Uncover South Asian History
Discover 4.5 million pages of material gathered from across the Indian sub-continent. These documents were originally collected by the South Asian Research Foundation (SARF) with the objective of preserving Indian cultural heritage and span from 1700-1953.
Explore digitized versions of books, journals and reports covering key historical events.
October 15th, 1542
Birth of Akbar, 3rd Mughal Emperor
Chapter 4 of 'The Mogul Emperors of Hindustan' chronicles the career of Akbar, the 3rd Mughal Emperor. He became the 3rd Mughal Emperor of India at only 14 years old in 1556, and is most known for winning the loyalty of non-Muslim populations under his rule. These actions greatly expanded and unified the Mughal Empire. He was also a patron of art and literature, and established schools for Muslim and Hindu children.
December 31st, 1600
British East India Company receives its charter
The British East India Company was incorporated by royal charter on December 31st, 1600. Though the company started as a monopolistic trading body, the East India Company had its own army, aggressively acquired territory, and ruled India from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century. This unusual book, pictured here, describes one of the lesser known roles of the Company, which founded and sponsored the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta.
End of the Third Anglo-Maratha War
The third Anglo-Maratha War was the final and decisive conflict between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India, which left the Company in control of most of India. This illustration appears in 'The Last of the Peshwas', a 1907 account of the Third Anglo-Maratha War. The author describes the treacherous ascent up to the fortress at Prabal amidst a swarm of bees.
September 26th, 1820
Birth of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a distinguished social reformer and freedom fighter. He earned the title Vidyasagar, which means 'ocean of knowledge', for his vast knowledge in several fields of study. He played a major role in women's rights and the spread of education. Vidyasagar-Granthabali (A Vidyasagar Bibliography) is a testament to the remarkable contributions of this educator and social reformer, known as the 'father of Bengali prose'.
November 3rd, 1838
"Times of India"
"The Times of India" was first published as "The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce" on November 3, 1838. Still published today, it is the oldest English language newspaper and second oldest newspaper in India. This extract from 1898 reflects on the newspaper's sixtieth anniversary.
April 16th, 1853
First passenger train journey in India
On April 16th, 1853, the first passenger train ran between Bori Bunder (Bombay) and Thane, a distance of 34 km. It was pulled by three locomotives and had thirteen carriages. In this Annual Report for the East India Railway Company, dated only four years after the first passenger rail service in India, you can read about the ambitious plans for expanding the rail network across South Asia.
October 2nd, 1869
Birth of Mahatma Gandhi
Born on October 2nd, 1869, Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India. 'To the Students' is a collection of Gandhi's speeches and writings to and about students. Gandhi gave this speech to the students of Ramanathan Girls' College in Jaffna, suggesting that they consider careers of service and dedication instead of hurrying to become wives.
July 26th, 1892
Dadabhai Naoroji becomes first South Asian to be elected to British Parliament
Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Indian to be elected to Parliament in Britain and was vocal in promoting Indian rights, particularly in regard to the Indian Civil Service and trade. This collected edition about the influential patriot Dadabhai Naoroji includes speeches addressed to the Indian National Congress and to the British House of Commons.
December 30th, 1906
Establishment of the All India Muslim League
The All India Muslim League was a political party established in British India in 1906, with the goal of safeguarding the rights of Indian Muslims. This presidential address was delivered by Syed Ali Imam in 1908 at the Amritsar Session of the All India Muslim League.
November 5th, 1913
Birthday of Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, famed actress known for her roles in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire was born on November 5th, 1913 in Darjeeling, India. This picture shows Vivien Leigh discussing George Bernard Shaw's 'Ceasar and Cleopatra' with Shaw himself and Gabriel Pascal, the film's producer.
December 10th, 1913
Rabindranath Tagore wins the Nobel Prize for Literature
Rabindranath Tagore was a famed poet, novelist, playwright, and song composer, known as "the Bard of Bengal". He bcame the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Price for Literature in recognition of his 1913 poetry collection 'Gitanjali'. He is also the composer of the national anthems of Bangladesh and India, the words to which can be seen here.
Jallianwala Bagh or Amritsar Massacre
In April 1919, two popular leaders of the Satyagraha movement were arrested, setting off a series of protests in Amritsar. Without warning or authorization, the British commander ordered his troops to fire on the protesters, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians. This Report of the Commissioners appointed by the Indian National Congress includes statements by eye-witnesses to the massacre.
April 7th, 1920
Birth of Ravi Shankar, sitar player
Born on April 7th, 1920, Ravi Shankar was a famous sitar player and composer who had major influence in stimulating Western appreciation of Indian music. In this 1950 interview about 'Indian Music Today' from Vigil - An Independent Political Weekly, Ravi Shankar expresses his hope that the new Indian government will provide financial support to musicians, thereby ensuring the continued growth and evolution of Indian music. Shankar would later work with the government-run All India Radio to create the Indian National Orchestra.
February 28th, 1928
Discovery of light scattering by Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman discovered light scattering, now known as the Raman effect, on February 28th, 1928. This breakthrough earned Raman the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. The minutes, pictured here, record the formal congratulations delivered by the Chancellor of the University of Calcutta to Raman for earning the highest honor in science. February 28th is now celebrated by the Government of India as National Science Day in honor of Raman's achievements.
March 12th - April 6th 1930
Mahatma Gandhi led the Salt March from his ashram in Ahmedabad more than 200 miles to Dandi in protest against the Salt Laws imposed by the British government in India. This act of civil disobedience inspired Indians across the country and inaugurated the independence movement's focused campaign of nonviolent resistance to British rule. Several leaders of the Salt March, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi himself, were arrested in the following weeks for breaking the Salt Laws. This event was chronicled in the Indian Annual Register of 1930.
October 15th, 1932
Tata Airlines, later to become Air India, made its first flight
On October 15th, 1932, Tata Airlines made their first flight carrying airmail from Karachi to Bombay. This article, written by Manik Chandra Das in 1932 for the 'Modern Review', advocates civil aviation as 'a young man's industry', pointing out that the president of the largest airline in the world was then only 35 years old.
Bengal Famine of 1943
This official report investigates the causes and effects of the widespread famine in Bengal and, to a lesser extent, in neighboring Orissa in 1943-44. As many as three million people died during the famine, which was accompanied by outbreaks of malaria, small-pox and cholera, while 'many more who escaped death went hungry for many months, fell sick of disease, and suffered in other ways from the disintegration of normal life which the famine occasioned.'
August 15th, 1947
Indian Independence Day
Indian Independence Day commemorates the nation's independence from the United Kingdom, which was celebrated across South Asia and around the world. In this article for 'Modern Review', the author, an Indian working as a consultant with the United Nations in New York, reports the 'unprecedented enthusiasm' of South Asian immigrants over the news of independence, as well as the ‘faces beaming with smiles’ from New Yorkers of all different nationalities. He also reports ‘whispers and criticisms’ over partition and worries over the ominous ‘shadow’ cast by this decision.
January 30th, 1948
Murder of Mohandas Gandhi
Just after the murder of Mohandas Gandhi in January 1948, The Calcutta Review issued a special 'Mahatma Gandhi Number', which included both tributes to and assessments of the great leader and his legacy. In 'Mahatma Gandhi: A Maker of History' the author writes, 'Gandhi was undoubtedly one of the best and most prominent among those great men through whom the modern world has attained a new self-consciousness as to man's duties and obligations.'
September 14th, 1949
Adoption of Hindi as India's national language
Hindi was adopted as the Official Language of the Union of India in 1949. This document outlines the debate around the selection of Hindi as a national language of India.
January 26th, 1950
Rajendra Prasad becomes 1st President of India
A proponent of the Independence Movement and a supporter of Gandhi, Prasad was elected the first president of India by the Constituent Assembly. Upon his election Prasad retired from party politics in order to establish the presidency as a non-partisan, independent office. This profile of Prasad, written by 'a Bengali college friend' in 1946, describes the young law student and future leader as a reliable 'arbitrator in all disputes'.
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"This archival information which was lost to the people of India will come alive because of this project."
Kapil Sibal, Indian Minister of Communication and IT