Friday, August 21, 2009

Directorate of Archaeology, Archives and Museums Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

[ETA: the website linked below was hacked last time I checked (April 2019). Try these: and]

The Archives division of the Madhya Pradesh Directorate for Archaeology, Archives and Museums can be found at Banaganga Marg (Banganga Road), at the base of Shyamla Hills, next to the Hindi Granth Academy.

If you are doing research on Holkar or Gwalior (Scindia) State, this is the place to start. The Archives hold material relating to the Central Provinces, Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore, Madhya Bharat, Maihar and Nagod States. I was looking into Gwalior State Records. Most of the material made available was English language, early 20th century, but here the official description of their holdings (including records in Nagpur, etc.):
  • The record available at the Central Provinces and Berar, Madhya Pradesh Central Record room, Nagpur is from 1799 to 1920. The post 1920 series is maintained in the General Administration Department, Mantralaya, Vallabh Bhawan, Bhopal.
  • The Holkar State Records - available in Bhopal and at Indore Repositories is from 1818 to 1950.
  • The Scindia State(Gwalior) records are from 1802 to 1948. They are located in Bhopal repository.
  • The records of Bhopal State are from 1914 to 1948. The series of pre 1914 records are with the National Archives of India, Bhopal Branch.
  • The Madhya Bharat State Records are from 1948 to 1956 and are available in Bhopal.
  • The Narsingarh State Records are available in Gwalior Repository and some of the records of Nagod and Maihar State is available in Rewa Repository.

The facilities are a little sketchy at the Bhopal repository, in that every time it rained, the reading room flooded. I spent a lot of time reading with my feet in the air. There did not seem to be any sort of catalogue available, but the Assistant Archivist, Mr. Meena, helped me sort through three cabinets of Gwalior material in search of relevant records. Although the official opening hours for Bhopal office start at 10 or 10:30, there's really no point in going before 11:00. Ask whomever you see to find Mr. Meena--his desk is in the corner office in the Holkar record room.

Photocopying is pretty pricey here, the most expensive I've encountered in India at 20Rs./page. Still, Mr. Meena helped me consolidate pages, so it worked out to about That's still higher than anywhere else in India.

Accommodations: I've been staying at Ivy Suites (they are working on a new website), which is at the very top of Shyamla Hills. It is about a 20 minute walk down the hill to the Directorate, and a 30 minute walk back up the hill. To avoid much of the hill, you could stay at Ranjit's Lakeview, but that would be a more anonymous hotel experience. Within one block of Ivy Suites are the luxury hotels Jehan Numa Palace Hotel and the Hotel Lakeview Ashok. These are both very nice, but I can't imagine any research budget stretching to include such luxury. You can find awesome french fries at the coffee shop at Jehan Numa, though.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Renewing your Research Visa.

Good luck with that.

No, seriously, it can be done, but it is going to take more patience than you probably have after 12 months in India.

First, the good news for all you Fulbright people: the USIEF office will write you a letter that should help smooth things over with FRRO. Yes, FRRO. I'm afraid you have to go back there. You should take with you:
  • your own pen with black or blue ink
  • passport photos (take 4, just in case, but refer to my previous FRRO post for instructions on how to find a photo place near FFRO itself)
  • passport w/visa
  • photocopies of your passport and visa
  • FRRO registration book
  • photocopies of the first and last page of your FRRO registration book
  • Original letter from USIEF, recommending visa renewal
  • Photocopy of letter from USIEF
  • Letter from Indian university (JNU, DU, etc.) advisor recommending that your visa be renewed (THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL)
  • Proof of residence (utility bill, C-Form, etc.)
  • Flight arrival information (I know, who cares, you've been in India 12 months, but they still want it)
  • 4000 INR
You know the drill. Compile all the copies into a pile to leave at FRRO. Get up early, try to be the first person in line at FRRO. I got there at 8:45 this time, and was about 12th in line, an almost perfect position. I was done by 10:30, so it was worth the early start. The paperwork you will be handed is similar to registration paperwork, and if you have all the proper items listed above, you should be golden. Take the USIEF phone number with you, though, just in case someone gives you trouble.

Okay, now the bad news for all you independent researchers, or people on something like a SSRC-IDRF. It's going to take you an extra day or two to renew your visa. Plan for a total of three days: 1 day to get letters from the U.S. Embassy and your advisor on campus; 1 day to visit the Ministry of Home Affairs; and 1 day for the FRRO.

This is what you need to do. Get a letter from the U.S. Embassy reconfirming your status as a researcher. Get a letter from your Indian university advisor recommending your visa renewal and noting your good research progress. Photocopy them. Then get up early and go to the Ministry of Home Affairs (Jaipur House on Mansingh Road, New Delhi) and take the following items:

  • your own pen with black or blue ink
  • passport photos (I honestly can't remember if I needed them, but it can't hurt to have them)
  • Original letter from U.S. Embassy
  • Photostat of letter from U.S. Embassy
  • Original letter from university advisor
  • Photostat of letter from university advisor
  • Original letter from home (U.S.) institution praising your work
  • Photostat of letter from home institution
  • Passport with visa page
  • Photostat of passport with visa page
  • FRRO registration book
  • Photostat of FRRO registration book
  • Proof of residence (utility bill, C-Form, etc.)

Compile all the copies together, these are what you will attach to the forms given to at MHA. You also need the originals, though, because the interview (see below) will ask to see them. If you forget to make a photocopy, don't worry, there is a copy station at the bottom of the stairs, only 1 INR/page.

When you get out of the autorickshaw at Jaipur House, the reception desk is in the little building to your right. Go in there and show your passport. This room has AC, but don't think you have it made, because this is only the reception hall. They will give you a number and tell you to go to the visa room. Go out of reception and into the complex to the office building to the left (ask the guards where to go). Wander into the building, look for stairs. The visa room is on the first (upper) floor. The copy station is right at the bottom of these stairs.

Generally, this part is hot and chaotic, even though the visa people follow a clear procedure. You will be given some paperwork with a number. Fill it out, and bring it back to the same desk. Eventually, some officers will come out and sit at the long desk at the side of the room, and start calling out numbers. You'd think people would wait until they heard their number, but no, the moment one number is called, there is a stampede. For this reason, I recommend sitting in a chair in the side room so you will already be there when the stampede happens. You might be tempted to sit in the larger visa room, where there is a hint of AC, but I think you will regret it when the chaos starts.

What happens is this: your number is called, and you go sit at the long desk for an interview. I never said a word during my interview, so I'm not sure why they call it that. An officer looks over all your photocopies, asks to see the originals, writes some mysterious notes, then tells you to come back at 4:30. Here is the frustrating part. You will come back at 4:30 as directed, and be handed a sealed envelope. This envelope you take to FRRO the next morning, along with all the documents/money listed above. DON'T OPEN THE ENVELOPE. I know, it's hard, because in that sealed envelope it either says "give this person a visa extension" or it says "deny this person's visa extension," and it would be lovely to know which it is before you stand in line at FRRO. But if the seal is broken, you will be denied your visa extension for certain.

In my case, I was recommended for a visa extension, and the less than two hours I then spent at the FRRO a miracle. I hope this description of the process bears equally good results for you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bikaner Accommodations.

Let's face it, Bikaner in the summer is a tough place to be. 115-120 degree F during the months of May and June, and it doesn't matter where you're living, because it is going to be hell. That being said, I can recommend looking into the Hotel Shri Ram. Yogendra Singh and Samar Rathore were great hosts, and looked after me very well during the hot season. It's only 1/2 block to a nice, quiet park for evening walks, 1 block to a cyber cafe (for recharging your phone and buying cold drinks) and about 4 blocks to the city's only ice cream parlor. If you are going to be traveling regularly to the Rajasthan State Archives, Yogendra Singh can arrive daily transport with a local autorickshawallah. I paid 20Rs. one way no matter where I went in the city.

There are at least two luxury hotels in town (Laxmi Niwas Palace and Lallgarh Palace), but they are a little removed from the city and a bit hard on the budget. Yogendra Singh can take you on a tour of Laxmi Niwas Palace, or maybe for a meal in the open air restaurant.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

अठसठी इमारती (Athsathi Imarat)

The Athsathi Imarat (3-1/2 year Building Accounts) consist of account summaries for materials, wages, religious/charitable donations, and tehshil collections/expenditures for a specified period. Here is an example page, translation is below.


Vikram Samvat 1785

Expeditures: Materials/Wages

Observatory (जंत्र)
2802-11-0 [Rupees-Annas-Paise]

Materials (मसाला) used in Observatory]



Unslaked Lime


[list of materials continued on verso]

(Material at right of page: dedication to Rama, note that this folio belongs to Athsathi records for the city of Sawai Jaipur)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Imarat Khana (Building Dept.) Records at RSA

There are several sets of Imarat Khana records available at the RSA, including daily income/expenditure reports, monthly and annual summaries, and court-related accounts. This is a listing of the Imarat Khana records from Catalogue No. 23, Jaipur State. I have also appended a few entries from the Pothi Khana and Rang Khana records from the same catalogue.

जमा खर्च (Jamaa Karch) Income/Expenditure

Bundle No. 1 (reviewed 05/15/09)
VS 1775-1776
VS 1777-1778
VS 1778
VS 1784
VS 1787

Bundle No. 2 (reviewed 5/18/09)
VS 1788 Shri Vrindavan (Kanak Vrindavan Valley, bottom of Nahargarh hils, on Amber-Jaipur Road)
VS 1787 Mathuraji
VS 1788-1792 Pahar Ganj (near Galta Gate, old city,
VS 1786-89 Thakur Duar(?)
VS 1789 Kasba Basva (?)
VS 1789 Vrindavan

Bundle No. 3 (reviewed 5/18/09)
VS 1789-1793 Thakur Kola
VS 1789-1797 Hadha(?) ka Bagh
VS 1790-1794 Ath Kudh Mathura
VS 1791 Mathuraji
VS 1792 Imarati
VS 1792 Kasba Basva
VS 1794 Imarati
VS 1794, 1796 Ghat Kagar Mathura
VS 1797, 1798 Bagh Lalava
VS 1800, 1802, 1807, 1811-1813 Imarati

स्याह इमारती (Syaha Imarati) Building Accounts

Bundle No. 9 (reviewed 04/24/09)
1787, 1788, 1792-1794 Sawai Jaipur
1790, 1791 Pahar Ganj

Bundle No. 10 (reviewed 04/24/09)
1796-1798, 1808 Sawai Jaipur

याद दासती इमारती (Yaad Dasti Imarati) Building Memoranda

Bundle No. 12 (reviewed 05/28/09, 06/22/09)
तोज़ी स्याह हजुर (Tozi Syaha Hazur) Court Accounts
(स्याहा हज़ुर and बकाया हज़ुर)

Bundle No. 20 VS 1780
Bundle No. 21 VS 1781
Bundle No. 22 VS 1781-1784

Bundle No. 23 VS 1783 (reviewed 06/22/09)
Bundle No. 24 VS 1786-1787 (reviewed 06/23/09)
Bundle No. 25 VS 1788
Bundle No. 26 VS 1789-1790
Bundle No. 27, 28 VS 1790
Bundle No. 29 VS 1791-1792
Bundle No. 30 VS 1792
Bundle No. 31, 32 VS 1793
Bundle No. 33 VS 1794
Bundle No. 34, 35 VS 1795
Bundle No. 36 VS 1795-1796
Bundle No. 37 VS 1796
Bundle No. 38 VS 1797 (reviewed 5/22/09)
Bundle No. 39 VS 1799
Bundle No. 41 VS 1800
Bundle No. 41a VS 1801

रोज़नामा ईमारती (Roznaama Imarati) Daily Building Accounts

Bundle No. 1
VS 1748, 1780-1781, 1784, 1787, 1788, 1789 (reviewed 05/15/09)

Bundle No. 2
VS 1790, 1791 (reviewed 05/19/09)

Bundle No. 3
VS 1791, 1792, 1793 (reviewed 05/19/09)

Bundle No. 4
VS 1793, 1796, 1797, 1798 (reviewed 05/08/09)

जमा-खर्च पोथी खाना (Jamaa-Karch Pothikhana) Income/Expenditure Book Department
[all of these have been re-catalogued as Roznama, so I’m not sure why this section of bundle numbers is still in the catalogue. I’m listing them, but use the रोज़नामा पोथीखाना (Roznaama Pothikana) bundle numbers below to request them]

Bundle No. 3
VS 1782-1783, 1784

Bundle No. 4
VS 1784-1785, VS 1786-1787

Bundle No. 5
VS 1779-1782, 1787-1789, 1789-1790

Bundle Nos. 6/1, 6/2
VS 1790-1793, 1794-1797, 1798-1800

Bundle No. 7
VS 1802-1803, 1800-1805

अठसठी इमारती (Athsathi Imarat) 3-1/2 Year Summary of Building Accounts

Bundle No. 1
VS 1785

Bundle No. 2
VS 1786

Bundle No. 3
VS 1787

Bundle No. 4
VS 1788

रोज़नामा पोथीखाना (Roznaama Pothikhana) Daily Accounts Book Department

Bundle No. 1 VS 1764-1794 (reviewed 06/29/09)

Bundle No. 2 VS 1795-1802 (reviewed 06/23/09)

Bundle No. 3 VS 1803-1830

रंग खाना (Rang Khana) Paint/Dye Department

Bundle No. 1 VS 1755-1793 (reviewed 05/22/09)

Bundle No. 2 VS 1794-1799, 1801

Bundle No. 3 VS 1803-1809

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Karkhana Records at RSA

Many Jaipur State records at the Rajasthan State Archives are catalogued only minimally. There exists a series of handwritten, hardbound catalogues, listing out the holdings. Catalogue No. 23 deals with the Jaipur State karkhana holdings. Here, I have listed out the various khana records available at RSA.

Catalogue No. 23 जयपुर स्टेट कारखाना (जमा-खर्च) Jaipur State Karkhanas (Income/Expenditure)

Khanas Catalogued:
अवद खाना (Awad Khana)

इमारत खाना (Imarat Khana) Building Department

रंग खाना (Rang Khana) Paint, Dyes, Colors

औखद खाना (Aukhad Khana)

किरकरा खाना (Kirkiri Khana) Jewelry Department

कोष ग्रह (Kosh Graha) Treasury

खुशबू खाना (Kushbū Khana) Scents Department

खयाल खाना (Khyaal Khana) Chess, Chaupar, etc.

गुणीजन खाना (Gunijan Khana) beg. 1816, Musicians

गऊ खाना (Gu/Gaya Khana) Cows

चिज ग्रह (Chiza Khana)

छापा खाना (Chaapa Khana) Printing

जरगर खाना (Jaragar Khana) Gold and silver articles

जीन खाना (Jīn Khana) Saddles, Bridles

तोप खाना (Topa Khana)

तंबल खाना (Tambul Khana) Betel leaves and vessels

तोषा खाना (Tosha Khana) Presents, valuable cloth, shawls, embroidery

चित्र ग्रह (Chitra Graha)

पखाल खाना (Pakhal Khana)

पालकी खाना (Palki Khana) Sedan chairs (later becomes Buggy Khana)

पोथी खाना (Pothikhana) Books, Manuscripts

पात्र खाना (Patra Khana)

फ़रास खाना (Farash Khana) Carpets, Tents

फ़ील खाना (Fīl Khana) Elephants

मसाल खाना (Mashal Khana) Torches

मेवा खाना (Meva Khana)

रसोई खाना (Rusoi Khana) Kitchen

रत्न खाना (Ratn Khana) Jewels

वस्त्र ग्रह (Vastra Graha)

सीलेह खाना (Sileh Khana) Armor

सोधा खाना (Sodha Khana)

शिलकार खाना (Shikar Khana) Hunting animals

सूरत खाना (Surati Khana) Paintings

सूत्र खाना (Sutra Khana) Camels

दाग धोड़ा (Dag Dhodha)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rajasthan State Archives

[ETA: Please visit the new website for the Rajasthan State Archives, where you will find more current contact and access information. It makes me feel good to look at the photo of the research and reference room! You will feel so much more comfortable here.]

I wish I could go back here, really. Yes, it is miserably hot in Bikaner in the summer, but the material held here is just amazing, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the other researchers gave me candy.

You won't find the address for this place on the internet, so let me just tell you it is on Government Press Road, or "at the Old Government Press." The facilities are a bit harsh during the summer--the reading room is small, with only one window for light. This is important on those days when you have mandatory 3-hour power cuts. There is no air, and no light, and it generally feels like you've landed in hell. As long as there is power, there is a fan, and then you can work. When the power goes...have an alternate plan, like going home (where there will also be no power, so you might as well stay). They installed a window AC unit while I was there, and it helped when the power was on, but only so much.

Okay, so the reading room is a bit hard sometimes, but the material makes up for it, right? I never really figured out the catalogue system for this place. My general approach was this: I knew that I wanted to look at records from the Imarat Khana (Building Department) between 1721-1743. After a few miscommunications, eventually I was given a handwritten catalogue, divided into section by khana. Under each khana heading was a list of years for which records were available. For instance, under Imarat Khana records, I could request Income-Expense records for 1721, bundles 1, 2 and 3. That's as precise as it got. The bundles for the year would arrive, and I would go through them page by page to see what was there.

This same approach was taken with Rang Khana (Paint/Dye Department) records, Pothi Khana (Book Department) records, and with the rest of the Khana records. It would have saved so much time if there had been even a small description of each bundle, but there wasn't so I had to look at every page.

To request material, ask for a request slip (mang patra) at the front desk. Or, watch the other researchers--they just grab them from the desk drawer when they needed them, so I started doing that, too. You can fill out the slip in Hindi or English, or a combination of the two (my preference). No one here had any problem with me looking at whatever I wanted to look at. They brought me what I wanted, unless it was missing. The records aren't in a great state, a lot of dirt and worm damage, so when they said something was missing, it was easy to believe.

The photocopy policy was both liberal and restrictive. I was allowed to copy anything that had the word "observatory" on it, no questions asked, for 6Rs./page. They kept a running tab, and I just paid it off at the end of every month. So, that was great. However, there were a lot of building records not specifically related to the observatories that I would have loved to have copies of, and I ended up trying to frantically transcribe them. Difficult work, since it was in 18th c. Rajasthani. I had to write it all by hand, and I can tell you, I made a lot of transcription mistakes just because I couldn't read the record properly in the moment.

Oh, for access to the RSA, you need to have your paperwork in order. That is, you need:

  • Letter of introduction from USEIF if you are a Fulbrighter
  • Letter of introduction from U.S. Embassy if you are not a Fulbrighter
  • Letter of introduction from home (U.S.) institution
  • Passport with visa
  • Copy of passport with visa
You will be interviewed by the In-Charge and the Director. I just nodded a lot and smiled, and that seemed to work. It was at the RSA that I adopted my "absolute silence" approach to archival access. Even if someone says, No, you cannot work here, stay silent. Eventually, they will talk themselves into letting you do the work.

Facilities: the bathroom situation is horrid, so don't ask me about it. Don't plan to use them if you are female. Bring your own bottle of water if you don't trust the well water provided in the reading room. There is a chai stand just outside the complex gate to the left, but the chaiwallah also visits 2x a day if you want to put in an order. To the right outside the gate is the road to Junagarh Fort. It has some little shops, places to buy cold water, and several photostat shops, convenient for copying out your transcription notes. Keep walking along this road and into Junagarh Fort, and you can have lunch at Prachina, the Princess of Bikaner's snack shop. Across the road from the fort is Gallop's, an expensive coffee shop. They have good Bikaneri chicken if you feel like a splurge.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Delhi Accommodations

While working at NAI in Delhi, I stayed at Vandana's Bed and Breakfast (I had the Parkview room, nice for birdwatching). This was in a great location (Safdarjung Enclave), about a 50Rs. autorickshaw ride from the archives. The house was really comfortable, and Pradeep and Vandana and family were excellent hosts. It is just a short walk through Arjun Nagar to Deer Park, Hauz Khas Village, or Green Park, and about a 40-50Rs. autorickshaw ride to Defence Colony. Since it is in South Delhi, it is also convenient to the airport. I was so comfortable here that I went back instead of finding a new place when I had to return to Delhi to renew my research visa.

Monday, February 2, 2009

JNU Affiliation

To receive a research visa for India, you will need to provide either your bonafides as an independent scholar, or evidence of your affiliation with a local research institute. Working out affiliation details can be difficult. I started by making numerous web searches to identify faculty working my area in Jaipur and Delhi. After locating faculty with research interests similar to mine, I read all the publications by said faculty that I could find. This was instructive, and led me directly to a department and 1-2 faculty members at JNU that I would have liked to work with had they been in the U.S. At this point, I sat down and sent a dozen e-mails and made a dozen phone calls, trying to track these faculty members down to talk about research affiliation. It was a long and stressful process, made all the more so by my poor Hindi. I had several e-mail conversations, sent copies of my research proposal, my CV, talk to admissions on the phone, all of this. However, I think it helped me in the end, if only because I could put in my Fulbright application that I had made appropriate contact with faculty at a research university in India.*

Of course after this, a lot of the affiliation details are then handled by USIEF if you are a Fulbright-Hays DDRA student. Still, once you arrive in India, you will need to take care of paying your affiliation fees and registering as a day student/research affiliate yourself. This post will go over the steps for a JNU affiliation. I'm assuming you've made contact with your faculty advisor, and you just need to go through the formal registration process.

I will be referring to this map of JNU campus.

To arrive on the JNU campus, there is only one open gate, the Main, or North, Gate, off Bara Gangnath Marg (Road). Go through the gate, past the Dakshimpuram dormitories on the left, and take the first major left. Take another left, and this brings you onto a sort of ring road. You are headed to the Admin Building (also labeled "West Wing"), or Bldg. No. 2 on the JNU map. The entrance is on the west end of the building.

In the Admin Building, go to Room 20 (to the right). Ask for Satendrji. You will sit down at a table and go over the registration process with him. For this, you will need the following:

Your Letter of Admission from JNU
Your passport and research visa
A statement of medical clearance (I didn't have this, but I was fine without it)
A photocopy of passport and research visa
Four (4) passport photos
$100 USD (roughly INR5000) per semester of affiliation

Satendrji will give you a form to fill out in quadruplicate. He will then send you over to Room 13 to pay your affiliation fee. The cashier booth is just to the left of the door of Room 13. The Cashier will give you a receipt. Hold on to it. Sit and fill out the four forms in quadruplicate, and take them back to Satendrji. If he approves, he will cross out certain superfluous items on the forms, and stamp/sign them. Then he will send you to get a signature from the Dean of Students Office, as well as the signature of the Administrative Officer in your affiliating department. While you are out getting these two signatures, you will also need to make a photocopy of your cashier receipt.

Here's my advice. Go to the Dean of Students office (Bld. No. 13 on map) first. You want to turn left out of the Admin Building. The walkway leads past a science building and something that appears to be a greenhouse/nursery area. The Dean of Students office is behind the Molecular Sciences building. Make sure you do this before 1:15, otherwise everyone will be out to lunch. In theory, the guard at the door will be able to get your papers stamped. If this doesn't happen, you can do what I did: during the middle of the lunch hour, walk right into the Dean of Students office, say you think you need his signature, and see what happens. It worked for me, but I'm pretty sure I broke a number of rules doing it this way.

Most of the academic buildings (Social Sciences I & II, School of Arts and Aesthetics, etc.) are lined up behind the Admin Building (see Bldg. Nos. 40, 45, etc. on the map). They are much easier to find than the Dean of Students office. Your advisor probably arranged an appointment with you, so you can get your signature then. Otherwise, you can go to your discipline's building and try to find the approved Administrative Officer and request a signature.

As you are walking around, you will probably see dhabas and bookstores. There is a good range to the east of the library of this sort of thing. There are also two photocopy shops here. Photocopies as of right now are 1/2 INR per copy, so you'll probably have to buy two copies of your cashier's receipt, because who has 1/2 rupee change?

Once you have the signatures, leave the appropriate copy of the form with your department. Drop the Admissions Branch form and the receipt photocopy back in Admin Building Room 13 with Satendrji. Go back to the Dean of Students and drop one of the forms in the small box inside the entrance (to the right) labeled "Day Students". The yellow form is yours to keep.

That's as much detail as I can remember. JNU is a beautiful campus, so you might want to plan to spend the day there, watching birds and reading in the jungle. It's unlikely you will be able to catch an autorickshaw near the Admin Building. You can either take the bus back to the main gate, or you can walk, which takes about ten minutes, max.

*I am affiliated with JNU. Other options in Delhi include Delhi University, Maulana Azad Medical College, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and Jamia Millia Islamia, among others.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Archaeological Survey of India

The ASI library is on the NAI campus. I haven't used it much yet, but I'll provide this practical advice in case you are trying to find it. Read the previous post on the NAI. Note the part where I wrote "Confidently walk forward. The museum is on the left, and there is a sign on the building saying it is the National Archives Museum. Keep walking straight, the path leads right to the building that has the RR."

To get to the ASI library, walk forward as if you are going to the RR. Instead of going up the front stairs and into the RR building, however, take a right turn and head toward the canteen. Don't go to the canteen, instead turn immediately left at the end of the RR building and head to the back of the building.

Trust me. I know this looks wrong. You will get to the back of the building and think, WTF? There are only boys smoking and dogs wallowing in garbage heaps back here, this can't be right. But really, it is. Walk toward the garbage pile. When you are almost there, there is a door in the back of the building. It is a small door, probably hanging open, without any sort of sign. This is the front door to the ASI library. You need to go up to the 2nd floor (where there IS a sign), check your bag, and then wander around inside the library until you hear voices. When you hear voices, follow them, and ask for help. This approach worked for me, anyway.

National Archives of India

[ETA: Please check out the new website for the National Archives of India. You will find updated contact information, etc. on the website.]

I'm hesitant to post any advice about using the collection at the NAI in Delhi, because I'm still struggling through the experience myself. But the ArchivesWiki on the NAI is completely empty, and the Archives Made Easy site for India only has one entry, Erica Wald's description of her experience. Actually, Erica Wald's description summarizes my experience at the NAI pretty well, so I'll just add a few details now. I'm sure I'll have more to add in three or four weeks, so check back later.

First, being accepted at the NAI as a researcher is not particularly difficult. You need a letter of introduction from your home institution (in my case, University of Illinois and JNU), any other letter of support you can provide (in my case, a letter from USIEF), a letter from the relevant Embassy (see previous post), and copies of your passport and research visa. You fill out a registration form,* available online at the NAI website, and hand all these papers to the fellow inside the Research Room. Once you are approved to do research, you sign the entry book (at a table just inside the RR door), and then you are ready to work.

But wait. First you have to get to the RR. Here's my advice:

Have your autorickshaw drop you at the NAI gate. Take a blue or black pen out of your pocket. Walk into the Reception Office (guard house) just at the gate, look confident and indicate you are going to the RR, and make a signing gesture. This should make the guard think you know what you are doing. If you look confused, you might have to go into a very elaborate exercise over your ID, and why you don't have an I-card (because you're not Indian), and some phone calls will be made, and you will be very annoyed and upset. Don't get upset! Be silent! Just stand there with your pen in your hand and wait. Eventually, enough people will consult about the matter, and you will be able to sign the entry book.

Here is what you need to write:

Your name IN BLOCK LETTERS. Your Delhi address (don't abbreviate!). In the next space, confidently write DDAR MG. In the next space, boldly write RR. Check the time on the clock over your shoulder and note the time in the next space. Don't make a mistake, or this detail might be cause for more delay. Sign your name on the last space on the line. Don't ask any questions, just act like you know what you're doing.

Then stand and wait, and the guard, who is actually a very nice guy once he knows you're not trying to break in, will write you out a daily security pass. Take the pass in hand, and go through the gates into the NAI complex. Sometimes the guard right inside the gate will want to look at your pass, but usually not. Make sure you say "Namaskar" politely to them, it is good if they recognize you and let you in every day with a smile.

So, you're in the gate, but where is the RR? Confidently walk forward. The museum is on the left, and there is a sign on the building saying it is the National Archives Museum. Keep walking straight, the path leads right to the building that has the RR. Sometimes there is a guard outside this building, so you might want to keep your security pass in hand until you are inside.

Once inside this building, you will need to step around the various construction projects (trust me, they will be still be going on 2 years from now), and take a left through the first left door. You will be seeing some elevators. To the left of the elevators is another door. That is the RR!

You have been reading this, and asking yourself, is this level of detail really necessary for a blog post? But yes, it is, because there is not a single sign to tell you where you are going or what to do. So take notes on this stuff.

The fellow who issues the reading passes is usually in the office to the left just inside the RR door. Sometimes he is sitting at a desk in the middle of the RR, next to a pillar. You will know him because he is facing the door, more or less, and the readers are all facing the opposite direction.

Okay, here is some practical stuff. No bags are allowed in the RR, but there are some lockers just outside the door. They don't lock, and often they are all full so you have to just dump your bag on the floor, so make sure everything valuable fits in your pockets because you will have to take it into the RR with you. Using a laptop at the NAI is no problem. There are several power points, but not enough for every researcher. So far, I have had to run on laptop battery power twice in three weeks, so be prepared for that. Either that, or make sure you get up earlier than I do.

The RR is open from 9:30-6:00. You can stay all day, but the staff go to lunch from 1:15 to 2:30, and you can get no help from them during that time. Sometimes it is difficult to find someone to help even during working hours, and I have no good solution for that problem.

There is a canteen on site (as you leave the RR building, it is to your left), but I haven't used it. Another thing, I don't know how it is for the men, but you have to be pretty courageous to use the women's restroom at the NAI. There is a water leak in the restroom, so...well, it's useable, but not comfortable. The restrooms are on the 3rd floor, by the way.

On your way out at the end of the day, you need to give the security pass back to the fellow in the guard house. One or two days of this routine and he will get to know you and it will all be very pleasant. He also goes to lunch from 1:15 to 2:30, so don't expect to gain entry to the NAI complex during those hours.

Just one other small thing. It is difficult to get an autorickshaw in the late afternoons, so be prepared to wait for one. It's easier to get one headed north than south. Don't let the rickshewallahs fool you--you're not very far from CP, so if they ask you for 100 rupees, they are being bandits. It's more like 20 rupees, but if you can get there for 30-40, you're doing pretty good for a foreigner.

*You will be asked for your research topic--make it as broad as possible, encompassing as many years as possible. I have already been refused access to some PWD records because they do not match my original research inquiry (although they definitely do!). So don't write down your dissertation topic. Write down instead a time period well beyond your actual focus, and a very general topic.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Independent Research

If you are in India on a research visa, but are not sponsored by USIEF (Fulbright), you are going to need a notarized letter from the U. S. Embassy in order to access the National Archives of India in Delhi.* Contrary to the many rumors circulating on the The Internets, the U.S. Embassy does provide this letter for a $30 fee as part of the notarial services they provide to U.S. citizens.

To receive this letter, you should take the appropriate ID (passport, visa, letters from home university, etc.) and money to the American Citizens Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. The Embassy is open for routine consular services from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Embassy closes on a surprising number of holidays, most of which you've probably never celebrated in your life, so be sure and check the list of holiday closings before you head over there. You don't need an appointment, as it's first come, first serve.

To find the American Citizen Services Unit, go to Gate 6 of the Embassy (generally known as the Visa Gate) located on Nyaya Marg in the Chanakyapuri neighborhood. Nyaya Marg runs parallel to Shanti Path, to the west. If you can find Panchsheel Marg, that runs perpendicular to both, crossing both Shanti Path and Panchsheel Marg to the north of the Embassy. Another relatively close landmark is Nehru Park--it runs parallel to Shanti Path along Niti Marg, to the east of Shanti Path. I think the closest Embassy to the U.S. Embassy is Finland's, so if you see that, keep going, you're almost there.

*If you on a Fulbright-Hays DDRA, USIEF will arrange for this letter, free of charge. It takes about a week, so if you're in a hurry, you could always follow the above advice and get the letter yourself (for a fee).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Useful Blogs

Many of the blogs out there on the interweb are for backpackers and tourists. Some of them are useful, but life as an academic researcher is quite different from life as a footloose backpacker. So, while I do use sites like India Mike when I am thinking of taking a vacation, I generally avoid the other travel/tourist sites. Here are a few sites I find/found useful (I usually read most of them as RSS feeds):

Expat/Local Blogs
Our Delhi Struggle.
Gora Desi in Delhi.
Maddy's Ramblings.
The Delhi Walla.
Delhi Magic.
Delhi Tube.
Same, Same (but different).
Yuni-Net (Yahoo Group).

Food in Delhi.
Pudding and Pie.
Eating Out in Delhi.
Coffee Houses.

Out and About in Delhi.
Time Out Delhi.
Delhi Happenings.

Bookstores in Delhi.
My recommendations: Midlands in Aurbindo Marg Market; Full Circle, N-Block Market, GK-I; Oxford Books (not OUP), Barakhamba Road, CP; Amrit Book Co., 21-N Block, CP (although I usually recommend avoiding CP if at all possible); Book Cafe, located inside Cafe Coffee Day (multiple locations).

Trees of India.
Birds of India.
India Birds.
Delhi Bird.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.

Delhi Metro.
India Mike.
Make My Trip.
Trains at a Glance.

Hair Salons:
Affinity Salon, Green Park Main Market, Delhi
Geetanjali Salon, Green Park Main Market, Delhi

Clothing, luggage, shoes:
Saronjini Nagar Market