Primary Sources and other Collections on Indo-Canadians and the South Asian Diaspora


For library research assistance please email, Liaison Librarian for South Asian Initiatives or Ask a librarian.

Research help

This guide provides an overview of many collections and information sources on Indo-Canadians and Indian and South Asian Diaspora to assist researchers.

What is a primary source?

A primary source is a document or other sort of evidence written or created during the time under study, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event.  Primary Sources for the Humanities guide provides links to other primary sources held by SFU Library.

SFU Library's Collections on Indo-Canadians and the South Asian Diaspora

The physical collections are housed at SFU Library's Special Collections and Rare Books area, located on the 7th floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library at SFU's Burnaby Campus.


The collections can be searched by various search engines, including:

  • SFU Library catalogue
    Search here for published material held by Special Collections and books, journals, and other resources held at the SFU Library.
  • SFU AtoM (SFU Access to Memory)
    Use AtoM to search across descriptions of archival material held by Special Collections and the SFU Archives. Detailed finding aids are also available.
  • Digital collections
    From oral histories to diaries to photographs, there is much to explore. Note that original versions of digitized materials may be housed at either Special Collections at the SFU Library or at partner sites.


  • Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo Collection - His archive, much of which is digitized here, consists of photographs, documents, sports memorabilia, ephemera and objects detailing all aspects of his life as a first generation Canadian, and the communities in which he lived and worked. The finding aid for the Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo fonds is available through SFU Atom.

  • Arjan Singh Brar Collection - consists of documents (scrap books, letters, diaries, pamphlets) and some recordings.  The material is largely in Punjabi language, some of which has been translated into English.  Among the many other special items in the collection are:

    • An alternate version of the Komagata Maru passenger list in Punjabi
    • Letters from J. Edward Bird, the attorney for the Komagata Maru passengers, to the Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver concerning Bird’s correspondence with Gurdit Singh and his son Balwant Singh
    • Scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings documenting early South Asian history in Vancouver, in particular the Komagata Maru incident
    • Original diary of the United India Home Rule League of Canada and the Hindustani Swaraj Sabha in Vancouver, associations that gave birth to the Ghadar movement
    • Passport of Bhag Singh, 1927
    • Petition by the Khalsa Diwan Society of the Government of B.C. for the right to vote in 1942.  The right to vote had been lost from 1907 to 1947.
    • Rare 1949 recording of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech at the Second Avenue Temple
  • Canadian Farmworkers Union Project - The Union became the driving force behind a larger social movement for South Asian immigrant, Quebecois and Canadian workers’ rights that brought together a community coalition of faith, health, legal, multicultural and arts groups. The collection consists of photos, posters, newspapers, minutes of meetings, and labour collective agreements.
  • Indo-Canadian Oral History Collection -  A selection of interviews conducted with early Indian immigrants (pre-1950s) to Canada, almost all of them British Columbians, in 53 audio files.  The interviews cover reasons for immigration to Canada and conditions and regulation of their entry into Canada. Interviewees also discuss work and living experiences once in Canada; labour, legal and political issues that affected the immigrants; relations with other racial and ethnic groups; family life and adjustment to Canadian society; and ongoing links to their country of origin. 

  • Kohaly Collection - this small collection was collected by Mr. Inderjit Kohaly, a community historian.  The collections was donated by his widow, Mrs. Rajinder Kohaly in 2008.  It is an unprocessed collection with some notes from Mr. Kohaly about the families that he interviewed and it also includes some original photographs and negatives and prints of photos.  Mr. Kohaly also conducted some interviews of community members.  SFU's AQ Magazine (Nov 2008) issue - news article about the Kohaly Collection.

    • One interview has been digitized, the interview with Dr. P. Pandia [reel 1, side1] [reel 1, side 2], [reel 2, side 1], [reel 2, side 2]  and is also a part of the Indo-Canadian Oral History Collection.  Dr. D. P. Pandia speaks about his own life and career, which took him to Indian Diaspora communities around the world and across Canada, lecturing and organizing Indians to agitate for the franchise and improved immigration rights.

  • Komagata Maru - Continuing the Journey - part of SFU Library's Digitized Collections

    In the early hours of Saturday, 23 May, 1914, the Komagata Maru anchored on the far side of the Burrard Inlet, opposite Vancouver. At dawn the passengers were out on deck with tree-covered mountains rising behind them and the city across the water in front. They were dressed in their best with their bags packed, ready to go ashore.

    The story of the Komagata Maru resonates beyond 1914, linking to freedom movements in India and the right to vote for South Asians in Canada. It addresses how we build communities, understand official multiculturalism, how we remember our past and develop multiple connections. Here you will find collected for the first time rare government documents, newspaper articles, academic texts, videos....and even a diary.

    For more information about this collection, including an interactive timeline and contextual access to items, visit the Komagata Maru : Continuing the Journey -->  (SFU Library's website project, 2011-2015). 

    Please note that the audio and video files on the can no longer be played since Adobe Flash program is not being supported by Adobe.  To access them, please use the links, below:
    Video interviews of scholars and community members, and
    Audio interviews of Indo-Canadian pioneers (pre-1950s).  The interviews are part of the Indo-Canadian Oral History Collection.

  • Komagata Maru Passenger List - This collection presents an aggregated "master list" of multiple passenger lists associated with the Komagata Maru. Each list had its own unique way of collating passenger information, including inconsistent spelling of passenger's names to places of origin.

  • Rungh: A South Asian Quarterly of Culture, Comment and Criticism

    Rungh magazine published as a "South Asian Quarterly of Culture, Comment and Criticism" from 1992-1997 under one editorial team, and from 1997 to 2000 under a second editorial team. Founded by Zool Suleman and Sherazad Jamal, the magazine was a pioneer in its cross/multi-disciplinary...

Other Collections


The sources below provide information on the India and Indian Diaspora.

  • Digital South Asia Library - from University of Chicago
  • E-Social Sciences -- from India - a portal for social scientists, with reports and conferences
  • Indian History Sourcebook - from Fordham University
  • National Portal of India - From Government of India
  • SARAI: South Asia Resource Access on the Internet (Columbia University) - Find resources on India and other South Asian countries
  • South & Southeast Asia Resources - from University of Berkeley
  • South Asian Canadian Digital Archives (SACDA) created by the South Asian Studies Institute, University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) - is a new initiative (2017 – present) that will provide access to archival data, research, materials, sites, and information about 100+ years of South Asian community history to all Canadians. These archival materials are being collected from personal collections, Canadian public archives, museum-curated materials, and research databases at educational institutions. As a pan-Canadian digital archive, the SACDA initiative will provide availability of historical data in an easy to access portal for scholars and the general public. SACDA is also creating a network of pan-Canadian scholars focusing on South Asian Canadian Studies. [description from the website]
  • South & Southeast Asian Studies Resources  - from Columbia University