Anthropological Survey of India

Anthropological Survey of India was established in December 1945 by the Government of India in Benares and started functioning as a centralized institution. The AnSI is akin to institutions such as the Survey of India, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Zoological Survey of India, and the Botanical Survey of India. Later local stations were established in different parts of India. The criterion for setting up field stations or zonal offices was the special significance of localized situations that were subject to change - both political and social. It was in response to this criterion, that the first station in Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar) and the subsequent station in Shillong (North-East) were set up. Later experience led to expansion into different regions of the country. Today the AnSI has regional centres in Dehra Dun (North), Udaipur (West), Calcutta (East), Shillong (North-East), Nagpur (Central), Mysore (South) and Port Blair (A&N Islands). It also has a sub-regional office at Jagdalpur (Bastar, Madhya Pradesh) and two field stations at Sagar (Madhya Pradesh) and Ranchi (Jharkhand). At present, the organisation is the largest such organisation of its type in the world and enjoys the status of an institute of repute.

The salient features as outlined in the draft proposal have been maintained with well-thought out changes and adoption of new ideas. The foundation of the institute rests on the following premises:

It is a scientific institution for the most advanced research in Anthropology, dissemination of the results of research, and building up a storehouse of knowledge of the communities that are found in India. It will devote its studies to both indigenous populations as well as communities of various religious groups in rural and urban areas.

Anthropology as a discipline will be holistic in nature, all aspects of man will be studied. Research will include studies in branches as prehistory, physical and social/ cultural. This point of view is in contrast to the view of anthropology in other parts of the world, especially the western division of the discipline where each of the above components are treated as discrete categories.

The institution will work closely with the administrative arms of the Government of India so that knowledge gained from research can be translated into welfare and other measures both for integration of the diverse groups for nation building as well as understanding the special needs of people.

Each of the regional centres will have its museum referred to as Zonal Anthropological Museums in order to house the items of material culture collected in the course of fieldwork, display such items for wider audiences in order to create awareness among people of the ingenuity, creativity and variety of arts and artefacts of various groups of people. The museums work as conservators of regional cultures. There is also a Central Museum at AnSI's Head Office at Kolkata.

To develop a comprehensive library at the Head Office as well as at all regional and sub-regional centres to help in the fostering of good atmosphere for research not only for the personnel of the institution but for interested scholars from various fields.

The personnel of the institution will be drawn from all branches of anthropology, pre-history (physical, social and cultural), linguistics, psychology, ecological sciences (geography, cartography), statistics, various art forms, library science and more recently computer science. The latter three disciplines are for providing support to the main focus of the institution - the holistic understanding of man.

After the inception of the Survey, the greater part of the year 1946-47 was spent towards building infrastructural facilities, especially setting up libraries and laboratories. From December 1945 till the independence of India, the Survey initiated a detailed programme towards restoration of the skeletal materials and osteometric studies of bones excavated from Harrappa. Multi-disciplinary scientific expeditions were undertaken among the Lanjhia Saoras of Orissa (to study their physical characteristics and economic system) and a similar expedition was completed among the Jaunsar-Bawars in Uttar Pradesh. Tests were carried out on school-going children of Benares to provide norms for comparison of similar data generated from studies on children of the tribes. A survey of the surviving tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar was conducted as there was need to find out the condition of these tribes after Japanese occupation and to take steps in order to protect them from extinction. As a part of the advanced training programme, some post-graduate students from various universities, trained in laboratory methods of Physical Anthropology, were selected in 1946-47 and placed in areas where the projects of the survey were on.

At present, the Research activities of the institution follow an eclectic tradition and emergent issues, significant changes, national calamities, and ways of life of special groups are researched. The institution has the advantage of carrying out a pan-nation research project because of its structure. The earlier emphasis on study of tribal populations continues but studies on urban anthropology are also undertaken. The institution is also open to collaborative projects with scholars/ institutes in India and outside. AnSI has a small publishing unit to publish results of research for academic use and for its own home journal, The Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India, to which scholars from round the world contribute. Regular workshops for in-house training, lecture series by eminent scholars in various fields, seminars, presentation of formulation, progress and final report of projects undertaken by the personnel of the institution, individually or as a team, and liaison with other academic/research organisations and universities are also carried out. AnSI also endeavours to interest local populations, school and college students in Indian anthropology through thematic display in museums and exhibitions. The central museum of AnSI is located in Kolkata, which is also where the organisation's head office is located. [Ranjit K Bhattacharya]