Bajaj Heritage

For the Bajaj family, setting up an archive was the first step towards several aims. It has been an attempt to harness their history, in order to thoughtfully use it. The archive is centred around eight key personalities – Jamnalal Bajaj, Jankidevi Bajaj, Kamanayan Bajaj, Ramkrisha Bajaj, Rahul Bajaj, Shekhar Bajaj, Madhur Bajaj and Niraj Bajaj. The older personalities laid the foundations for the family’s core values, as well as the business group that stands tall today.

By holding their histories, the Bajaj Heritage is already a powerful knowledge bank, and resource centre – bursting with the potential, waiting to be tapped into by employees and management of the numerous Bajaj companies. But businesses need not be the only beneficiaries. The archival material housed here is relevant to a wider audience, and will eventually be accessible to people within, and outside the organisation. This unique repository of information on the freedom struggle, Gandhian ideology and institutions, as well as business history. could attract visitors and researchers interested in these areas, and more.

The most pressing of the aims however, was to tell their story. The older generation grew up surrounded by stories of the family’s history – their involvement in the freedom struggle, the institutions they established, the values they believed in. For future generations to retain their link with these stories, this heritage – it was imperative that the Bajaj Heritage come into existence.

Jamnalal Bajaj – (1889-1942)

The Jamnalal Bajaj Collection is a treasure trove of archival material that sheds light on all aspects of the founder’s personality. His involvement in the Indian national movement is well represented in his rare photographs – in candid, intimate settings, as well as public meetings and gatherings – with none less than Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Saroijini Naidu and numerous others. Through pictures of the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha, the Jaipur Satyagraha, Congress meetings at Bajajwadi (the family bungalow at Wardha, which became a ‘national guest-house’ to Congress leaders and workers), Dhulia jail interiors, Sevagram Ashram, Marwari Vidyalaya in Bombay, – we are able to see Jamnalal the social worker, the leader, the nationalist.

The other aspect of his working life – his businesses too finds representation in the Archive. Photographs of Jamnalal Bajaj inspecting the factories of Mukund Iron and Steel at Lahore, with the Birla Brothers and the Poddar family, and engaging with Tai Chin Tao, of the Chinese delegation in year, give us a deeper understanding of the founder of the Bajaj Group.

His letters too are as varied in subject as they are in correspondents. We see letters soliciting advice from Gandhiji, and others dispensing financial advice to Dr. Rajendra Prasad; unpublished letters to heads of Princely States, and to his family members; on business matters, national interest issues and problems facing social reform. His diaries, written almost daily, from year to year, detail his day-to-day activities. This Collection thus truly captures the depth, and breadth of the work and world of Jamnalal Bajaj.

Jankidevi Bajaj – (1893-1979)

Jankidevi Bajaj has a unique lifestory – born and brought up in an orthodox Marwari family, she would go on to become a beacon of reformatory practices, go to jail for the nationalist cause, and spend her later years garnering support and money to build wells for the landless poor. Her journey is best chronicled through the photographs and her own writings, found within the Bajaj Archives. Through the earliest photographs, and certain archival ‘Clothing’ from the Collection, we see how she was decked in Marwari splendour before coming in contact with Gandhiji, and renouncing jewelry and the purdah among other regressive practices. In later photographs we see her leading marches, addressing gatherings, and hosting nationalist leaders from all castes and religions in her home.

Through her speeches, such as the Presidential Address at the All India Marwari Mahila Sammelan, recording of an Oral History Interview with her, and her autobiography we are privy to the internal world of this remarkable woman. Her other writings, poems, letters, and the Janki Sahastranam – an interesting document where she lists a thousand acquaintances with a line describing each – give us unique insights into her own life while shedding light upon the men around her – Jamnalal Bajaj, Gandhiji and Vinobha Bhave, the family guru. Her few belongings at death – a cotton pouch, a belan, a pichkaari – remind us of the simplicity with which she lived at the end of her days.

Kamalnayan Bajaj – (1915-1972)

The Kamalnayan Bajaj Collection is source of insight into a myriad accomplishments and interests. Photographs of his inauguration visits to core company factories, including Bajaj Electricals and the Cement Factory at Udaipur are worth mentioning for their vintage. Such business miles stones are fleshed out by the kind of business documentation one finds in his private papers. Indeed these include reports of the Bachhraj Factories Pvt Ltd, the oldest Bajaj business; letters from the partition period, when the Bajaj group lost property, factories and valuable personnel; and correspondence with foreign delegations from tours to South Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The private papers also contain detailed records of his activities and initiatives as MP, representing Wardha. Photographs of Kamalnayan Bajaj at rallies, public gatherings, meetings and in casual settings, with Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Zakir Hussain, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to name a few, flesh out his political career in a way that documents don’t do justice.

His own writings, such as the published volume Vyakti aur Vichar, and an audio recording,  both contain first person reminiscences about his childhood, world views and philosophy.

Ramkrishna Bajaj – (1923-1994)

The Ramkrishna Bajaj collection at the Bajaj Archives is privy to a wide range of photographs, and documents that reflect his dynamic and wide ranging interests. He is seen in pictures with friends, and family, in India and abroad. He photographed with Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nikita Krushchev, Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, V K Krishna Menon, Zakir Husain, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Rajiv Gandhi among others. He travelled widely, and read extensively. The Collection is lucky to house books from his own personal library – including a heavily annotated Bible.

Despite having big shoes to fill, he would carve a unique path for himself. With his brother at the helm Bajaj businesses, Ramkrishna Bajaj busied himself with the concerns of the industry at large. In our Photographs, we see him busy with seminars, workshops, meetings and delegations at trade regulatory bodies like the Council for Fair Business Practices, Indian Merchants Chamber, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, etc.

Ramkrishna Bajaj’s keen interest in the social sector is evidenced through this private papers, a significant portion of which contains the correspondence of the Vishwaneedam Ashram established by him, and detailed letters regarding the social outreach activities conducted by various Core Companies.

He was a man with distinct interests and so perhaps the highlight of his collection is one of two items – a sari woven from yarn hand-spun by him, and his ‘autograph diary’ containing signatures, and the occasional message from the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, M K Gandhi, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Sarojini Naidu, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and many more.

Rahul Bajaj – (1938 – 2022)

The Rahul Bajaj Collection extensively documents his business trajectory, as well as his personal life. It contains photographs from business milestones like inaugurations of Bajaj Auto factories, as well as his visits to the assembly line as Chairman, his interactions with politicians and foreign delegates, and while receiving titles like the Padma Bhushan, or the Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Legion de D’honneur. Personal photographs of leisure time spent with family and friends from his childhood onwards, also form a part of this collection.

A plethora of magazine and newspaper articles, and books trace his career trajectory, against the context of the Indian business scenario from the 1960s onwards. Also building on this are the Files and Documents available with the Bajaj archives – the backbone of which is formed by his correspondence with  institutions, colleagues and friends and family, most notably his father, Kamalnayan Bajaj.

The Bajaj Archives is also home to audio recordings of his Parliamentary sessions and speeches, as well as other televised interviews over the years.

A charming addition to this collection is ‘Dear Rahul’, a 70th birthday present, containing personal messages, letters and photographs from friends, family and national leaders no less than the Prime Minister.

Shekhar Bajaj – (1948-Present)

Shekhar Bajaj, the MD and Chairman of Bajaj Electricals has been instrumental in making that company the household name it is today. His Collection at the Bajaj Archives contains his correspondence with family members, colleagues and institutions. His in-depth interviews, on business development and growth, and the industry at large are a highlight of this collection.

The Files and Documents include ‘Bajaj Hi-Lites’,a quarterly journal from the 1981 that was circulated with information and articles that aimed to bring dealers, staff members, customers and the various other arms of the ever-expanding Bajaj Electricals closer to each other.

The Photograph Collection documents his contributions in institutions such as his Presidential year at the Indian Merchants Chamber, while also including personal photos from childhood, holidays, his wedding with Kiran Bajaj.

The books, writings, and photographs of the various literary and developmental initiatives headed by Kiran Bajaj also form a part of this collection.

Madhur Bajaj – (1952-Present)

Madhur Bajaj has been intimately involved with Bajaj Auto over the course of his career, and has also taken after his father in his passion for social work. As the Vice-Chairman of Bajaj Auto, he is seen in photographs from launch events, factory inaugurations, and award ceremonies. Credited with the development and expansion of the Aurangabad Plant of Bajaj Auto, his private papers and correspondence reflect his deep engagement with the Bajaj Auto community therein, and elsewhere. Indeed his photographs include several cricket games on staff picnics!

His papers also contain business correspondence for Maharashtra Scooters Ltd., of which he is the Chairman. Over the years, he’s been involved with a wide range of industrial, diplomatic and philanthropic activities. Photographs from the events of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, interactions with the Singaporean High Commissioner, and the IMC RJC National Quality Awards help us understand the breadth of Madhur Bajaj’s interests as a businessman. His involvement in Gujarat Earthquake relief camps, the Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital, and other philanthropic work that is traceable through the documentation within the archives.

Niraj Bajaj – (1954-Present)

Niraj Bajaj has had the unique privilege of being a nationally ranked athlete as well as a successful industrialist. The Archive houses news reports of his sports achievements and captaincy, interviews and images of him in action, table-tennis memorabilia, and photographs of him receiving several awards, most prestigious of which was the Arjuna Award in 1974.

After deciding to shift his focus to business, he worked with Bajaj Auto and Bajaj Electricals, and then moved to Mukand Ltd of which he is today Chairman and Managing Director. Like his father, he too is invested in the industry as much as the company – He headed the Indian Merchants Chamber in its Centenary year, and has established the IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Awards, that seeks to reward best practices in Indian businesses. Meanwhile, his interest in sports hasn’t died down, today it merely manifests itself in initiatives like Olympic Gold Quest, an not-for-profit organisation which supplements government efforts in supporting, and mentoring Indian athletes. Photographs from such organisations and events, as well as family photographs and travel documentation enrich the archival collection.

Oral History Collection

The Bajaj Archive is also developing an Oral History Collection. As a process of archiving their history, the Archive Team interviews family members, close associates, employees and friends. Through this we’re able to capture old and new memories, anecdotes and nuances that might not be recorded elsewhere, and fill in the gaps left behind by books and documents.

These oral histories will undoubtedly prove to be a rich, vibrant, and inimitable source of history for future generations.

1209Files & Documents
3718Digital Media
2796Special Media