Ned Bertz on various archives in Gujarat

Ned Bertz teaches in the Department of History, University of Hawaii and his areas of interest are South Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean, World History. Bertz says that the uncategorised archives produce surprising finds: ‘An 1884 history of Gujarat will be next to the cinema rules of Bombay in 1953. Law court decisions will be next to a pamphlet on Kathiawad’s population problem.’

3 Aina Mahal

Ayana Mahal, which houses the district archives in Junagadh

PBR archives godown

Ayana Mahal, which houses the district archives in Junagadh

After Bombay State was bifurcated into Maharashtra and Gujarat, the latter found itself without a state archives, while the former inherited the Bombay State Archives (later the Maharashtra State Archives). Most of the records relating to Gujarat remained in Bombay, but Gandhinagar saw the need to create its own state archives to collect records scattered across the state as well as centralize other records held in the National Archives of India. The Department of Archives for Gujarat was formally founded in 1971. In the later 1970s and 1980s, the Gujarat State Archives (GSA) expanded to include several branches, varying dramatically in their size and organization. I have been working in several different branches of the GSA since 2009. My overall sense is that the archives are underused, although this is understandable given the uneven nature of its organization.

The headquarters of the GSA is in Gandhinagar, where a library exists but a full records office does not. At least for foreign scholars, permission must be taken here for access to any of the branch archives. The GSA is under the control of a state minister who is also in charge of a range of portfolios including Youth, Sports, Education, and Cultural Activities. All foreigner applications for research have to be cleared by the central state secretariat, as facilitated by the Director of the Archives, which can be an unpredictable process. Each permit is valid for one year. In-person visits and follow-up visits seem essential for clearance. Indian researchers I believe can gain access through a much simpler process.

The largest branches of the GSA are the Southern Circle Record Office in Baroda and the Western Circle Record Office in Rajkot. In working in Rajkot (I have not visited the Baroda office), I found a friendly staff and fair working conditions. There was an ongoing digitization process as of several years ago, and a fairly new building. There is no centralized index to the GSA, but Rajkot has an accession list of holdings in no apparent order. It was clear that not all items held at Rajkot were on that list. For example, a worker there located passport registers for me when I described what I might be interested in. The material held consists mostly of official records and reports dating from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, with a random assortment of books, some of them of historical value.

District Record Offices also exist in Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh, and Porbandar, all of which I have visited except for Bhavnagar. Jamnagar and Junagadh, like Rajkot, have accession lists. The latter is housed in the gorgeous old Ayana Mahal, which unfortunately has leakage issues leading to ruined records each monsoon, despite the layers of plastic tarp the dutiful staff deploy every season. Porbandar does not have an accession list, but from a few days working there appears to have a tremendous store of unindexed files, bundled up in a godown away from the main office. Staff in each location are very friendly, although not always trained to assist researchers. Local researchers were present in Rajkot when I worked there, and I assume Baroda as well, but the other branches seem largely unvisited. The District Records Office in Kutch, I have been told, is under the charge of the district and not in the domain of the GSA.

The holdings in the GSA appear to be varied, and are largely in English and Gujarati. Official files from British India are present, as is ample material from the princely states. Jamnagar, Junagadh, Porbandar, and Rajkot have mostly holdings related to Kathiawad. These include administrative reports, law court decisions, legal notices, gazetteers, and statistical accounts. Some files from post-independence are also available. A range of printed books, pamphlets, documents, and other records are in the collection, although I have not seen any newspaper holdings.

No full survey of the GSA exists, to my knowledge. There is a publication called Gujarat State Archives at a Glance (1982), which I first found at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. It is also in the archives’ library at Gandhinagar. In 1998, a short piece on the GSA was published in Indian Archives.

 

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