Archaeological Survey of India collections

Lala Din Dayal
Lala Din Dayal, Sanchi stupa from the south-west during repairs, 1881 Albumen print. Photo 1001/1 (1342)

This collection of around 35,000 photographs, produced between 1855 and 1922, forms a major resource both for the study of Indian architecture and archaeology, and for the early practice of archaeological photography in the subcontinent.

About the collection

The collection consists of three main series:

India Office series. Consisting of some 2,600 prints, this series comprises photographs commissioned or subsequently acquired by the India Office between 1855 and the early 1880s. Photographers include Thomas Biggs, Edmund David Lyon, Robert Gill and Lala Din Diyal. The original paper and glass negatives for the majority of this material are also held. A continuation of this series, comprising some 2,700 prints, contains photographs relating to ethnography, education, jewellery, etc, as well as the important series of negatives and prints of the copies of the Ajanta wall paintings made by the Government School of Art, Bombay, between 1872 and 1885.

Indian Museum series. Consisting some 2,600 prints, this series comprises the foundation photographic collection, dating from the 1860s-80s, of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Archaeological Survey circles.  Consisting of some 23,000 prints, this series comprises photographs produced between c. 1890 and 1922 by the various ‘circles’ or geographical areas of the survey (including Burma). These photographs are bound into volumes by circle, with a copy of the relevant annual report.

What is available online?

These collections are listed in the India Office Select Materials Catalogue. Please note that this catalogue will be decommissioned in autumn 2015 and from that time these collections will be searchable through the Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue.

A selection of material from the Archaeological Survey of India collections, as well as other photographs from the India Office Collections, can be viewed in the Online Gallery.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Photographs from Archaeological Survey of India collections can be viewed in the Print Room, located in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Viewing is by appointment only, Monday-Friday. For an appointment details, please email

Further information

Archaeological Survey of India photographs in the India Office Collections in the British Library (Haslemere, 1993).

Catalogue of the photographic negatives in the Office of the Director-General of Archaeology in India, Simla (Calcutta, 1921).

A list of the photographic negatives of Indian antiquities in the collection of the Indian Museum: with which is incorporated the list of similar negatives in the possession of the India Office, by Theodor Bloch (Calcutta, 1900).

List of photographic negatives of the paintings copied from the Ajanta caves between 1872 and 1885 at the Government School of Art, Bombay, by J. Burgess (Edinburgh, 1889).

How to guides

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