Asia alone, there are in the UK

Researchers based in India may not often realise that almost all the archives listed above give free access to catalogue searches, so it is possible to prepare lists of documents available at each repository before getting there. However, several archives also have a further, more detailed paper catalogues, that have not yet been digitised.

A useful centralised online portal for a comprehensive list of missionary archives is available through the Mundus Gateway [http://www.mundus.ac.uk/]. The database is fully searchable and is available free to the general public, and better still, researchers are not required to first register and login before getting access to this database.

In Germany, the Evangelische Lutheran Mission’s archives are located mainly at the Franckesche Stiftungen, Halle and Archive of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society Leipzig, Leipzig. The Franckesche Archives hold a unique collection of Tamil and German palmleaf and paper manuscripts from the early eighteenth century, and with the more recent addition of online catalogues and digital collections, it has become far more accessible than when I first spent three months researching there in 2001. In Switzerland, the Basel Mission Archives have a good collection of photographs and paper manuscripts pertaining to the Deccan regions;  and in the US, archives at the universities of Columbia, Yale, and California have collections from the American Baptist Society, which worked across South Asia.

South Asia

In comparison, mission archives located in South Asia are fewer but often contain rare materials: the archive at United Theological College, Bangalore is a good example of a place with a collection of paper and palm leaf manuscripts in several Indian languages that cannot be found elsewhere. Although not listed clearly on the UTC College library website, the small archive in the basement of the library is a hidden gem that is well worth a visit. The Bible Society of India (BSI) offices in Bangalore held a somewhat haphazard collection of materials relating to Bible translation in most Indian languages until the late 90s/early 2000s but I haven’t visited them since, so can’t vouch for their continued interest in archiving materials. I recall one of the officers gleefully telling me that sacks of letters of protest against the latest Tamil Bible (Tiruvivilium) that had been received by BSI had been destroyed to make room for more worthwhile materials!

I have only named archives with substantial Protestant mission collections so far and this list would be longer by far if I were to include smaller collections located at other institutions. For Catholic archives relating to South Asia, there are archives in Goa, Pondicherry, France, Portugal, and the Vatican Library in Rome but I will not elaborate on these as it is best other scholars who have worked with these specific archives add to this information, perhaps in a separate blog dedicated to these.

My purpose in writing this blog is partly to draw attention to the mission archives spread globally but also to point out that these materials don’t merely offer information specific to research on ‘Indian Christianity’ or Christian missions in South Asia. The collections have potential to contribute to historical research in a range of areas across the humanities—comparative religions, social and cultural history, caste, gender, tribal societies, languages and literatures, translation, South Asian print and book history, photography, modern systems of education, colonial medical history in South Asia, colonial history and imperial policies, architecture, urban planning and many more. And yet, missionary archives are routinely ignored by researchers working in these areas!

Of course, researchers would need to engage critically with the missionary archive as with any other. There will be the unexplained silences, gaps in materials, haphazard recording, ideological biases and constraints, the exciting and the mundane but again this is no different from other kinds of archives. So why ignore these as the exclusive stamping ground of mission historians? There is much to be exploited at missionary archives by researchers not working on Christianity or Christian history. Equally, missionary archives have much to gain from such an opening up of its materials to the scrutiny of scholars interested in historical perspectives from across a wide spectrum of disciplines.

Attitudes to language and translation

My own recent interest in the missionary archive focused on attitudes to translation displayed in the missionary archive. Any historian working with archives is well aware of the fragmentary and unreliable nature of collections of past or present objects. The missing pieces frustrate attempts to re-construct stories but also provide clues to the networks that tie the collection of (random?) information to the control of knowledge.

Examining the value placed on translation by missionary archivists and archives allows me to probe one set of mechanisms by which specific forms of knowledge and representation are constructed as “evidence” of past events or experiences despite or through the very act of destroying material evidence of translation.

While some components of translation projects are carefully preserved and interpreted, others are discarded; but importantly, both seemingly contradictory acts work together to control and fix one set of interpretations as valid. Paying attention to translation and engaging it as a tool of critical interpretation is one way to answer Burton’s call (in ‘Introduction: Archive Fever, Archive Stories,’ in Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History, 2008: 8) to ‘denaturalize’ the production and boundaries of archives and historicize the production of archival collections.

Translation traces

Drawing on Foucault’s critique of ‘the archive’ and his argument for an ‘archaeological’ engagement with archives, Matthias, my co-author and I examine how to treat what we term ‘translation traces’ in the documents we uncovered: bilingual texts, translated extracts, fragments, and evidence of repeated relay translations.

An ‘archaeological’ engagement with the missionary archive raised a set of new questions regarding the relationship between ephemeral religious experiences such as conversion and the material presence of ‘evidence’ of such experiences in archival acts. What role does translation, invisibilized as it is, play in the documentation of lives?

Could we think of the archive as a ‘contact zone’ where languages, texts, and collective memory intersect through translation? While archives of the past inevitably shape our study and understanding of the material presence and function of translation in specific historical periods, we argue that highlighting the role of translation also opens up new ways of conceptualising and working with missionary archives.

The article, ‘Translation Traces in the Archive: Unfixing Documents, Destabilising Evidence,’ is published in a special issue of The Translator (forthcoming, 2020). To read full article, click here.

Hephzibah Israel is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh. Her book, Religious Transactions in Colonial South India: Language, Translation and the Making of Protestant Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) explores the translation history of the Tamil Bible.

She recently led an AHRC-funded collaborative research project under their ‘Translating Cultures’ theme which focused on the role of translation in the movement of religious concepts across languages and the ways in which this impacted autobiographical writing about conversion experiences.

Two postcards

Who is Phond Sawant?

I must have posted a query to the Goanet list in 1998 as I researched a rebellion against the British on the border between Goa and Sawantwadi. It was the first time I had used an archive and encountered the archaic Anglicised spellings that British officials used for names unfamiliar to them. What was Tuppeh Banda? What was Munneree? Did anyone else know of Phond Sawant and his seven sons, who aquired legendary proportions in my mind as I traced their story. I may have sent out a general query, and to my delight, received two postcards.


One, dated November 10, 1998, answered all the questions I vaguely remember posting.






‘Phond Sawant was a very shrewd Raja of Sawantwadi in the late 17th century.’ An explanatory list responding to my queries followed: Pednah was Pernem, in Goa. Malapem was Malpem, Saturdeh was Satarda Taluka, Sanklee was Sanquelim and Tuppeh Banda was Sindhudurg. There was another entry on Tuppeh – the distance travelled on horseback in half a day.

M. N. Sirdeshpande of Panjim had filled out two postcards and mailed them to my hostel room in JNU.

The second one was puzzling.


It began with rhetorical questions, whose direction was not quite clear to me. ‘Who were these people? Diogo Rodrigues, Miguel Vaz, Estevam Rodrigues, 15 July 1583? What happened on that fateful day?’

I was new to the history of Goa and the events that were impassioned and problematic touchpoints in the popular imagination.

‘1654 Rev. Don Braz do Castro, Lakhem Sawant, 1666, Keshav Naik Desai, Raulu Shenvi Desai, Chanda Rane Desai, 1667., 17th December 1531, 23rd May 1536 – 1560 to 1774 Inquisition, Rewade, Manode, Piln, Satroji Rane. 1741, Parode, Melay, Talwade, Desai’s Revolt, 20th September 1772, Kodal Taluka…Govind Sinai Borkar, Gulele Desai, Rayajee Naik Borkar’

…Should you need to know more about the history of Goa, please write to me..’


I don’t know if I ever wrote back to thank M. N. SirDeshpande and I still don’t know the import of all the names, though some have become familiar over time. I was delighted, however, to get a response from someone I didn’t know and to have communication from another person interested in the field I had just discovered, appear in my mailbox. It is another matter that the rigours of academic writing meant that most of what I would write would remain alien and distant from the people I most desired as readers. A combination of fascination with older books and fear of people meant that I never looked up M. N. SirDeshpande on my research trips, though the postcards were stored among my papers and carried wherever I went.

Storytime​ in Kerala

by Rubin DCruz

Another view of Puthenthope

On a warm evening in 1972, when I was five years old and living in a village by the sea—Puthenthope in Thiruvananthapuram—I accompanied my cousin to our village library. The librarian gave me a nice smile and took me to the old wooden shelves where the children’s books were stacked. As I quickly glanced through them, my eyes rested on an oddly shaped book— Vaalameen Chirikkunnu (The Vaala Fish Laughs). The book was the Malayalam translation of a Soviet folktale, fabulously illustrated and produced. It was the first book I ever read.


I don’t recall the story of Vaalameen Chirikkunnu now, but even after all this time I remember the front cover and the horizontal shape of the book which had amused me then. The early ’70s were very tough years. (I later learned that the world had gone into an oil shock, India was at war against Pakistan in Bangladesh, and there was a famine in some parts of the country). During summer vacations I organised plays on a temporary stage built in the space where my house opened out to the beach. Every evening in those days, kanji (rice gruel) would be served to everyone in the village, and there would be a long queue of people for that. But my friends and I were not worried about the famine at all.

We were busy reading books every evening in Jaihind Vayanasala, the village library. The names of almost all village libraries in Kerala are prefixed with words like ‘Jaihind’, ‘Jaibharat’, ‘Bappuji’, ‘Noorul Islam’, ‘Vishwabharati’, ‘Sree Narayana’ etc., because they were all founded in the early 1940s, as part of the freedom movement. In the ’70s, these libraries were full of wonderful books—translations of world classics; Malayalam novels by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai; and poetry by Kumaran Asan, Vallathol and Sankara Kurup.

There were three kinds of books available for children: books by Malayalam publishers (demy ¼, black and white, with no illustrations), Soviet books with lots of colourful pictures, and the books by National Book Trust, India. The first NBT book I read was Let us do a Play by Uma Anand. I hoped it would help me create a play for my playground theatre. Other NBT books I remember repeatedly reading were: Rohintra and Nandriya, Bapu, Tales for All Times and The Prince of Ayodhya. When I read Rohantra and Nandriya, I realised that Buddha was not a boy who listened to his parents. Same was the case with Rama in Prince of Ayodhya. By then I already knew that Jesus was not a goody-goody boy who stayed in the good books of parents and teachers. The grip of NBT books on me made my mother complain to the Malayalam teacher that her son would not listen to her. But I had a ready answer. Neither the Prince of Ayodhya, nor Jesus, nor Buddha, was ever in the good boys’ league. Then why should I be, I asked. The Malayalam teacher was helpless!


The village libraries would get their annual grant by March every year to buy books. The annual exams would be over by then and I would slip into a routine of going to the library every evening. It would have a few hundred new books to read—fresh from the store, and not yet sent into the wooden almirahs. Just waiting for me on the table! The librarian would issue only two books at a time. If no one else was around, he would give me three, or even four books. The library opened at 4 pm, and I would wait for the librarian in the library’s hall, reading the newspapers over and over. On the previous day itself, I would have decided the books I would borrow on that day, which I would quickly grab and start walking towards my house, passing by my friends who would be engaged in an energetic football match. I would walk in the direction of the cool breeze coming from the beach, sit there, and, by the time the sun had set on the horizon, finish reading both the books.

Another view of Puthenthope

Puthenthope beach

When there was nothing left to read, I would read the cover page, the back cover and the imprint page again. I discovered that some books were published in Kottayam. Nice.

Some were published by Progress Publishers in Moscow. This was not a surprise—Moscow was not far from Keralam in those days. (There were references like this in the newspapers too. One writer asked, Moscovil mazha peyyunnathinu mannarkkattu kuda pidikkano? – ‘Should we hold an umbrella in Mannarkkad if it rains in Moscow?’ Another poet wrote, Soviet ennoru nadundathre pokuvan kashinjenkil ethra bhagyam! ‘There is a country called Soviet. I’d be lucky to go there!’)


Bearded giants must be sitting at a machine 

But, where on this whole planet was “A-5 Green Park, New Delhi 110016” (NBT’s address)? Was it a town on a beach? Must be, I would tell myself. Bearded giants must be sitting at a machine there and churning out such wonderful storybooks for children. I would imagine that their heads must touch the ceiling when they sat in their sea-facing room.

I remember a book on animal husbandry (Valarthumrigangal) published by NBT, in the library. On the cover was a photo of a cow against a yellow and brown background. That book didn’t have any takers in the library. On many occasions, I borrowed the book simply because there was no new book for me to read.

Then there were some books by writers like M. Mukundan, Kakkanadan and Pamman, which the librarian would not give me. “They are not good for children.” The children’s books in Malayalam that I loved were Kunjikkoonan (The Little Hunchback), and Kunjayante Kusritikal (Naughty Kunjayan). The Sahitya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society (SPCS), which is a cooperative society of writers, published a set of 12 books called Samanapetti (‘gift box’) in 1962. Another Samanapetti was published during the International Year of Children in 1970. My friends and I read all of them. But there were not too many of this kind.

Soviet Nadu and the smell of Lenin’s hand

So it was back to the Soviet books like Chukkum Gekkum, Kattile Koottukar and Bhouthika Kouthukam. Misha and Soviet Nadu were our favourite magazines. Soviet Nadu (Soviet Land) was the first magazine I subscribed to, and it came from Moscow—by post! I felt so proud. The smell of Lenin’s land, touched by great Soviet people! Photos of children with chubby cheeks, starry-eyed and with blond hair—how happy the revolution made them. Kunjunni’s haiku-like poems were great fun and a big hit.

Then we read the adaptations of the Mahabharata and Ramayana by Mali Madhavan Nair. Later, DC Books published Panchatantram, translated by Sumangala. By the time we reached high school, it was very difficult to get books for our age. But many encyclopaedia and science books were available. I loved them. History books from Prabhat Book House, the distributors of Soviet books, were also good reading, especially those by P.T. Bhaskara Panikker.

My achan (father) would bring home books from Chinta Publishers. But they were too tough for me to grasp—National Question in Kerala and Keralam Malayalikalude Mathrubhumi by E.M.S. Namboodiripad, History of the Communist International by M.S. Devadas, and translations of Bengali novels (Kolkata, city of my dreams. . .). Achan wanted his son to read the autobiographies of E.M.S. and A.K. Gopalan. At that time children in Kerala were reading translations of books like Les Misérables and War and Peace, published by SPCS. Some books were heavy for a 10-year-old to carry.

The Idiot, Emergency and Amina book stall

I remember carrying home a two-volume translation of The Idiot when the parish priest met me on the street and asked me which book it was. I replied, ‘Idiot’. The priest was taken aback for a moment. Then, when he had a glimpse of the nicely bound book’s title page, he asked, ‘Will you be able to read this?’ I was sure. Yes! But I could not go beyond a page of that voluminous tome. I was elected school leader of the church school when I was 10. My duties included reading from the newspaper at the morning assembly every day. At home, we only subscribed to Deshabhimani, the Malayalam newspaper of the CPI(M). On a fine morning, I innocently read out in the assembly, ‘Indira Declared Emergency. India under Semi Fascist Rule. All Opposition Leaders are under Arrest. Press censorship is on!’ There was dead silence. The teachers looked visibly unhappy. I could not understand what went wrong, but news-reading at the morning assembly was stopped from that day.

There was some underground reading done too—of cheap detective novels printed on low-quality paper, which the library would not keep on the racks. I got these books from a chechi (an older girl) living nearby. She was poor in her studies, but could somehow manage to lay her hands on all these detective novels. They were published by obscure publishers like Amina Book Stall etc. Kottayam Puspanath, who must have written more than a hundred detective novels, was their bestselling author. I hid these books inside my textbooks and read them, but my mother, a better detective, would find them. The books would immediately be thrown into the kitchen hearth. Girls would read the popular romance novels by Kanam E.J. and Muttathu Varkey; both must have written a hundred novels each. However, boys never read them.

Many magazines were available for children. I was a regular reader of Poompatta, Muthassi, Balayugam, Thaliru and Ampili Ammavan. Writers like Sippy Pallippuram wrote for these magazines. Sugathakumari was the editor of Thaliru. I always knew the date of the next issue of each magazine and would make sure that my father bought the new issue on the day it hit the stands at the main bus stand. But we couldn’t get Eureka magazine (S. Sivadas was one of the main writers), which was published by Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishath (KSSP; People’s Science Movement of Kerala). Ours was a Christian village and the church school didn’t promote the magazine and books published by KSSP.

The nuns who taught us wanted us to read Snehasena, a Catholic publication with Bible stories for children. Even that was an interesting read, though many of us boys became committed atheists later.

But KSSP’s books started becoming available by the time we reached high school. Aayiram Quiz (1000 Quizzes) was the first KSSP book I read, followed by Paddatha Pakshikal by M.K. Prasad, which was an adaptation of Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring. I read Piramidinte Nattil by M.P. Parameswaran, and then Vaayichalum Vaayichalum Theeratha Pusthakam (The Unending Story of Nature) by S. Sivadas, and books by several others.

The KSSP books were not available at bookshops; its members from the nearby village would come door-to-door every year to sell them. They would always come to our house because they knew that my father would buy their books. Achan would skip his lunch at the canteen to save money to buy magazines for his son.

He would remain hungry until 4 pm when he would reach home and eat fish curry and rice. While he ate lunch, I would eagerly begin reading the magazine achan brought home.


Later, I would go to Sulekha Book Stall near Kaniyapuram Railway Station, walking through the paddy fields and crossing the canals that connected the backwaters at the periphery of our village. I would walk back reading the magazine I bought there, not getting distracted by the big snails crawling at the edges of the fields, or the fish swimming in the canals. The sun would have set by the time I reached home.


The library movement – the 1930s to the 1960s

The growth of children’s literature in Kerala From the 1930s until the ’60s, Kerala saw radical political changes and social transformations led by agricultural and industrial workers. Political and cultural debates were a major activity during this process, creating a demand for accessible reading material. K. Damodaran, a communist leader and an office bearer of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, initiated the organised library movement in 1937. Today there are around 12,000 functioning village public libraries in Kerala.

Children’s books in Kerala began taking shape in a major way when the progressive left movement generated interest in reading. Many hands were at work. One of them was Mathew M. Kuzhively’s, who was the first to start a publishing house just for children, in 1948. His Balan Monthly and Balan Publications were to be among the earliest such initiatives in India. He was first to publish retellings of Greek, Roman and other myths for children, apart from his other innovations. The retellings of fairy tales like those by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm then appeared on the scene. Under the leadership of D.C. Kizhakemuri, a writers’ cooperative, Sahitya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society, was formed in 1945. It followed the Progressive Writers Association established in 1937, which had laid the groundwork for new writing. SPCS launched a grand flow of translations of world classics into Malayalam. In 1960s and ’70s, the cooperative ushered in modern writing for children in Malayalam with its Samanapetti collection.

The 1960s to the 1980s

From 1960s to the ’80s there was a boom in wonderful translated books coming from the Soviet Union. Many of us are quite nostalgic about Chuck and Gek, Animals and Friends, and many other books that were read and loved as Malayalam originals. STEPS and Prabhat Book House started publishing children’s books in a big way in the ’70s. Later, children’s book publishing was turned into a people’s movement by the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath. An association of science writers which launched in 1962, the KSSP took hundreds of popular science books to Kerala’s villages through a network of school teachers. Their books were published in very large print runs, and many titles sold lakhs of copies. Eureka, their children’s science magazine, is still popular. The Government of Kerala established the Kerala State Balasahitya Institute (Kerala State Institute of Children’s Literature) in 1981. Since it was set up the Balasahitya Institute has published over 1,000 titles for children. The prestigious children’s magazine Thaliru is also published by them. Popular magazines for children like Balarama and Balabhumi circulate in lakhs, but they are populist. All major publishers of Kerala have a children’s books list today. The state’s biggest publisher, DC Books, has a separate imprint for children’s books called Mampazham (mango). It also publishes English titles under the Mango imprint. Other publishers, like Mathrubhumi, Chintha, Poorna etc., are also involved in publishing books for children.

Rubin DCruz’ school in Puthenthope

Rubin DCruz was Director, Kerala State Balasahitya Institute. He currently works with the National Book Trust, India.

O Bombaense – Semanario histórico literário e noticioso

(This continues the series of research notes on early Konkani newspapers in Goa and Bombay)
1901-1903, Rs. 3 a year in India, Semanario histórico literário e noticioso. A trilingual paper predominantly in Concanim and Portuguese with some English.

30th November 1901, Bombaim

Recita em Concani – Goa National Dramatic Club at the Gaiety Theatre, a tragi-comedy in two acts, ‘O Bebado‘ by João Agostinho Fernandes.

Concanim Pustocam:

F. X. Fernandes at No. 43 Cavel, sells:

  1. Bail Vortouta Bunhad Dadosponnanchi – hem pustoc boroilam concnaim bassen moriadicheam chalim – ritim voir, jem vortouta chodda upegachem amcheam bailanc titilem daddleanc ancuaranc legun. 2 annas, 2 1/2 annas
  2. Theodosius anim Constancia – two love stories. discourse on friendship as well as songs and poems. 3 annas
  3. Concanim bass, Tachi Contha anim Borounchi Rit
  4. Nachachem Pustoc – J. I. Campos – 2 annas

The issue had several articles on the education of women in Concani, and on Indiechi bail: Hinduanche sumurti pormonnem Colvontac xicop dilea uprant boream bailanc diunc nozo aslem, punn Suami Jesu Christache sumurtin anim Europachea civilizasavan uzvadaili mot, Hinduanchi anim te ditat atam aplam chedduanc borem xicop. 

O Goano

image: A detail from O Goano, 1916, Central Library collection, Panjim, Goa

O Goano – defensor dos interesses dos Goanos

Bilingual weekly in Konkani and Portuguese, Rs. 3 in India Ingleza e Portugueza, # 24, Anno 1, edited by Francisco Pascoal Fernandes

6)O goano 1916-2 - Version 2

Jan 11, 1908

This issue had 3 pages in Portuguese and 9 in Konkani. The first page edit covered A emigração Goana, the Sociedade de N. Senhora da Piedade de Dabul, Associação Christa Indiana. The paper offered reasons for readers to join the Goan Union. The column Ailem anim Poilem listed distinguished visitors. Amchea Ostorienchea adavac was a serialised story by F. F. Balistor. Entre Nous commented on the social life of the city. Other columns included Goenchi bugol, Pai ani put, a short moral account by Miss. M. A., Goenchi Khobor, Mumboichi Khobor, Indiechi khobor, Pordessanchi khobor.

The serialised novel Siegfried and Genoveva was advertised. There were five pages of advertisements.

Jan 18, 1908

A column discussed Parlamento Colonial de Goa. A poem by R., Amche Goencar Covi, Assolnecho colo was about Dr. R. Ubaldo Paes and potra by Sonsar Sodica

An advertisement for Bolaikechi Vatt by Jose Salvador Rodrigues for 8 annas appeared. The ad was inserted by A. B. Saldanha. News items included, ‘Amche Goencar coni’, and ‘Xinn o Goanacho Goa Xara thaim’.

Feb 8, 1908

A poem, ‘Portugalchea Patxaia anim techea mucutt putachem morn’, by J. I. Campos

On page 9 of this issue, the Empire Cinematographer at Dhobi Talao advertised  Jivac Bhogta Tosslo Program, free for women, soncraracho dis.

June 13, 1908

This issue of O Goano had about three and a half pages in Konkani and carried obituaries, prices of mangoes and comments on taxes in India Portugueza. It had news from Goa, or, ‘Goenchi Khobor‘, ‘Pordessanchi Khobor‘ and religious news. ‘Goencho ostoreo Mumboint‘ by Deolalichem Correspondens expressed shock at seeing Goan women playing cards. The Temperance Society, the Carpenters’ Society and the Goan Cooperative Society were publicised.

The Bandra Review, another journal, mentions the Bandra art circle, Little Flower literary circle, the Jassamine, and the publication of the young women’s sodality of Karachi.


There were advertisements for restaurants by L. M. Soares, for the goldsmith Pandarinath Narayen of Rivoncar and Co., and for the confectioner Pereira: ‘Marine Lines stesssona codde anim Grant Road stessonacodde. Meuta chotta hajri, jevon, aiscrimm, cold drinks, chea, cofi, côcô…kekam‘. The Goan drapery stores in Girgaum, advertised themselves as ‘Hi Goencar bhavanci Compani, jennim aplea bitor Rs. 40,000 bandvol punzaum hem voddlem loz caddlam, anim soglo vepar Europac than haddun victat.’ J. C. Fernandes and Co., engravers, and Peter John Braganza, Undertakers and builders of altars also advertised.

Pereira’s Hotel in # 318, Horta Baixa, advertised itself, ‘Hem puzad ugoddlear zalim ogllim don vorsam. Zaite iscoliche burgue, empregad, vattsur, khoxec bounnar anim baileam ganvche yete vete vepari, ravon gueleat anim rautat. kiteac?

Suat chodd bori, vareachi anim saudic faideachi, jevonn borem nitoll anim ruchichem anga meuta decun. Ec pautt eun poilloiat anim maguir sodancal yeteleat. Vincharat.’ João Pereira

Books sold by Furtado’s

Gorjechi and Ufegachim Pustocam‘ were sold at Furtado and in Mapusa, Panjim, and Assagao. The Grammatica Musical, for instance, was available for 6 annas. Furtado’s advertised Catholic devotional texts and school books. Sixteen books were priced between 4 and 8 annas.

Diccionar Concani-Portuguez by Ignacio Xavier de Souza Rodrigues was sold for Rs. 1 and 8 annas.

Jinsanvar Kontha Nazuc Tosso Budivont by P. A. Colaço.

Christa Purann,  Padre Thomas Estevaumchem, ‘tench jem Goeant cholta.’ ‘Akhem, novean xaplam, sabar xecdde vorsam uprant – bhas porni Marathi‘.

The issue of August 22 advertisted Cathecismo em Concani, Tufan zolm anim Morn – cannim cunvor Pericles hechi, and bori dekchi khobor, for 2 annas each

The issue of October 17 advertised the following books:

Concanim Comic Cantarancho Album

Bandar Sucachem

Boli Conanim baxen for 6 paise

Duddvancho sambal for 3 annas

These were books by Sebastião J. Dias advertised in this issue:

History of St. Francis Xavier

Emperor Carlos Magno

Khoxalponnacho Ghorabo

Dog Iscoliche Burgue

Berthold anim Techi Ojapanchi Choturai

Moral e Civilidade

Concanim Poilem Pustoc

June 20, 1908

This issue contained articles in favour of preserving the comunidades in Goa.

Indieche khobor‘ carried the announcement that the Indian government had passed a law that those accused of sedition and conspiracy would not be easily released.

Other news stated that among Hindus of India remarriage among widows was permitted.

June 27, 1908

The União Goana had begun a fund for education and declared that there was a need for a Caixa Escolar, a schooling fund for the poor.

August 22

Other issues carried news on the state of agriculture, on the spread of beri-beri

The English college in Arporá in the current year had 550 students, 50 of them interns.

A club of Hindu goldmsiths was formed in Margao, called Dayaradna, intended to promote reading amongst members.

August 29

Papal jubilee. House for Goan Women. A collection started by Goan women in Bombay to send a congratulatory address to the Pope yielded so much money that they decided to  found a home for widows and young women who came to the city to make a living.

A Reunion of goan women – the first reunion, was promoted by the Goan Union (União Goana) which had a presence in 46 different place with d. Amelia Viegas as President and d. Albertina Pinto e Paes.

October 17, 1908

The Real Instituto Luso-Indiano staged a tiatr in Kalbadevi’s Princess Theatre, Elephanta building. On the same day, Carlos Magnacho tiatr was performed by Douglas Comic Opera in the Gaiety theatre.

November 21, 1908

Rajput Hamlet anim Bapaichem Bhutt. Hi ec ruchic nattkantli canni assa. Bhau bhavac vi ghalun marta anim tache baile codde cazar zata. Hamletacho bapai voilo mog. Mel’lo bapui bhut zaun puta codde uloita. Pixeponnachem focann! Nattkaiancho tiatr…

Bacaulechem Ful –  Four and a half annas

Advertisements for medicines Zhadd Paleachim Goenchim Voctam

Goan tooth powder was sold for 4 annas (Dr. V. L. Corganvcar’s Goan Tooth Powder for 4 annas, is enough for two months), as well as Goan Ball amrut, Goan fever pills, and Goan strengthening pills.

This issue recommended Goan sarsaparilla for disrupted sleep: ‘Hem vocot sogott nitoll jem piddear zalam caim vaitt piddem anim vaitt rogot bolaik piddear corta.’

On November 17, the Goan Union Dramatic Club, Dom Carlos Dramatic Club came together and performed Conde de Camerino at the Gaiety Theatre.

Jan 7, 1910

An ad for the novel Battcara

Puta! Lahananchea sangata boum-naca

Hem vortouta ec pustoc, theatrachem, jem dacoita coxe porim Goenche battcar ditat te duc aplea munncareac. Cone porim battcarache put pauta to Bombaim. Papa-mamanchi addchor, choleac Bombaim. doddunc anim tachi zabsal, vachtoleac pott bor ansoita. Battcara xekim putac lagon Bombaim pauta anim castam soddunc cabul zata Gaon Uniaum-an bhitor soron. 

Goan Union (União Goana) in Karachi, Ahmedabad, Bombay. A notice on how the union offers all manner of assistance.

Concanim bhas boroitanam, sabar boroupi ap-aple riti pormonnem ocxeram zoddtat, anim bhaxecho soglo gondon cortat vachteleanc. Hea passot Unianvan, team boroupeanc uttaim corun eke riter Concanim boroup caddlam anim somestac magta te riti pormonnem borouncheac.

Uniantche fantte assat 46 zago:

Kharagpur, twelve places in Amravati, Igatpuri, Dhond, Ratlam, Godhra, 4 places in Sholapur, Bhusawal, Bhopal, Abu Road, Aden, Ahmedabad, Nagar, Akalkot, Allahabad, Alwar, Amritsar, Baroda, Bandilwi Barsi Road, Beira, Deolali, Ghaziabad, Khandwa, Lahore, Meerut, Mhow, Nagpur, Rampur, Narmada, Shimla, Lucknow, Thana.