Endangered Archives

EAP636: Creating a digital archive of Indian Christian manuscripts

Dr Ananya Chakravarti, The American University in Cairo
2013 award - Pilot project
£10,000 for 10 months

Archival partner: Goa State Central Library

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Project Overview

Portuguese rule in Goa bequeathed a vibrant Catholic community and a rich legacy of Christian texts in Indian vernacular languages. These texts remain scattered: in state or church archives or in private family collections, or worse, they are forgotten or lost in catalogued collections, remaining invisible to scholars and those interested in the history of Christianity in India. This accounts in part for the relative scholarly neglect of this religious tradition in India. In addition, this heritage of texts, dating back to the late sixteenth century, is in grave danger of being lost altogether due to uncertain archival conditions and poor preservation. The goal of this project is therefore two-pronged: firstly, to identify and locate Christian manuscripts in the Konkan region of Marāṭhi and Kōṅkaṇī in state, church, private institutional and family collections, and secondly to start digitising some Indian Christian texts.

The core of this project will be a textual tradition centred in what used to be the troublesome border province of Salcete in the old conquests in Goa, where the Jesuit order made a concerted effort to accommodate local cultural and literary traditions in Marāṭhi and Kōṅkaṇī. Collecting various versions of Christian manuscripts is imperative to gain a better understanding of the process of conversion to Catholicism in early modern India. While hitherto undocumented manuscripts are still to be found, previous independent efforts to locate and catalogue these manuscripts are an important basis for the project, such as those by Fr. Ivo Coelho documenting important primary and secondary sources for the history of Indian Christianity. The project will focus primarily on private, family and church collections.

Project Outcome

The project was able to locate and identify significant repositories of documents held by families in the region. However, due to changing political situations, many families decided against having their documents digitised. The project hopes that these can be digitised at a later date. The project was able to digitise records held by the Seminary of the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier in Pilar, gaining permission to digitise their manuscript collection as well as significant books relating to the order and to the Church in Goa in their collection. The project was also able to digitise collections from Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK), Goenkacharem Diaz, Goa University Library, Pissurlencar Collection, Xavier Center of Historical Research, and the residence of Percival Noronha.Although there was no time or resources to digitise the large collection of early texts held at the Rachol Seminary, the project was able to catalogue them and hopes these will be digitised at a future date.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP636/1 Pilar Seminary Books and Manuscripts
  • EAP636/2 Gomes Catão Papers [19th Century]
  • EAP636/3 Manuscripts and Microfilms
  • EAP636/4 Books and Manuscripts
  • EAP636/5 Books from the library of Xavier Centre of Historical Research
  • EAP636/6 Digital capture of Accession Register

The catalogue is available here