The South Asia Open Archives (SAOA), launched in 2019 by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), now contains more than one million pages of digitized open-access primary source material. More than two dozen institutions have contributed to this ever-growing archive. The multidisciplinary materials cover topics ranging from political history through the fine arts to the sciences and represent twenty-seven different languages—Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Telegu, Gujurati, and Nepali, just to name a few.
Almost 19,000 pages from the Bangla-language newspaper Yugāntara and the English-Bangla newspaper Amrita Bazar Patrika can be viewed and downloaded. Access to these region-specific papers is supplemented by digitized colonial reports on the “native” newspapers published in the Bombay Presidency; the Madras Presidency; Berar Province (Hyderabad); Punjab, North-Western Provinces, and Oudh; and Bengal. Other English-language colonial records include official reports from the government of Orissa and Bihar; Madras Presidency; and Bombay Presidency. Medical journals, archaeological reports, and census records can also be found in the colonial archive.
You can explore these (and a million more!) items free-of-charge via JSTOR or visit the SAOA website to learn more about the project. In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite items:
Based in Madras, The Indian Ladies’ Magazine was founded in 1901 by Kamala Satthianadhan. This 1916 issue includes a dramatization of an attempt to kill the Mughal emperor, Akbar. The Rana of Chittor has fled before Akbar’s invading army. The Rani, Veera Bhai, and the Rana’s sister, Padmini Bhai, decide to make up for the king’s cowardice by taking matters into their own hands.
A New Gujarati Grammar, written by Haragovinda Dvarakadasa Kantavala and Lalshankar Umiashankar Travadi, dates to 1891. Kantavala, a teacher, social reformer, and politician, wrote extensively on Gujarati literature and culture, with a particular emphasis on poetry. He was a promoter of indigenous crafts, and opened a textile factory later in life.
Gāna, a book on song notation written by Pramathanātha Rāẏa Caudhurī and published in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1902, opens with a discussion of the seven-tone scale (saptak) used in Indian classical music.
Pilo Paul’s Malayalam translation of Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia was published in 1913 in Quilon (Kollam), a city on the Malabar Coast. It was originally printed for the Madrasi School Book Association, the secretary of which gave P. P. permission to issue this revised edition.
Amrita Bazar Patrika began publishing in 1867 as a Bengali language newspaper and became a fully fledged daily English language newspaper in 1878; the English version continued to be printed until 1993. The weekly editions of Amrita Bazar Patrika preserved in the SAOA date back as far as 1870.
The Administration Report of the Madras Police for 1884 chronicled devastating floods in the Cuddalore (Kadalur) district of present-day Tamil Nadu. The annual rainfall was more than double that expected, and villages were inundated with floodwaters in November and December. Fourteen people died as a result of the flooding.
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