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Punjab Archives Lahore


The record in the Punjab Archives is dated back to year 1804 and provides deep study in the socio-cultural, political and administrative history of the Province. As such, the Punjab Archives enjoys the position and status of a center of excellence as it contains one of the biggest collections of great archival importance along with a sizeable secretariat library with over 80 thousand collection of books. These records consist of the Delhi residency and agencies’ records transferred to Lahore after the war of independence in 1857. The NWFP was the part of Punjab and all the records related to Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan Division and the tribal areas before the creation of a separate province for these regions were also preserved at Lahore. All old papers relating to the province of Sindh, until it became a part of the Bombay Presidency also constituted a part of the Punjab Archives. Besides, the Punjab Archives has the privilege of preserving all papers relating to the occupation of tribal areas in Balochistan. All records relating to political relations of the Jummu and Kashmir State, Afghan and Persia especially commercial and certain Middle Eastern are also preserved. The archives of all administrative departments from the time the province of Punjab was annexed in 1849 are also stored (Aquil, 1984, pp. 85-86).

In fact, the place was used only for storing the government records without any organization and this mess continued till1923. It was around this time that Professor Garrot, an eminent scholar of history in Government College, Lahore and a member of Indian Education Service was allowed to consult these records by Sir Edward Maclagan, then the Governor of the Punjab. The Governor took keen interest in the proposal of improvement submitted by Prof. Garrot, who was entrusted with the historic task of organizing archival record on proper lines (Ali, 1993, p. 50).


The building of Punjab Archives, known as tomb of Anarkali is located in the Punjab Secretariat Lahore. The monument was built during the Mughal period in 1615 A.D. The design and construction of the building is a symbol of Mughal architecture. This is an eight cornered building with bays and small side-rooms. It has a central chamber with bays or alcoves leading off it. The building has a double dome which keeps the temperature low in the summer. In the Punjab, on the final disintegration of Muslim Empire in India, the Sikhs took over and like many other buildings this building, too, was used by Kharak Singh as his residence or Dera (Tahir, 1991, pp. 75-80).

The Punjab was annexed by the British in 1849 and this building was used as residence by the clerical staff of the board of administration of the Punjab. In March 1851, on vacation by the board, it was used by Christians for divine service on Sundays as there was no other Church in Lahore. In January, 1857, the chief commissioner of the Punjab consented to the consecration of the tomb as a place of Christian worship and some alterations and modifications were made in the building. It continued to be used as Church till a new cathedral was opened in Lahore in 1886. From 1886 to 1890, the building remained vacant. Then, the government of the Punjab took it over for storing old record which continued to be stocked in the building by the secretariat department without any organization. Mr. S.M.A. Aquil former Director said in 1994 that Punjab Archives had the plan of constructing building in all metropolis of the Province, if not already initiated but the implementation on this plan has not started yet (Aquil, 1994, pp. 63-64).


The Punjab Archives organization is headed by Director who is assisted by two Deputy Directors, two Assistant Directors, two Research Officers and one Microfilming Officer and other six gazetted officers. The first Director of the Punjab Archives was Lt. Col. H.L.O. Garrett from March 27, 1923 to March 26, 1936 and the present Director is Maqbool Ahmed Khan since July 28, 2007. There are two renowned names in the history of the Punjab Archives

  1. Prof. Garrot who was the founder of Punjab Archives, and
  2. Nazir Ahmed Chaudhry who joined this institution four times periodically, First time on September13, 1972 and last time on January 04, 2001. He also got training in this profession from abroad. The Punjab Archives was under the keeper of record in the beginning but in 1972, the designation was changed to Director of the Punjab Archives (M. Arfeen Awan, personal communication, January 09, 2008).

    The archives wing of S&GAD organizational structure is

    1. Director/secretary
    2. Deputy Director (admin)
    3. Deputy Director (research)
    4. Assistant Director (records)
    5. Assistant Director (library)
    6. Microfilming officer, and
    7. Research officers.
    Staff strength of the archives is shown in Appendix 2-D.

Mission and Responsibilities

  1. Conducting research on projects of the archives directorate.
  2. Preservation/conservation and restoration of historical record kept in Punjab Archives which date back to 1804.
  3. Research and reference facilities to provincial and federal departments as well as to students and scholars from native and foreigners.
  4. Collection of records from departments for storage, listing and vetting of draft lists by weeding officers, their maintenance and preservation.
  5. Maintenance of Archival Museum of the Punjab Government housing in the Tomb of Anarkali.
  6. Issuance of NOC for record and books etc to retiring secretariat officers.
  7. The civil secretariat main library is responsible for updating of books, rules and regulations, collections, cataloguing and preservation of books which are about one Lac.
  8. Press listing, indexing of English records, cataloguing of Persian record, repair, restoration of Persian documents etc.
  9. Microfilming of documents of historical nature, fumigation, repair, restoration and lamination of documents etc.
  10. Translation of rules and regulations, material sent by various departments and government publications. Training of Urdu shorthand and typewriting to government officials.

Acquisition of Archival Record and Library Books

The Punjab Archive is purely a government archives having obligation to accumulate the administration record of the province in the secretariat. When asked about the acquisition of personal record, the Deputy Director told that it is not their policy to purchase the personal collections and preserve them in Archives. If any renowned scholar wants to preserve his archives for the posterity, he may donate with out any terms and condition, the Punjab Archives will arrange that collection in the archives related to the subject (Arfeen Awan, personal communication, January 09, 2008).

The acquisition of library books is done on the recommendation of the Assistant Director Library through proper channel according to demand of researchers. He further told that three or four researchers visit the library daily (Ejaz Hussain, personal communication, January 09, 2008).


The political records contain various types of correspondence between the Board of Administration, Secretary to Government of India and the Government General, Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and the Rules of the Native States (Zafar, 1990, pp. 413-429).

On the annexation of Punjab, the British introduced a regular system of keeping proper records by the administration. The official language was English and most of the records are in English. These records date back to 1849 when the records of administration for the affairs of the Punjab were constituted by the British. The English records had been kept department wise, year wise and head-wise in bundles (Punjab, 1971, pp. 1-10).

Finding Aids and Publications

Historical Record Office (Anarkali Tomb)

The records dating back to 1804 are preserved in this section. There are two categories of the record, i.e. Persian and English record. The Persian record mainly relates to the Khalsa Darbar/Lahore Darbar, Ludhiana Agency, Nabha Jind, Patiala, Bahawalpur and Jummu & Kashmir states. The bulk of Persian records are tied up in bundles of cotton cloth. They were probably kept in this form in the office of Mir Munshi from where they were transferred to the record office.

The English record covering the years, 1804-1947 pertains to the affairs in Afghanistan, Delhi, Ludhiana and Karnal Agencies, Ambala Agency, North West Frontier Agency, Lahore residency and on miscellaneous subjects. These records reflect the cultural, socio-economic and political history of the region. It is the largest repository in the country. Some of these papers of two categories which constitute the main bulk of Punjab Archives relate to the following matters are given in Appendix 2-E.

Central Record Office

The significance of the central record office is of paramount nature because it deals with maintenance/preservation of record older than 10 years pertaining to various administrative departments of civil secretariat.

Old Record Office

The record pertaining to the period 1890 to 1947 is preserved in old record office. This record is crucial for the development of political, social and economic history of the early 20th century, a period in which the activities leading to the creation of Pakistan took place. All the records have been divided into A, B files and all are in English, Persian and Urdu. Some of the important topics covered by English records are given in the Appendices 2-F & 2-G.

Microfilming Unit

The Punjab Archives contain fragile record dating back to 1804. Their age and climatic conditions are damaging the preserved record. The risk of war, worms and insects also pose threat to the record. The microfilming unit is responsible for fumigation, microfilming, lamination, repair and restoration for this type of documents.

Libraries of Archives

The secretariat library was established after 1858 and it contains valuable books, district gazetteers and reports etc. The library caters to the reference needs of provincial governments and research scholars. It is considered as one of the biggest departmental library in the Punjab, having a unique collection of more than 80 thousands volumes. At present, the following four libraries are working as part of the secretariat main library

  1. Civil Secretariat Library,
  2. Archives library,
  3. Board of Revenue Library, and
  4. Chief Secretariat Library:

Civil Secretariat Library

The Civil Secretariat Library attached to the Punjab Archives holds about 50,000 books and other printed material. A major portion of the collection consists of Law books, Rules, Regulations of both central provincial governments etc. The collection is on various subjects, topics, statues and laws. It consists of annual administration report, budget, typography, archaeology, medical and sanitary, agriculture, forestry, census, revenue, survey and settlement industries, railways reports by various central and provincial commission, committees and conferences etc. Apart from publications there are several lists and history of services of gazetted officers etc. The unique character and importance of these collections may, however, be attributed to the rare and historically important documents preserved like extracts and budget reports printed some 100 years ago.

Archives Library

There is another small library known as Punjab Archives Library which has a collection of more than 12286 books, many of which are rare and out of print books. These rare books consist of biographies, travels etc. Research scholars have the facilities to use these books for research and reference purposes.

Board of Revenue Library

Yet another library which stands next to Punjab Secretariat Library is the Punjab Board of Revenue Library. Prior to 1955, this library was the Financial Commissioner’s Office Library. It holds about 12000 books, is quite rich in the field of government reports and settlement reports. Apart from such rare books, this library has got complete files of Commissioners’ Office and almost all Punjab gazettes.

Chief Secretariat Library

There is another library having collection of 1000 books called Chief Secretariat Library. The arrangement of all the libraries is according to Library Information Management Science (LIMS) which provide the facility of easy access by author, title, year or subject etc. Because of this software one can easily evaluate the validity and rarity of collection. The total collection of all the libraries is 84286 and the oldest book in these libraries is of 1655. The title of the book is Travel of Sir, Thomas Roe General. This book is about the voyage to India and his observations in that country, particularly at the court of Great Mughal. There he resided as ambassador deputed by James, the first King of England. The detail of the preserved books is given in the Appendices 2-H & 2-I (Ejaz Hussain, personal communication, January 09, 2008).

Finding Aids and Publications

All the English records from 1849 to 1869 have been press listed. Each press list contains alphabetical indices wherein the files have been indicated by serial numbers. After consulting the index on a particular subject/s, one can check the contents of the file in the volume wherein an abstract of the file is given. This facilitates the tracing of file as the same can be picked up from the relevant bundles in the shelf allocated to each Department. From the year 1869 up to 1952, alphabetical indices with subject head of file have been given. These indices are available for the entire record in half yearly and yearly volumes. In the Punjab Archives, a collection of the printed proceedings is maintained wherein the files are abstracted according to their classification. Besides, the Punjab Archives have conducted valuable research and produced the following publications:

  1. The Grand Trunk Road in the Punjab from 1849-1886.
  2. History of the development of the judiciary in the Punjab (1884-1926).
  3. Brief history of the old police battalion in the Punjab.
  4. History of the development of the judiciary in the Punjab from 1846-1884.
  5. History of the growth and development of western education in the Punjab from 1846-1884.
  6. History of the development of the police to the Punjab from 1849-1900.
  7. Commerce by rivers in the Punjab or a survey of the activities of the Marine Department of the Punjab (illustrated) from 1861-1871.
  8. A history of excise system in the Punjab from 1846-1884.
  9. Trial of Diwan Mul Raj (Governor of Multan).
  10. Trial of Muhammad Bahadur Shah (Ex-King of Delhi).
  11. Events of the court of Ranjit Singh.1810-1817.
  12. The Great Rising of 1857.
  13. Development of Urdu as official language in the Punjab (1849-1947).

Official Language Committee

The official language committee was established in 1949 and later on, it was re-organized in 1974.The main function of this committee is development and introduction of Urdu as official language. The committee brings out a monthly magazine titled Urdu Nama. The rules/regulations, etc.; summaries, drafts and assembly questions/answers of administrative department are translated into Urdu on the request of concerned departments (M. Arfeen Awan, July to September 2003).

Exhibitions of Archives

The tomb of Anarkali, on its ground floor, houses a small Archival Museum which is maintained as a part of the Punjab Archives. Documents of historical value and pertaining to historical celebrities connected with this part of the country have been exhibited in the show cases. Among the documents on display, there are some Faramin of the Great Mughals, important letters, the original mutiny telegrams, rare paintings, photographs of Viceroys and Governors, prints of the War of Independence of 1857 etc.

Facilities to the Users

Research and reference facilities are being offered to the students and scholars from home and abroad. A form for this purpose has been prescribed to facilitate researchers, readers and scholars at home and abroad. Rules, laws and procedure regulating the access of the public to the archives of the Punjab government are prepared. Scholars are provided all facilities to conduct their research including the facilities of obtaining photo-stat and microfilm copies of the material required by them on payment.