HISTORYíS FIRST HOME

            At the time of the swadeshi movement Prof Padmanath Bhattacharya Vidyavinod, a scholar and pioneer researcher of the history and culture of Assam, mooted the idea of establishing a society for antiquarian studies of ancient Pragjyotishpura-Kamrupa. This idea found enthusiastic favor among a group of philanthropists who were keen on preserving the art, history, literature and culture of the province. Therefore, at the April 1912 literary conference of the Uttar Bangiya Sahitya Parishad that was held at Kamakhya in Guwahati, this group crystallized the idea into a resolution to form an organization to preserve and promote research on matters related to archaeology, ethnography, language, literature, history and culture of the region that incorporated the ancient kingdom of Pragjyotishpura-Kamarupa. The resolution was unanimously adopted and the Kamrupa Anusandhan Samiti was born. 

The Samiti, which was also known by its secondary title, Assam Research Society, started with a donation of Rs 25 by Babu Sasadhar Ray of the Calcutta High Court who presided over the Sahitya Parishad meeting in Kamakhya. Soon after its inception several prominent personalities associated themselves with the Samiti. Chandra Nath Sarma became its founder-secretary and its list of patrons included Maharaja Jitendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur of Cooch Behar, Lt Governor of Orissa and Bihar Sir Edward Gait, Commissioner of Assam Sir Archdale Earle, Raja Prabhat Chandra Barooah Bahadur of Gauripur and a galaxy of scholars. 

 

The Kamrupa Anusandhan Samiti started its work with missionary zeal, and soon gathered together an enviable collection of inscriptions, puthis, ethnographic objects, relics and manuscripts from the erstwhile Pragjyotishpura-Kamrupa region that included besides modern Assam, parts of West Bengal and present Bangladesh too. Soon, preservation of this large and precious collection became an onerous task and the Samiti requested the government to establish a museum to store the objects. Its plea went in vain through, and finally the Samiti decided to construct its own building. 

The cost of the building was estimated at Rs 20,000, an amount that was contributed by a few generous persons, among whom Rai Bahadur Naupat Rai Kedia of Dibrugarh was the principal donor. When Lt Col P R T Gordon, the then Commissioner of Assam Valley and honorary Provincial Director of Ethnography, Assam formally inaugurated the Kamrupa Anusandhan Samiti building on Nov 19, 1917, he practically opened a new chapter in Assamís rich tradition of record preservation. The Samitiís activities attracted the attention of serious scholars of Indology throughout eastern India and this in turn led to the establishment of its branch at Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) with Babu Surendra Chandra Roychoudhury as its secretary. Until 1950 the Asiatic Society of Calcutta also kept close links with the Samiti and often organized exhibitions of its collection.

The Kamrupa Anusandhan Samiti well served the purpose of a museum until the year 1940 when the Assam State Museum came up at the initiative of Rai Bahadur Kanaklal Baruah. From a small sapling it developed into a full-grown plant with a rich collection of artefacts, manuscripts miniature paintings, puthis, buranjis and chronicles, some of which were later transferred to the museum. The Samiti was however not dissolved. It retained its exclusive identity and even now functions from its old premises behind the museum on the western banks of the Dighalipukhuri.