Princely states and chatter – an overview of the Gujarat state archives

Gujarat State Archives – Northern Division

Maitree Sabnis



From The Illustrated Universal Gazetteer, William Francis Ainsworth, 1860, British Library on Flickr


The organization of the archives

The state of Gujarat was formed on the 1st of May, 1960. Prior to 1947, it was the Northern Division of the Bombay Presidency. Administratively, it was divided into three main units, British Gujarat, Political Agencies (Palanpur, Mahikantha, Rewakantha, Kathiawad and the State of Kutch) and the Baroda State. After independence, its boundaries were interspersed with the bordering Bombay State, which was later formed into the state of Maharashtra in the same year as Gujarat. The government of Gujarat took a decision in June 1964 to set up a separate State Archives within the state which was concretised in December 1971 when a separate Department of Archives was set up. The documents focused on the records of the erstwhile Princely States of Gujarat and the records of British Gujarat located in the District offices of the present Gujarat State. The Government of Gujarat has formed two circle offices with a record repository in the city of Vadodara and Rajkot. Five District Offices with Records centers at Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Junagadh, Mehasana. The head office for this is at Gandhinagar.

Princely states and secretariat records

The records found in the Archives in Gujarat are broadly divided into two distinct series, viz., the records of the former princely states and the secretariat records. The records of princely states comprise manuscripts / Books, volumes and proceedings etc. from 1820 to 1947 A.D. These records contain information regarding the administrative set up of these states; their relations with the British Government and many other issues related to both. Scholars both from India and abroad can visit the archives for academic research purposes. Foreign Scholars are required to produce a letter of introduction from their respective embassies / High Commissions and also from the Universities / Institutions. And the permission should also be taken from the Government of India & State of Gujarat. All applications for permission to consult the records are to be addressed to the Director of Archives and concerned Head of the Offices of respective Record.

The Archives located in the city of Vadodara is known by different names such as Baroda Record Office, Gujarat State Archives, Northern Division or Baroda State Archives. It is located in the heart of the city, in the Kothi complex. The Kothi Complex today houses Collectorate and just opposite to the Collectorate is a building which contains the Records. The Archive office is located next to the record building. There is no separate room for the researcher and hence often the researcher has to share a big partitioned room with other officers.

Working hours

The researcher should not mind the chatter of these officers during the working hours, for often one could listen in to important lessons of life and gain from it. The staff is very cooperative and expects to be given the copy of published work, which then might be proudly displayed and talked about with fresh researchers. The working hours at the Archives are from 11:00 am to 5:30 pm only during the weekdays.


The researcher will find four types of indexes, leading to different areas of research:

Baroda Library Registers (Register no. 1 to 10)
Records of Commissioner Kachehri Office (Register no. 11 to 13)
Records of Huzur Political Office (total 973 daftars/potala (bundles) containing a total files of 9904 from 1875 to 1948; it is divided into about 346 Sections)
List of Baroda Residency Records (169 potala containing a total file of 842 volumes from 1770 to 1897)

Types of records

Land revenue administration

The researcher can have access to multitudes of records. For instance, if the researcher wants to work in the field of land revenue administration, they can find records in Marathi, Gujarat as well as English languages. They are both published and unpublished. The regional state of Baroda was divided into four divisions or prants, i.e. Baroda, Navsari, Kadi and Amreli. The records cover all these regions. In case of research in the field of land revenue, the unpublished documents can be divided broadly into these three categories: Sarsuba Office Records, which is further subdivided into Kirkol Branch and Jamabandi Branch; Suba Office Records; and Village Records.

Various issues which these documents cover are: correspondence about revenue matters, applications received from people about their grievances; Government orders passed on Revenue Department; Jamabandi Statements about land Revenue, Taqqavi, remissions etc; Annual reports of the Revenue Departments; Orders passed by the Sarsuba; Government notifications; and statements of rates of land revenue.

Village records

There are a number of published records, which were prepared as a part of the scheme of the erstwhile Baroda government to keep a record of government policies and its implementation. The ‘Village Records’, especially come in handy when one wants to know about the khatedars or the account holders (landholders). The Khatavahi contains records for instance of the total number of khatedars in an area, the size and value of their land holding and the amount of revenue paid, etc. Detailed information of the alienated or rent-free lands can also be discerned from these records.

Jambandi Settlement Reports

The Jambandi Settlement Reports which are in English, are annual reports which threw light on land revenue settlements in various divisions and subdivisions of Baroda state. These reports are published and contain miscellaneous information regarding the day to day affairs, besides throwing an important light on land revenue practices. Besides land revenue, those documents also throw light on matters related to opium and other customs duties, sea customs and salt matters.


Maitree Sabnis is Assistant Professor of Modern History, MSU Baroda. Her publications include, ‘Mulukgiri System in the Princely State of Baroda: Context and Concept’,  ‘Women And Business: The Politics Of Sahukari Pedhis in the Nineteenth Century Western India,  ‘The Structure of Law Enforcement in the Princely State of Baroda’,  and  ‘Protesting Colonial Rule: Movements in Nineteenth Century Gujarat’


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