SARAI Archive

SARAI logo

South Asia Resource Access on the Internet (SARAI), also known as the South Asian Studies Virtual Library, was developed and hosted at Columbia University Libraries between 1994 and 2017. This page provides historical background on SARAI, and a list of archived websites. (Please note that archived websites may load more slowly than live websites.)

SARAI started as the South Asia Gopher (SAG), which was publicly accessed by Gopher or telnet connection to the Columbia University host. The SAG was developed by David Magier, then South and Southeast Asian Studies Librarian and Director of Area Studies at Columbia University Libraries. As of March, 1994 (see H-Asia announcements by Magier on March 9, 1994 and on October 30, 1994), this "in progress" site included:

A) Bibliographic resources listing major international South Asia library collections, and links to the University of Wisconsin South & Southeast Asian Studies Video Archive catalog;
B) links to international online resources in Australia, India, Germany and the United Kingdom;
C) listings of South Asia related Usenet newsgroups, listservs, mailing lists, and bulletin boards;
D) South Asia electronic text archives and listings of software and fonts for displaying and printing South Asian texts;
E) South Asia teaching resources;
F) an International Directory of South Asia Scholars of individuals identifying themselves as being involved in South Asian Studies, who had filled out a form distributed by email as in this August 15, 1995 H-ASIA log);
G) a Directory of South Asia Research Institutes;
H) specialized databases and archives on such topics as census data, environment, and health; I) a (then forthcoming) Grants Directory under the editorship of Itty Abraham (a Social Science Research Council program director).

SARAI 1996 SARAI, 1996 via the Internet Archive

As of October 1994, David Magier characterized SAG as "still in its infancy" and also promised additional forthcoming resources "created locally or by groups of South Asianists." 

By September 1996, the South Asia Gopher was transitioning into the web accessed version of SARAI, and had shifted from a period of "collection development" to "classification" and "annotation" stages of work. This was part of a broader Asian Studies Online Library project by the Association of Asian Studies' "fledging effort to coordinate evaluation, selection, classification and annotation of small select sets of 'peer reviewed' internet resources for inclusion" into what might approach the functionality of a library (see H-ASIA, September 4, 1996). A "preliminary peak at the (very) raw lists of S.Asia materials" Magier had been collecting for SARAI as of 1996 was available at David Magier's South Asia Bookmarks [only the banner remains at the archived site; the bookmarks themselves were shifted to newly launched SARAI]. On December 6, 1996 the South Asia Resource Access on the Internet (SARAI) site was announced on H-ASIA with url http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/area/sarai [banner image no longer archived; scroll down to see the links].

On August 15, 1997, the University of Chicago Library (in collaboration with Columbia University Libraries) submitted a two-year pilot project proposal to the Association of Research Libraries' (ARL) Global Resources Project (funded by the Mellon Foundation) which conceived the Digital South Asia Library(hosted at the University of Chicago) and SARAI (hosted at Columbia) as two complementary resources linked to other global participants in Madras, Hyderabad, and other locations. Jim Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia at the University of Chicago Library, and David Magier demonstrated this ARL South Asia Project at the October 1998 CONSALD meeting (Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation). In October 1999, United States Department of Education awarded the South Asia Project with $1 million in grants for three years ("South Asia Project Funded," American Libraries, 30(9), p. 36, October 1999).

At the October 2000 annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, Magier led a workshop on "Navigating between the oases of the Internet: SARAI and beyond" (Indology, September 25, 2000). In the announcement for the SARAI demonstration session, Magier noted that SARAI has been in operation for 10 years and was "designated the official World Wide Web Virtual Library for South Asia." SARAI was recognized by the NEH as a "best of the humanities on the web" site as part of their EdSITEment humanities websites (created in late 1997 as a joint project of the NEH, the Council of the Great City Schools, MCI Communications Corp., and the National Trust for the Humanities). The url for South Asia Resource Access on the Internet was given as http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/southasia/cuvl/  

In 2005, reviewers described SARAI as having "grown into the mega link for all South Asia links."(Alyssa Ayres, Philip Oldenburg, India Briefing: Takeoff at Last?, M.E. Sharpe, 2005, p. 195)  The History Highway: a 21st century guide to Internet resources considered that of all the Virtual Library sites, SARAI "has one of the cleanest and useful opening pages, from which movers can move quickly to a wide range of specific materials."(Dennis A. Trinkle and Scott A. Merriman, Routledge, 2006, p. 131) 

SARAI continued to be developed through 2010. The challenges of sustaining an up-to-date web portal, the evolution of the web, and the changing nature of search and discovery of online resources led to the decision to discontinue SARAI. In 2017, the Global Studies Division of Columbia Libraries retired the SARAI website from its servers. Much of SARAI's web presence has been preserved through web captures done for the most part by the Internet Archive between 1996 and 2017. Previous incarnations of SARAI can be explored at the Internet Archive links listed below. Many of these web captures may not go deep enough to include the full websites to which SARAI pointed but one can see what was listed and how the SARAI web directory was structured. We hope this history of SARAI will be helpful to researchers interested in the early development of subject portals, especially in the field of area studies.

EDSITEment Top Humanities Websites
http://edsitement.neh.gov/websites-lit.htm
43 captures between December 7, 1998 and December 31, 2011

EDSITEMENT Top Humanities Websites
http://edsitement.neh.fed.us/Websites-lit.htm
49 captures between December 5, 1998 and March 8, 2006

The International Directory of South Asia Scholars (IDSAS)
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/southasia/cuvl/directory.html 
Saved 83 times between June 8, 2001 and November 26, 2016

SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet)
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/area/sarai 
Saved 178 times between December 23, 1996 and August 26, 2016

SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet) 
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/southasia/cuvl/ 
Saved 433 times between February 16, 2001 and February 17, 2017

SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet) link at the Columbia University Global Studies page 
http://library.columbia.edu/locations/global/southasia.html 
Saved 118 times between July 11, 2013 and March 13, 2017

SARAI (South Asian Studies Virtual Library) 
http://library.columbia.edu/locations/global/virtual-libraries/sarai.html 
Saved 35 times between December 3, 2013 and and February 22, 2017