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South Asia Studies: About the Collections

Taj Mahal, India.


About the Collections




Taj Mahal, India. [Wikitravel]

General Information

Berkeley develops and maintains a world-class South Asia studies collection of approximately 450,000 monographs in many languages. Materials in South Asian vernacular languages are most commonly collected in Bengali, Dari, Hindi, Nepali, Newari, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Prakrit, Pushto, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Materials in South Asian languages, particularly those previously listed, focus on literature, history, and religion while materials in English span an array of subjects found within and across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Berkeley also subscribes to approximately 500 South Asian language journals and newspapers, as well as 3,300 publications in English and other western languages. 

Berkeley's South Asia holdings also include multiple special collections. These collections feature primary sources, rare materials, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, and charts. They range in topic from a northern California-based Indian nationalist movement (South Asians in North America Photograph Collection) to British tax collection from colonial India in the late 18th century (Court Fee and Revenue Stamps of the Princely States of India).

In general, most of Berkeley's circulating South Asia materials are most closely associated with language and literature, history, political science, economics, sociology, government documents, philosophy and religion, South Asian art and art history, women's studies, and the South Asian diaspora. Most of these materials are housed in the Gardner (Main) Library or at the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF). However, materials can be found in multiple libraries across campus.



Berkeley's South Asian research and collection interests date back, at least, to 1906 when Sanskrit was first taught at the university. At that time, the Library's acquisitions included, both in Sanskrit and Western languages, Indic religion, history, philosophy, and literature. In the early 1950s, grant funds were used to hire a librarian to assist with the campus' Modern India Project and, in 1958, a South Asia bibliographer was hired to create a reference collection to handle materials coming to the university through the recently established Public Law 480 Program, now the Library of Congress South Asia Cooperative Acquisition Program (SACAP)Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, as faculty interest in South Asia has increased, Berkeley's scope of subject area focuses and collection interests has expanded to the social sciences and humanities and to a variety of South Asian and Western European languages. 

Photo bottom left: the late Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on a visit to California in 1961 (Bancroft Library collection); the Bharat Grocery Store at 316 First St. Marysville, California, a social center for the Sikh community, from Allan Miller's "An Ethnographic Report on the Sikh (East) Indians of the Sacramento Valley" (Bancroft Library).
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