A review of the Rampur Raza Library and Archives and the ITC Sangeet Research Academy.
My current research focuses on the Imdad Khan gharana, a prominent Hindustani (North Indian classical) instrumental lineage. I examine Hindustani music’s historical development from the 13th century to the present through Persian and Urdu manuscripts, recordings, and ethnographic methods. I am also interested in contemporary performance practices, oral histories, and the economics of Hindustani Music. Both the Rampur Raza Library and Archives and the Sangeet Research Academy provide excellent resources for scholars in a variety of disciplines. The Rampur Raza Library and Archives holds an extensive collection of manuscripts and artwork. The Sangeet Research Academy has a large body of recorded material, a reasonable collection of texts, and additional archival materials. I visited the Rampur Raza Archive on three occasions in 2006, 2008, and 2011, and I spent several weeks in Calcutta at the Sangeet Research Academy.
Rampur Raza Archive
Nawad Faizullah Khan established the Rampur Raza Archive in 1774. His descendants continued to expand the collection until the death of Raza Ali Khan in 1966. Faizullah Khan came from a prestigious ethnically Persian family—many of his ancestors held influential positions within the Mughal Empire. He maintained an abiding passion for Islamic literature, scholarship, and fine arts throughout his life. Faizullah Khan and his descendants were also important patrons of scholarship, music, and the fine arts and supported a number of accomplished refugees from the fall of Delhi in 1857. Several members of this family were also important scholars in the own right. The decision of this dynasty to align with the British during the Sepoy mutiny allowed for both continued patronage of the arts and protection of their holdings. In 1975 the archive was brought under the management of the Indian government and the standing governor of Uttar Pradesh is appointed chairman of the library board. I must mention that there have been occasional periods of neglect of the archive from both secretatian and political motivations—the accessibility and maintenance of the collection can shift with U.P.’s political configuration. For the serious scholar the magnitude of the collection should mitigate potential logistic difficulties.
Getting There and Lodging
The archive is located approximately three hours outside of Delhi in the small town of Rampur, and is easily reached by train or private car from Delhi. If you intend to access the collection, I recommend at setting aside at least three days—frequent holidays and occasionally random closings of the facilities necessitate contingency planning. Rampur has a number of important Sufi shrines, as well as the former Nawab’s residence. I find the town’s atmosphere very conducive for research, and an extended stay can be rewarding. However, outside of the hotel and archive, some fluency in Hindi/Urdu is necessary. I would not recommend this archive for neophyte scholars without the support of a guide or a translator. The Rampur station (station code RMU) can be reached by numerous trains including the Avadh Assam Express, Jammu Tawi-Sealdah Express, and the Kashi Vishwanath Express. There are direct buses available from Delhi, Lucknow, and Agra. I recommend the Modipur Hotel for lodging.
The facility is open from 10am to 5pm all days of the week except Friday. The posted hours of the archive should be taken as an ideal, occasionally achieved in reality. That being said, a letter of introduction and some correspondence with the director will help with access. All email correspondence should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The address of the archive is Hamid Manzil Qila Rampur, Utter Pradesh, India Pin-244901. The library phone numbers are 91-595-2325045/2325346/2327244, and the fax is 91-595-2340548. As this institute is run by the government of India, there might be particular visa requirements associated with access, but I had no problems in this regard during my visits.
The current listed of holdings of printed books number around 75,000 Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, and English on all subjects. Many of these books are very rare and/or out of print. The library has state of the art preservation faciltities, and a restoriation laboratory. This archive is especially notated for its collection of 17,000 manuscripts, including 150 illustrated texts with a total of 4413 paintings, primarily consiting of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Urdu texts. There are approximatley 3000 samples of Islamic calligraphy, 205 palm leave manuscripts, and an stellar collection of 5000 miniature paintings from the Turko-Mongol, Mughal, Persian, Rajput, Pahari, Awadh and Indo-European traditions. In addition, the collection contains biographical, historical texts and numerous musical compositions from the Rampur gharana. At this time there is an ongoing digitization project that (as of March 2012) includes 1,400,000 pages. These are not currently accessible online. However, the Rampur Raza Library Press has published a series of beautifully illustrated reproductions from its manuscript collection as well as research publications based on the library’s holdings. There are 139 books currently available, which can be viewed here: http://razalibrary.gov.in/Razalibnew/publicationofthelibrary.html. There is also a computerized catalogue of this collection, but it was not running during my visits. I highly recommend making the effort to access this collection, as it is truly world-class.
The Sangeet Reseach Academy, Calcutta
The ITC Sangeet Research Academy (ITC SRA) is India’s premier institution of traditional Hindustani music instruction (guru-shisya parampara). The funding for the institute comes from a foundation set up as a generous private trust by Indian Tobacco Company in 1978. Students are recruited from an early age and study intensively for up to twenty years with some of India’s finest musicians. The academy is located on the grounds of one of Tipu Sultan’s former palaces, allowing a pleasant respite from Calcutta’s congestion and pollution. The address is 1 Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, Tollygunge, Kolkata, India Pin-700040, and can be reached by taxi or bus (for the adventurous) from the airport and Howrah train station. The staff can be contacted at 91-33-23773395/23810559 or via email at email@example.com; the website url is http://www.itcsra.org/. I found the director Ravi Mathur to be extremely helpful, and while he is quite busy, he is very supportive of foreign scholars. The library contains books and manuscripts on music in English, Hindi and Bengali. In addition, there is an archive containing press clippings, interviews, and photographs of eminent musicians. The recorded music archives contain thousands of rare recordings, including all performances at held at the academy since its founding. All of the recordings are available for onsite listening in a recording studio located on the premises. Most of the recordings are listed in several binders, but it can take time to sift through the listings. There is a separate scientific library that contains technical books and journals on signal processing, acoustics, phonetics, music processing, and music cognition. In addition, there are data sets from research funded by the Sangeet Research Academy. The onsite acoustic laboratory has a plethora of audio processing equipment. Contact the staff via phone or email prior to your visit. There are also occasionally available research and study grants found on the SRA website, which can provide support for extended research work. For performers, there is currently a program for foreign students that allows for three months study at an all-inclusive rate of $500 a month.
Image: Photo by Hans Utter.
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I would fully support Hans’ praise for the Raza library. My area of research focuses mainly on printed material in Urdu and I was very impressed by the breadth of the collection they have from the 1920-1940s, all preserved in outstanding condition (and nicely bound in blue cloth that bears the label of the “Rampur State Library”). And things have even gotten better recently: The new director SM Azizudin Husain is very open towards researchers – before planning a visit, you should drop him a note at email@example.com. Contrary to Hans’ experience, I found that the library opened punctually at 10am. Even though digital photographs of material are not permitted, their reproduction services provides quick and affordable copies (1Rs/page) even though the 1/3 rule is of course observed. Finally, I found the follwing report about visiting Rampur very helpful in navigating this intriguing city: http://www.natgeotraveller.in/magazine/short-breaks/royal-memories.