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Asiatic Society

Asiatic Society
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.

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.

Nearby Attraction
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.

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