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Current Affairs 2023

Discovering India's Rich Heritage: Exploring Ancestry Records Preserved by Haridwar's Genealogy Priests - UPSC Current Affairs

The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) aims to unravel the mysteries of India's past by unlocking the treasure trove of ancestry records preserved by genealogy priests in religious destinations like Haridwar. These records, dating back 15 to 20 generations, offer valuable insights into the social and economic conditions of bygone eras, shedding light on famines, epidemics, and migrations that have shaped India's history.

Mar 31, 2023

3 min read

India's history is steeped in rich cultural traditions and ancient heritage, and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is working tirelessly to unravel the mysteries of the country's past. The ICHR recognizes the critical role that ancestry records preserved by genealogy priests, called Pandas, play in unlocking the secrets of India's history.


These Pandas, who are located in religious destinations like Haridwar, have maintained detailed records of families going back 15 to 20 generations. These records contain crucial information about people's place of origin, names, births, deaths, reasons for death, place of residence, grants made to temples, caste, and clan. Historians and scholars consider these records to be invaluable sources of information that offer insights into the social and economic conditions of past eras.


One such genealogy priest is Kapil Parasher, who has been keeping records of families from various regions like Bengal, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab, stretching up to Multan and Gujranwala in Pakistan. His office room, which is about 10x10 feet in size, is lined with steel almirahs filled with leather-bound record books. People come from far and wide to his office to find out about their ancestors, and he patiently leafs through the hundreds of pages contained in the record books.


Apart from Haridwar, similar records are available in other Hindu religious centers like Ujjain, Nasik, Gaya, Gangotri, and Rameshwaram, where people go to perform the last rites of their family members or simply visit on pilgrimage. There are also places like Pehowa in Haryana, where people go to register unnatural deaths like accidents, suicides, or murders.


The ICHR aims to help make these records available to researchers, scholars, and historians by developing a mechanism to translate the locally used script called "Landi-Mundi." Historians believe that these records can offer valuable insights into past famines, epidemics, migrations, and the movement of people, as well as social history, including how clans and communities were organized. For instance, the records provide details about grants made to local temples and villages, which are an indication of the wealth of communities.


While the records span only about four centuries and the Hindu caste system has a tight hold on record-keeping, the ICHR believes that these records can help fill gaps in Indian history. The ICHR's mission to tell history from a people's perspective can be greatly aided by these records, which offer an unparalleled view into India's rich cultural heritage. Reference source: TH

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