From 1823 onwards, for some six decades the Governors-General and later Viceroys of India had shuttled from one unsuitable residence to another during their summer sojourns in Shimla. It was Lord Lytton (1876-80), who chose Observatory Hill for constructing the building that was to be the final Viceregal address in town. The hill derives its name from Observatory House which was built in 1840 by Captain J. T. Boileau. In time, Observatory House became the residence of the Viceroy's Private Secretary. Observatory Hill is a watershed which stands figuratively astride India. The waters from one side of the hill flow down to the Bay of Bengal, and the wash from the other heads towards the Arabian Sea.
The first designs for the new Viceregal residence were prepared by Captain H. H. Cole of the Royal Engineers. These were presented before the workaholic Viceroy, Lord Lytton at the Simla Fine Arts Exhibition of 1878. It was Lord Dufferin (1884-88), however, who took great personal interest in the matter. He persuaded the Secretary of State for India, Lord Randolph Churchill, to sanction the project that was finally to cost thirty-eight lakh rupees. The annual upkeep of the estate was estimated to be one and a half lakh rupees.
To breathe life into the Viceregal vision, Henry Irwin was appointed architect and chief superintendent of works. F. B. Hebbert and L. M. St. Clair were associated as executive engineers. With them were three assistant engineers - A. Scott, T. Macpherson and T. English. The overall plan of the Lodge was suggested by Lord Dufferin, who repeatedly examined and modified the drawings. The machinery of the Public Works Department was placed in high gear and work on the site began in 1886. The top of Observatory Hill was leveled out to create a wide plateau. But this also revealed a surface of crushed shale that was 'fissured and cracked in every direction'. To remedy this, concrete was liberally used so as to create a strong base for the foundations. The structure that finally rose had a style of architecture that drew inspiration from the 'English Renaissance'. Yet it also overwhelmingly reflects elements of the castles of the Scottish highlands. The building is of light blue-grey stone masonry with tiled pitch roofing.
Lord and Lady Dufferin moved into the building on 23 July 1888. It was the newly installed electric lighting in particular that Lady Dufferin found a pleasure. A fortnight later, the Dufferins gave their first entertainment. Sixty-six people sat down for dinner at the table, and while the electric light was enough, candelabra were used to ornament the table. And the large dimensions of the new building could host over 800 guests that were to attend state balls in the coming years.
The Viceregal Lodge was now almost complete, though some construction continued till September 1888. Minor works were, nevertheless, to continue for a much longer time as the hurried construction schedule followed by Lord Duffferin had left numerous defects. Embellished with wrought stone-work, the main block has three storeys and the kitchen wing has five. A tower strikes above the rest of the building and its height was increased during Lord Curzon's tenure (1899-1905). In Lord Irwin's time (1926-31), a public entry building was added in 1927. By this date the character of the building was formed and remains to the present day.
In so far as the interior is concerned, it is the elaborate wood-work that has stood the real test of time. Along with the paneling and pilasters, the staircase with its heavy newels and handrails is remarkable. A massive shipment of teak was procured from Burma for this purpose and supplemented, wherever required, by local cedar wood (deodar) and walnut. During the time of Marquis Curzon, many parts of the building came in for major refurbishing. The carving in the dining room was completed, and a replica of the screen that stood behind the Emperor of China's throne was added. In the old Council Chamber, that later became the billiards room, portraits of every Governor-General and Viceroy were hung. A collection of Indian arms was displayed on the walls of the main gallery where their impressions are still visible.
The huge estate of 331 acres provided a splendid setting for the fancy fairs and garden parties. It was during the Viceroyalty of Lord Lansdowne that the colossal task of landscaping the lawns and grounds began but it continued during succeeding regimes. Though somewhat smaller today, the estate is still a princely 110 acres. The estate staff of 23 is now far fewer than the original 700. But the collection of rare and exotic plants and numerous grasses is as remarkable as ever. The glass-house is a little shrine for any gardening aesthete.
As the Second War drew to a close, India lay like a seething cauldron. On 14 June 1945, the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, in a radio broadcast, called for what was termed 'The Simla Conference'. This was designed 'to ease the present political situation and to advance India towards her goal of full self-government'. The Conference was to propose the reconstitution of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Except for the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, it was intended to be an entirely Indian Council with an equal numbers of Hindu and Muslim members. From 25 June to 14 July 1945 the Conference was held at the Lodge. A wide spectrum of Indian political leadership was present - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Liaqat Ali Khan, Bhulabhai Desai, Master Tara Singh and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Though Mahatama Gandhi was present in Shimla throughout the Conference, he did not personally attend any of the sessions. The Conference staggered on, till everyone, including the Viceroy admitted its failure. What was perhaps the last chance for India to remain undivided was gone.
The War ended and in March 1946, a Cabinet Mission was sent to negotiate and work out the modalities by which power could finally be transferred to the Indians. A tripartite conference between the Congress, the Muslim League and the British took place at Viceregal Lodge from 5-12 May 1946. Once again, the Congress and the League failed to agree on many of the main issues, and the partition of India was now certain.
The Viceregal Estate passed into the hands of the President of India after Independence in 1947. The spectacular building was renamed 'Rashtrapati Nivas' (Presidential Residence) and came to be occupied by the President - if at all - for only a few days in a year.
The Early Years
Because of the common vision of President S. Radhakrishnan-the remarkable philosopher-statesman-and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study Society was registered on 6 October 1964 under the Registration of Societies Act of 1860. Exactly fifty-four weeks later, the Institute was formally inaugurated by President Radhakrishnan himself.
Under the Memorandum of Association, the primary objective of the Institute was 'to provide an environment suitable for academic research' in the humanities, and the social and natural sciences. In his inaugural address, Professor Radhakrishnan emphasized that a crucial question for the Institute to engage with was 'whether what has come down to us as truth is in fact true or requires some kind of modification'. 'We should not', he said, 'be prisoners of the status quo'.
A host of luminaries were closely associated with the Institute at its inception. The President of the Society was Dr. Zakir Husain, Vice-President of India, and Shri M.C. Chagla, Education Minister, was its Vice-President. Professor Niharranjan Ray was chosen as its first Director. In 1968, a review committee appointed by the Governing Body recognized that the country's first institution for multidisciplinary studies had come into existence. By bringing together 'Fellows in Residence', the Institute had begun to promote an 'inter-change of ideas, methodologies and techniques between scholars belonging to different fields of knowledge'. While paying a glowing tribute to Professor Niharranjan Ray, the committee recommended that 'the residential character, the autonomy and the academic freedom of the Institute should be preserved'.
At that time, the academics at the Institute consisted of Professors, Senior Research Fellows, Junior ResearchFellows, Guest Fellows and Scholars. The review committee recommended that this hierarchy of academics be replaced by a single category of Fellows. Among the special areas of interest identified by it were: social sciences, historical studies, philosophy and letters, and pure mathematics. Apart from individual research, it was suggested that a group of Fellows from different disciplines could also undertake joint research, and a Fellow may be helped by research assistants for team research. The optimum number of Fellows at the Institute was placed at fifty. In 1969, these recommendations were accepted by the Governing Body. The Institute had, by October 1975, come to be internationally recognized as a centre of 'high creativity and excellence' that had contributed to the 'Indian community's discovery of its own identity'.
The Memorandum of Association of the Institute Society was again amended in 1984, on the basis of the recommendations of the Kripalani Committee. The Institute was to remain a residential centre for 'free and creative inquiry into fundamental themes and problems of life and thought'. Its primary objective was defined as the promotion of 'creative thought in areas which have deep human significance'.
Today, the Institute has National Fellows and Fellows. The term of National Fellows at the Institute is for a maximum period of two years. For Fellows, the backbone of the Institute, the duration of regular Fellowships ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years. This depends on the nature of work and its progress. Initially, a Fellowship is awarded for a year.
While Fellows of the Institute are primarily engaged in their own research on themes approved by the Institute, the considerable formal and informal interaction amongst them encourages a healthy interdisciplinary dialogue. From April to November, the Fellows' weekly seminar is the primary forum for formal interaction. During their term, Fellows remain in residence from April to November. In winter - December to March - they may engage in field work, library and archival consultations outside Shimla. Upon the completion of their term, Fellows are required to submit their completed research work in the form of a monograph to the Institute. The monographs submitted by them are considered for publication by the Institute - which also retains the first right of publication.
Apart from Fellows, other scholars also contribute to, and benefit from, the Institute. They come as Visiting Professors, Visiting Scholars and Guest Scholars. Visiting Professors are eminent scholars invited by the Governing Body of the Institute to deliver lectures and give seminars at the Institute. During an in-residence stay of up to four weeks, they also interact informally with Fellows of the Institute. Similarly, Visiting Scholars also come to the Institute on invitation. Like Visiting Professors, they too are distinguished in their respective fields, but their stay is limited to a week and all facilities of the Institute are extended to them. Guest Scholars visit the Institute - subject to the availability of accommodation; they too are welcome to utilize the facilities on a nominal payment.
The 'academic activity' per se of the Institute is the research being done by its Fellows at any given point of time. Occasionally, the Institute undertakes interdisciplinary research projects on which scholars from different disciplines work as a team. Through the year, the Institute also organizes several national level seminars on themes of contemporary relevance as well as those of fundamental theoretical significance. Often enough, distinguished scholars from abroad are also invited to these seminars.
Fellowships to the Institute are widely advertised throughout the country and also through the website of the Institute. The selection is made through various committees set up by the Governing Body. These committees consist of experts in different areas of research and they assist the Director in determining the academic merit of scholars and their projects. There is a multiplicity of approaches in the selection of Fellows - and is not necessarily confined to those who respond to advertisements. It is open to the Institute to consider the names of eminent scholars suggested by the Director, members of Governing Body and the Society. Talent is also identified through efforts on a regional and sub-regional basis. The final decision for the award of Fellowships is taken by the Governing Body of the Institute. This is done on the recommendation of a selection committee under the Chairmanship of the Director.
Areas of study
Today, the Institute's Memorandum of Association has identified the perspectives that should guide research in different areas. The areas of investigation should promote interdisciplinary research, the themes of research should be those for which the initial facilities required are not too expensive and the subject should have deep human significance. Further developing this concept, the principal areas should be those in which scholars of eminence can be attracted in the initial stages, both for the purposes of developing the methodological framework for interdisciplinary research and for ensuring an acceptable quality in output that will encourage extension of such efforts to more areas in future - provided that in selecting the projects, attention be given to areas of national relevance.
The Institute has defined certain areas of study. These fall under the following broad heads: social, political and economic philosophy; comparative Indian literature (including ancient, medieval, modern folk and tribal); comparative studies in philosophy and religion; development of world-views; education, culture, arts including performing arts and crafts; fundamental concepts and problems of logic and mathematics; fundamental concepts and problems of natural and life sciences; studies in environment - both natural and social; Indian civilisation in the context of its Asian neighbours; and problems of contemporary India in the context of national integration and nation-building.
Certain areas have also been marked for special attention, such as: Indian unity in diversity, the integrality of Indian consciousness, the philosophy of education in the Indian perspective, advanced concepts in natural sciences and their philosophical implications and, the Indian and Asian contribution to the synthesis of science and spirituality. Spheres that encompass Indian and human unity, provide 'companions' to Indian literature, comparative studies of the Indian epics and human environment also come within this ambit.
In April 1991, on behalf of the University Grants Commission, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study began functioning as the Inter-University Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences. A part of this programme is to select teachers from colleges and universities to stay at the Institute as Associates. They came to the Institute for one month every year for three consecutive year. The Associates of the Centre participate in all the on-going programmes of the Institute. There are two other programmes of the Centre. The first is 'research seminars' on front areas of research in the humanities and the social sciences - these are meant primarily for young researchers in universities and colleges. The second programme is of 'study weeks' and is meant for senior teachers - and where others may also be invited to discuss contemporary problems of national and international importance.
On the 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) was awarded the Tagore Centre for the Study of Culture and Civilization by the HRD Ministry of Government of India. As the IIAS was mandated to seek out ‘the first principles and not particular details’ it is the most natural location for an intense conversation between the ‘inner and the outer’, between the ‘home and the world’, about the continuities between yesterday and today, and about the possibilities of both for tomorrow which occupied Tagore throughout his life. Therefore, while focusing on Tagore’s works and thoughts the Centre creates space where the vision of the seer, the sensibility of the poet, the creativity of the artist, the anxieties of the educationist, the questions of the philosopher, the aspirations of the subjugated, and the hopes of the internationalist would find a place.
The Centre, as its name indicates, is not a Tagore Study Centre aimed at studying just Tagore’s works and thoughts though such a study is one of its important activities. Since the Centre is dedicated to celebrating the ecumenism of Tagore, it would allow for reflective and creative engagement with the human condition by exploring new idioms of art, poetry, and music. Thus, the Centre provided space to scholars as well as the practicing artists to signal Tagore’s deep engagement with culture and civilization founded on his belief in the oneness of our world. That is what enthused him to explore creatively the different sources that have gone into the making of many layers and facets of Indian culture and civilization. Tagore’s intellectual evolution and sensibility enabled him to assert the humanistic, moral, universal, liberal, and progressive tendencies and discard the narrow, obsolete, obscurantist and retrograde from within his own and from other traditions of thought.
Contemporary intellectual life confronts just such a struggle between the open and the narrow, the progressive and the retrograde, and therefore the Tagore Centre would serve as a site for a dialogue between India and the world. It also initiated a South-South intellectual and cultural exchange. The Centre is therefore deliberately constituted as an open space to avoid the parochialism that marks many of the initiatives that are today concerned with the study of culture and civilization. The spirit of Tagore’s creative engagement with the classical to the folk, with the traditional and the modern, with science and humanism, is the guiding force for planning the activities of the Centre. The Centre is providing short/long term opportunities to the practitioners of culture and civilization who are engaged with concerns similar to those which preoccupied Tagore such as education, environment, artistic and literary imagination, participatory development, nationalism, cultural influences, reconciliation, philosophy and humanism, science and society. Such engagements may involve the textual study of his work, or a creative engagement with his literary imagination or with his experiments in music, dance, and painting, or practicing innovative ideas in education and environment in the urban and rural context, or simply with larger implications and possibilities of his vision.
Activities of the Centre:
International Centre for Human Development (IC4HD)
The International Centre for Human Development (IC4HD) is set up in IIAS to support efforts by governments of the South to integrate human development approaches and ensure improved development outcomes for poor and marginalized people. The IC4HD center was inaugurated on 19 August 2013 in the Institute with the aim to promote policy dialogue on human development in the Global South and work towards translating human development analysis into action. The partnership between the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was officially launched at an event held in Delhi on 4 January 2013. The Centre will provide a range of services to national governments in translating human development approach into policy through a four-pronged approach viz. Policy Advisory Services, South-South Cooperation, Research on HD issues and Monitoring and Evaluation.
Library and Publications
The Institute has over 400 publications to its credit. These include monographs submitted by its Fellows, edited proceedings of seminars, symposia, workshops and conferences held at the Institute, lectures given by Visiting Professors and occasional papers presented by Fellows and visitors to the Institute. The Institute also publishes a review journal, Summerhill; IIAS Review, which carries reviews of books published by the Institute and those received from outside - as well as interviews and important information about the various academic activities of the Institute. A biannual journal, Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, is also published under the auspices of the Inter-University Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences.
Not unexpectedly, the library of the Institute is one of the finest in the country. Its collection has been supplemented by acquiring the private collections of eminent scholars like R. C. Majumdar, Abdul Majid Khan, H. C. Ray Chaudhury, Hari Shankar Srivastava and Ajit Ghosh. Developed over a period of about forty years, the library now has a collection of over a hundred and fifty thousand volumes of books, journals, micro-films and other documents. The present subscription list includes 320 journals.
The collection has been mainly developed in the areas of philosophy, religion, fine arts, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, social and cultural anthropology, socio-economic planning and development, Third World economics, ancient and mediaeval Indian history and culture, and modern Indian history - and these sections are considered as outstanding. The collection of 'back volumes' of journals is rated high by its users. The major housekeeping operations of the library have been computerized and its database pertaining to the books can be accessed through the DELNET. Internet facilities are also available to library users.
The Institute continues to be administered by a Society and a Governing Body. These bodies are composed of eminent persons from all walks of life. To advise the Governing Body in financial matters, the Institute has a finance committee. This has statutory standing and has representatives of the Ministries of Education and Finance.
The Institute is headed by a Director who is assisted in financial, administrative and academic matters by a Secretary. Apart from various levels of other staff, the Institute also has a Deputy Secretary (Administration), a Librarian, an Accounts Officer, a Publications Officer and a Public Relations Officer.
The Institute is funded primarily by the Government of India's Ministry of Human Resource Development. It also generates modest funds by the sale of its publications and the entry fee paid by visitors to its spectacular building.
An example of the quality of work and the profile of the persons drawn to the Institute comes from Radhakrishnan Memorial Lectures.