Asiatic Society, Kolkata

Updated on: Feb 7, 2013
The Asiatic Society was founded with initiative of Sir William Jones in Calcutta (Kolkata) in the year 1784 with the purpose of broadening the scope of oriental research from this place. After its foundation, thrice the society changed its name. During the time of its establishment  it had the name “Asiatic Society”. Simultaneously in 1825 and 1932, the society came under the name of “The Asiatic Society” and “The Asiatic Society of Bengal”. In the year 1936, this historical institution was changed into “The Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal” and in the year 1951, it finally procured its existing name.

Mission of Asiatic Society

The main reason behind establishment of Asiatic Society was enhancement of Oriental studies. The founder, Sir William Jones, who was an extraordinary scholar from Oxford University, actually tried to explore insatiable resources of the land. According to the available historical references, while he was coming to India, he made a draft dealing with his plan of study. Actually this draft covered a vast scope of study, which includes Hindu and Muslim laws, history of the land, politics, mathematics and various types of scientific disciplines which evolved from this place. Even after crossing more than two centuries from the date of its establishment, both in the field of science and humanities, this institution has reached remarkable landmarks.

Research in Asiatic Society

Both in the research field of humanities and science, Asiatic Society has created a separate niche of its own according to the national standard. One will come to about the fact that there is very few discipline of study left which has not been touched by the research works of the society and proof of this unfathomable research curriculum can be cited in the publications of the institution.

When it comes to research on scientific topics, this institute is like a titanic body. Scientific research works made by this institution is covering a vast range of subjects, including: Mathematics and various parts of physical science including, Meteorology, Tidal observations, Laws of storms, Geology both Stratigraphical and Dynamical, Mineralogy, Zoology, Botany including Palaeo-Botany, Geography, Ethnology, Chemistry and several others.

Achievements of Asiatic Society

Apart from remaining the chief advisory body of the Government of India regarding all kinds of scientific subjects, the Society has played a major role leading to the foundation of various government organizations, such as:
  • Trigonometrical Survey of India (1818)
  • Geological Survey of India (1851)
  • Indian Metrological Department (1875)
  • Zoological Survey of India (1911)
  • Botanical Survey of India (1912)
The Asiatic Society has also played very crucial role in establishment of some other organizations in Kolkata, which are as follows:
  • Indian Sceince Congress Association
  • School of Tropical Medicine
  • The University of Calcutta
Asiatic Society Library

Library of Asiatic Society is a national pride. The library has got a collection of almost 149,000 books which have been printed in all the major languages of the world. Among the collection of books, earliest printed books in this library are of 15th century and it also has collection of many books which were printed in 18th and 19th century in India. This library also has collection of numerous books, which are scarcely available in the recent times. It also has collection of almost 47,000 manuscripts, which has made it one of the best collections of manuscripts throughout the nation. Asiatic Society Library also contains a huge collection of more than 80,000 journals. Among the collections of the library, the some of the most notable are:
  • Seven Persian manuscripts received from Mr. Henri Richardson
  • History of Island of Sumatra donated by William Marsden
  • Collection from Palace Library of Tipu Sultan donated by Seringapatam Committee
  • Manuscript of Koran
  • Manuscript of Gulistan text
  • Manuscript of Padshanamah, with signature of Emperor Shahjahan
Museum of Asiatic Society

Like that of the library, the Asiatic Society Museum is also one of its very proud possessions. In the year 1814, the museum was founded under the superintendence of N. Wallich. After the publication of its first catalogue of collected items, it became clear that the museum was progressing with a huge pace. After the establishment of Indian Museum in Kolkata in 1866, this museum transferred all its collection to it. But remaining collection, such as 250 BC Asoka rock edict, copper plate inscriptions, sculptures, coins, archival records and manuscripts are also equally important. This museum possesses masterpieces of great craftsmen, such as:
  • Infant Christ by Paul Rubens
  • Cleopatra by Guido Cagnacci
  • Cupid asleep on Cloud by Joshua Reynolds
  • A Ghat at Benares by Thomas Daniell
There is no doubt about this fact that with the hope and aspiration Sir William Jones laid down the foundation stone of the Asiatic Society, with the passing time, this academic and research institution has proved its excellence.

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