Anjali Bharadwaj-Datta (University of Cambridge)

Delhi State Archives

Located on the fringe of the city in the Qutub Institutional area, though easily connected by public transport is the Delhi State Archives. It is a regional archive holding a rich variety of primary sources, ranging from public records, manuscripts, private papers to maps, rare books and photographs. Although there are some records from the late eighteenth century, most collections deal with the period after 1857, with a great collection of mutiny papers, trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar, clearance of Chandni Chowk and establishment of the new imperial capital. The collections are no less valuable on the late colonial and early post-colonial period. The records of residents and Commissioners of Delhi Division are extremely useful for home, finance, commerce, industries, revenue and agriculture matters. Of particular importance are the records of the local self-government and commodity control organisation during the war years and thereafter, such as rationing department and civil supplies, revenue administration, labour and transport; as also refugee rehabilitation, land and property records following the independence and partition of the subcontinent.

For researchers and students of history, this is a treasure trove. But the archive also gets visitors who are involved in property litigations to prove inheritance and ownership. Archivist Sanjay Garg is a helpful presence, who is enthusiastically engaged in digitising the records over the past few years. The aim is to digitise private collections first, before moving on to other records. All reading rooms are fully air-conditioned, with an onsite photocopier, and plans are underway to buy scanners for big maps and Mughal firmans. If planning a visit, carrying packed lunch is advisable, as also getting there early to avoid delays in delivery of records.

January 2018