The National Geographical Society of India (NGSI) was founded in 1946 on the lines of Royal Geographical Society (London) and American Geographical Society (New York), the year in which independent Department of Geography at Banaras Hindu University came into existence, at the initiatives of Professor Harbans Lal Chhibber (1899 – 1955). Professor Chhibber, a distinguished geologist and physical geographer trained in England, was the founder Professor and Head of the Department and President of the Society (1946-1955) till his untimely demise.
He was succeeded by Dr. Ram Lochan Singh (1917 – 2001), a doctorate from the London School of Economics, who took over the reign of the Department as Professor and Head and the NGSI as its Honorary Secretary. Under Professor Singh’s visionary and dynamic academic leadership, both the Department and the Society gained prominence and international repute. The NGSI is one of the oldest professional academic bodies of geographers in India which has been playing a leading role in the cause of Geography in the country.
Aims and Objectives
· To promote and disseminate knowledge of Geography in India.
· To investigate and collect geographical data by encouraging the study of Geography.
· To cooperate with other similar organisations (abroad).
· To undertake geographical research and planning for the uplift of the people.
To fulfill the aims and objectives, there were eight activities identified to promote Geography in India. The main activity of the NGSI initially was focused on the publication of research bulletins primarily in the field of physical geography and allied branches of science which continued up to 1954. During this period, three medals were instituted by the Society: Madan Mohan Malaviya Medal (for expanding geographical knowledge), Jawaharlal Nehru Medal (for contribution to Indian Geography), and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Medal (for contribution to general field of geography) whose recipients have been the leading lights of Geography in the world.
The year 1955 was turning point in the history of NGSI when Professor Ram Lochan Singh took over the charge Head of the Department and also the Society. The official mouthpiece of the NGJI, National Geographical Journal of India (ISSN: 0027-9374), was launched under the editorship of Dr. Shanti Lal Kayastha (1924 – 2018).
In the next phase (1955-1970), the activities of the NGSI expanded. In 1964 ‘Research Publication Series’ was launched and the Society grew through hosting seminars, conferences, symposiums, and Summer School (1966) in collaboration with the International Geographical Union and leading international geographers from different centres of eminence across the world.
In the year 1971, the silver jubilee year of the NGSI was celebrated by organising a symposium on “Rural Settlements in Monsoon Asia” on behalf of the IGU Commission. This occasion was also marked by the release of the book "India: A Regional Geography" (edited by Professor Ram Lochan Singh). This monumental work earned international repute and recognition for the Society; and, appreciation for the Indian geographers’ insight, ability, and rigour.
These achievements paved the path for further strengthening the NGSI and broadening the scope of its activities both in terms of quality and diversity exemplified by greater international collaborations and publication of special thematic volumes. The NGSI has a rare distinction, among the professional geographical academic bodies in India, of publishing articles in almost all major branches of Geography in its different publications contributed by authors from over 30 countries from different parts of the world!