Located at 1 Park Street (at the junction of Park Street and J.L.
Nehru Road), Kolkata, this institution is a famous centre of
Indology, Literature and Scientific Research.
About Asiatic Society
Sir William Jones, the Chief Justice of Supreme Court had founded
this Asiatic Society on 15 January, 1784 under the patronage of
Warren Hastings, which is famous for collection of Indology,
Literature and Scientific Research of about 20000 volumes including
some 8000 rare Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Hindi manuscripts.The
archaeological relics, geological and ethnological specimens which
the museum of this society possessed formed the nucleus of the
Indian Museum. The society has a few pieces of sculpture which
includes an image of Brahma (12th century). The Barhut Asokan Rock
Edict (BC 250) in Pali written in the Brahmi script is one of the
most important exhibits.
The Indian Museum which is now considered as one of the biggest
institutions of its kind in the country was a creation of the
Asiatic Society. A series of institutions such as different surveys,
Calcutta University, Calcutta Medical College and even Indian
National Science Academy, Indian Science Congress Association,
Indian Photographic Association and the like came up one after
another under the patronage of the Asiatic Society.
During the life-time of Sir James, the sessions of the Society used
to be held in the Supreme Court. Sir Jones had expired in 1794. By
then, the activities and researches of 'The Asiatic Society' had
catapulted to a great extent. An urgent need was felt for a personal
building on its own land. In 1796, the Society made a petition for
the acquisition of land. But it did not evoke any response from the
Government. So long the members of the Society did not have to pay
any subscription. Now a new rule was framed to this effect.
Accordingly, a man had to pay two 'mohurs' or gold coins during
admission and pay a quarterly subscription of one mohur or gold
coin. The aim was to collect a fund for the construction of its own
Building of Asiatic Society
This was granted by the Government in 1805, a plot of land at the
corner of Park Street and Chowringhee, the present site of the
Asiatic Society, to which was added later, in 1849, a small portion
on the western side. The construction of the Society's own building
on the plot was completed in 1808, and the books, papers and records
that had accumulated over the years could get a permanent shelter.
Years rolled on, and with the expansion of the activities of the
Society the problem of accommodation was acutely felt. But no
solution was forthcoming till after India's Independence. As late as
1961, thanks to the generous helps of the Government of India and
the Government of West Bengal, the construction of a new building
was started in the premises of the Society to solve the problem of
space, and the new four-storeyed building was formally opened by Dr.
S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India, on 22 February 1965.
The first blueprint of the Society was started by Caption Locke.But
Jean Jacque Pissaun, a French engineer was devolved with the onus of
constructing the edifice. He made slight changes in the blueprint of
Capt. Locke, and constructed the building. The expenditure incurred
for this purpose was Rs. 30,000. The task was rounded off in 1808.
The building has been modifed and extended many times. At the time
of inauguration, the ground floor comprised nine rooms whereas the
first floor comprised five rooms.
'The Asiatic Society' was termed as 'The Asiatic Researches' in its
journals. In between 1788-1920, Twenty volumes of this journal came
here. William Jones, Charles Wilkins, Nathaniel Trassi Halhead.
Henry Thomas Colbrook, John Herbert Harrington, William Carrey and
other notable scholars used to write essays on diverse subjects in
this journal. Apart from this, a medical journal was also
established. Later on, James Phillip, an archaeologist became the
editor of this journal. He renamed it as the 'Journal of the Asiatic
Society of Bengal'..
The Society's new building houses a museum, a library and many
administrative offices On display are old maps, coins, copper
inscriptions, journals and palm leaf manuscripts, Tibetan
manuscripts, etc. There is an oil painting of Cleopatra by Guido and
another of Maria de Medici by Joshua Reynolds. The library is quite
exhaustive and is open to visitors.
If you are exploring the Asiatic Society, also visit its nearest
tourists spots like Indian Museum, Maidan, New Market, Sahid Minar,
definitely it will make your tour to Kolkata more excited.