Documenting royalty through the changing political culture in Kongu Nadu, South India, 1400-1950 (EAP1160)

Aims and objectives

The pilot project “Documenting royalty through the changing political culture in Kongu Nadu, South India,1400‐1950” aims to digitise vulnerable documents which are of unique socio‐political and historical relevance to historians, anthropologists, sociologists and linguists. With two main objectives this project will first, survey the numerous royal houses in Kongu nadu (Palaiyakkarar and Pattakkarar), apart from the connections already made. Secondly, obtain permission and implement digitisation of endangered archival materials in these houses. The outcome of the project as a digital archive specifically on the royal houses of Kongu will allow researchers to scrutinise the social and political history of the important political institution represented by the Palaiyakkarar and the Pattakkarar, which were indispensible in the south Indian polity during the last five centuries.

Having two main objectives, the envisaged outcome of the project is a survey of the social and political leaders (Pattakkarar and Palaiyakkarar) of Kongu nadu. There is very limited scholarship on these “small kings” because
of the lack of empirical evidences made available for research. This is not the case only with Kongu Nadu chieftains but also for whole of South India. These two royal figures held important and indispensible position in South Indian polity for the last five centuries and played a crucial role in the socio‐cultural and political economic realm in local society. In the course of history, many families lost their old grandeur but some still retain it, though not of course as earlier, because the democratic state removed many of their privileges. However, all these families hold documents (archival in nature), and other artifacts issued to them by the medieval kings (1400 CE) up to the end of British regime (1947 CE). Second, many such documents, under their custody, were produced during the various generations of the chiefly families as power holders in the region, which this pilot project aims to digitise. The vulnerable documents held by these royal houses of Kongu Nadu are of great interest to scholars working on the pre‐modern, early modern as well as the modern political culture of South India. The individual document holders, descendants of the Kongu royal houses, are not aware of the immense scholarly value of their personal archives and historical possessions. Further, they are also not willing to part with them, as these written documents and historical artifacts hold sentimental and sacred value for their families as they were handed to them by their ancestors. From the contacts already made, it is estimated that roughly around 5000 to 8000 pictures, will be digitised during this pilot project. But the survey intended to carried out during this pilot project is to locate and identify new collections in view of digitisation during a major project.

Outcomes

Within the time frame of the pilot project and other significant constraints (door to door surveys, identification of the nature of the documents, negotiation with document holders for their consent for digitisation, etc.), the team has digitised the collection of one document holder. The team found the largest collection at Idayakottai Zamin in Dindigul District. The paper documents held by the zamin dates from 1860 to 1950. These materials are comprised of loose legal size papers, diaries, notebooks, registers, pamphlets, newspapers pertaining to this period and locked with other artefacts in a room in the palace.

The team also submitted a survey in the form of a spreadsheet.

 

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