A taste of history at Pune Archives

Documents and letters from the Peshwa's rule in the Modi script. Photographs by Sanket Wankhede

A city that was home to the Peshwas holds a historically rich treasure that every historian would come clambering to. A sprawling architectural structure set in grey stone as a sign of its antiquity against the new-age coloured establishments is nestled in Camp. This heritage site, which dates back to 1891, is the Pune Archives. On completing 125 years of existence, the administration held an inauguration ceremony on September 1, with a host of historians in presence.

Formerly known as Peshwa Daftar, stored within are a collection of innumerable documents pertaining to the 18 and 19 century. The documents are immensely valuable as they trace the rich legacy left behind by the predecessor governments of the Peshwas and the East India Company. The historic information has been sealed in more than 39,000 cloth bundles stacked on top of each other, in rooms named after rulers of those times. Revealing the socio-economic, political and cultural aspects of British as well as Maratha rule, the total documents present number a staggering five crore. Pune Archives is said to be one of the biggest archives in Asia, with 500 years worth of Indian history. The documents and paperwork have been decoded from the Modi script as well as some which are present in Persian, Gujarati and English.

Pandurang Balkawde
Pandurang Balkawde

Speaking at the event, senior historian Pandurang Balkawde reinstated the importance of the archival treasure that surrounded the invited guests.“The document collections include all kinds of administrational duties. From how the trade worked to the letters that went in and out of the collector’s office, even to the workings of the ministry and army. It’s all mentioned,” Balkawde explains. He sits down with the team of Pune365 to explain how this vast collection of documents has created scientific history, almost like a time traveller machine. “This lets us peak into the time of Shivaji’s rule. An administration created for the people, details of its construction are there. It unfolds information about the land given to religious places and the money for it. Information right from the tehsil level is available. Also, a lot of Deccan Commission Records are here”

According to Balkawde, Pune Archives is every historian’s haven. “Almost every researcher studying Indian history or Maratha rule has come here. The rich historic knowledge present here has attracted researchers from America, Japan and Europe even,” beams historian. But, it’s not just professional historians that hold this place precious. Ajit Mane, a commercial artist who took keen interest in studying history right from school, had his own reasons for being present at the event. “I am here to trace the lineage of the Mane family, which has been there before Shivaji’s rule,” states Mane. “Basically I wanted to learn more about my ancestors. Studies have taken place to track the Bhosale and Shinde, but not Mane. The kind of information provided here has been extremely helpful.”

In order to make the archives more accessible to the public, the administration at Pune Archives plans to hold an exhibition displaying the various documents in the future.

Zeenat Tinwala

Zeenat Tinwala

She’s our Employee #1 and is often the first to come in and last to leave office. And she’s an accomplished kickboxer. Stay clear! zeenat@pune365.com
Zeenat Tinwala

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