Archives of Contemporary India

Supported by HDFC LTD.

Divyabhanusinh Chavda Papers

Divyabhanusinh Chavda Papers

"In the Vedic period, you had Narasimha ("Man-Lion"), the fourth of the Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu. The Buddha was known as 'Shakya Simha', the Lion of the Shakyas. His first sermon at Sarnath has been likened to (and is known as) by Buddhists as 'Simhanada' (Lion Roar). The lion is also the symbol of Mahavira. And we, of course, know of Emperor Ashoka's association with the lion."

A renowned wildlife expert, nature conservationist, researcher, and author, Dr. Divyabhanusinh Chavda (born 1941) is, by birth, the scion of the former princely state of Mansa, and was, by profession, the corporate administrator in the Tata Administrative Service.

He graduated from Fergusson College, Pune in 1962 with B.A. (Hons.) in Political Science, and secured top rank in M.A. (Political Science) from the University of Poona in 1964. During this period (1958-64), he also worked extensively in the field of archaeology and anthropology with Prof. D.D. Kosambi, studying prehistoric artefacts and nomadic tribes around Pune. He then did his M.Sc. (Econ.) in 1966 from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.

After the completion of higher education, Divyabhanusinh joined the Tata Administrative Service (of the TATA Group) in 1966 and rendered his services in several responsible positions as a member of the Management Committee of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Northern India (1990-2000), Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, Gwalior (1992-1996), Executive Committee of Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (1993-2000), National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology (1993-2001); and Chairman, Tourism Task Force, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (1994-1996). He served for 34 years with TATA Group and retired as the Chief Operation Officer (COO), Leisure Hotels Division of the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd., The Taj Group of Hotels, Mumbai.

Divyabhanusinh pursued his passion for research in the field of wildlife conservation while with the Tata Group. He was called upon to be part of multiple high-powered committees and boards constituted by the union and state governments for wildlife and forest conservation. In 1989, he was appointed as a member of the Expert Committee of the Ministry of Environment (Government of India) for the study of Management of National Parks and Sanctuaries and Tourism. He also held the Directorship of the U.P. State Tourism Development Corporation, 1993-1995, and served as the member of the Government of Indias Board of Tourism, Industry and Trade, 1997-2000; and the Central Zoo Authority.

When Gir Lion and other mammal censuses for the last hundred years were conducted, Divyabhanusinh was designated as an Expert Observer for the Millennium Lion Census – 2000, and as a member of Advisory Group for Conservation of Lion in 2007 by the Government of Gujarat, while the Government of Rajasthan nominated him as a member of the Wildlife Advisory Board for 2004-2006 and the Expert Committee on Desert National Park in 2011.

Divyabhansusinh became a member of the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) and its Standing Committee, 2007-2013, and served in the MoEFs Cheetah Task Force, 2010. He was also appointed as a member of the National Wildlife Action Plan Committee, 2013-2017.

Apart from union and state governments constituted bodies, he also served in various organisations of international repute working in the field of wildlife and nature conservation. Divyabhanusinh was member of the Executive Committee (Governing Body) of the Bombay Natural History Society, 1977-1982, and its Vice President, 1992-1997. He worked for The Tiger Watch Society, and International Snow Leopard Trust, Seattle, Washington as an advisor, 1997-2000. From 2001 onwards, he served as a Trustee and member of the Advisory Board of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India, later appointed as the President of the Board of Trustees of the WWF-India, 2007-2014. He also served, between 2001 and 2011, as the Trustee of the Raptor Foundation, the Corbett Foundation (a leading body promoting conservation in U.P., M.P. and Assam), and the Marg Foundation (which is promoted by the House of Tatas and publishes books and magazines pertaining to art, architecture and cultural heritage in general).

Besides this, Divyabhanusinh had been designated to the Cat Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, World Conservation Union, (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, IUCN), and to Indian Sub-Group since 1992 onwards for collecting specialized information on the status of Asiatic Lion.

Divyabhaunsinh is widely recognized for his pioneering research on the history of the Asiatic Cheetah and Asiatic Lion. His book, The End of a Trail: The Cheetah in India, first published in 1995 and which has since run into multiple editions, is the only book on the Cheetah in India. His work on Asiatic Cheetah in India earned him a rare Doctor of Literature (D. Litt.) in 1998 from the University of Pune.

His book The Story of Asia’s Lions, first published in 2005 (and a second enlarged edition published in 2008) is a comprehensive study of the lion in Asias history, its interaction with humans from the earliest times to the present day. He was also the editor for the book The Lions of India, published in 2008, which is an anthology of the most important articles and papers on the subject of Asiatic lions authored by experts over the last 150 years. His most recent book, The Story of India’s Unicorns, co-authored with Dr. Asok Das and Dr. Shibani Bose, published in 2018 is a comprehensive study of the three rhino species that historically inhabited India (two of which are now extinct from India), tracing their journey from the earliest times to the present day. He has also been a regular contributor to many scholarly journals such as the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, Cat News (published by the Cat Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, IUCN, Switzerland) and published dozens of papers and popular articles over the decades.

About the Collection: As a prolific scholar, historian, researcher and conservationist, Divyabhanusinhs rich collection of papers, especially those on history of Asiatic Cheetah and Asiatic Lions, his notes, letters and other relevant papers are now housed with the Archives of Contemporary India, forming an invaluable repository for all scholars and researchers interested in studying wildlife history of India.

His multidisciplinary approach to environmental and zoological conservation based on linguistics, genetics, visual culture, art history, natural history, archaeology and zoology make his collection of private papers a rich source of methodology in social science and humanities. A large part of this collection comprises invaluable source material on conservation issues afflicting the countrys wildernesses and wildlife conservation policy making in India; and the history of cheetah and lions in India through antiquities to the present day in the light of genetic/scientific analysis, specimen, archaeological findings, visuals, and historical records. The papers contain correspondence exchanged by Dr. Divyabhanusinh Chavda during his long research work (over a span of three decades, 1984-2013) with historians, genetic scientists, wildlife experts, technocrats, bureaucrats, and zoologists. His handwritten notes and manuscripts also form part of the collection. (Catalogue available)

Donor: Divyabhanusinh Chavda
Acquisition: 2017