Digitalising Antiquities with ABHINAY RATHORE
It all started back in 2004. Professor L.S. Rathore, the then-Vice Chancellor of the Jodhpur National University was writing one of his upcoming books that required a family tree to be documented digitally. A fresh computer science graduate at the time, Abhinay Rathore was soon to embark upon his American dream for higher studies when he undertook the initiative to help the professor out.
During his initial research, the young man came across the Indian Princely States Website, an online documentation of princely genealogies being regulated by an Australian called Henry Soszynski. The scope and dedication of Soszynski’s work left Abhinay highly impressed and motivated him to make a similar effort with the backing of his designing and developing skills. As a goodwill gesture to give back to his community, Abhinay undertook Soszynski’s primary vision and honed it with an impetus to go further, in the form of a deeper and more systemised inquiry into the collective past of the Rajputs. 8 years later, the now-software engineer was taking a walk alongside his wife somewhere in the United States when it occurred to him that it was time.
He registered the domain name of 'Indian Rajputs', which would soon become the largest repository of content related to Rajputs in the online world.
Rajputana Collective takes the privilege of featuring Abhinay’s story with 'Indian Rajputs', as well as the intent and motives of the enterprising software engineer that shaped the most commendable plan of content integration for the Rajput community since the times of Sir James Tod.
Picture urban millennials who have grown up in the urban confines an Indian city, or better still, in a country far away from home. They have grown up hearing the elders of their family tell them scattered ancestral tales and stories of origin. They have a rough idea about their familial heritage, and would be perfectly comfortable in their complacency of it. But what if they were the curious kind? What if they wanted to know more about where they came from? Well, not just from a singularity called India, but where they actually came from. Let’s imagine one of the family’s better historians stepping forth to help the curious millennials out. At best, they could manage digging out some old pictures, memoirs and drawing out a family tree.
The questions still remained- how did we get here? What brings us all together?
Couple this with the frustration of a reader, history enthusiast or scholar for being unable to lay his/her hands on a concise account of India’s Rajput community. If one wishes to steer clear of the clouded stereotypes, unificatory narratives of historical generalisation simply don’t suffice, neither do cinematic narratives.
A well-meaning officer from the East India Company had once produced his documentation of the histories and genealogies of Rajput communities across considerable lengths and breadths of the country. However, never in the past had anyone from within the Rajput community attempted a documentation effort at the scale and scope such as Abhinay’s via 'Indian Rajputs'. He introduces his experience as a digital curator by saying, “until now, most of the valuable information has been documented in old books, ancient journals and pictures hanging in royal palaces around India which is the greatest Rajput testament, unexplored and under-appreciated. When I started the website, I never thought I would stumble upon a treasure trove of historical information and pictures all contributed by Rajputs from around the world, which glorifies the numerous contributions that we have made for our people and our country”.
As its sole developer and designer, Abhinay has spent six long years in constructing and maintaining 'Indian Rajputs' as a highly interactive and user-friendly database in the best interest of his community. Today, the website attracts around three thousand visitors on a daily basis; and is supported by thousands of contributors from around the globe. Abhinay’s digital prowess and dedication have enabled him to successfully execute a one stop shop for the curious millennial, his historically-inclined relative as well as the under-saturated reader. Abhinay elaborates on his purpose vis-a-vis 'Indian Rajputs' by placing a strong emphasis on the ever-expanding scope of information that requires effective coverage while bearing in mind its user-friendliness and accessibility.
More importantly, despite the demanding nature of an extensive venture such as his, Abhinay ensures its utmost sanctity with a committed adherence to purely philanthropic motives. “I have no financial gains from the website through online ads or subscriptions because I could never weigh this information with money on the other side of the scale. If our future generations get to learn our great culture and heritage through this website and try to help others, I would consider it my biggest reward” he says.
As a part of his professional work experience, Abhinay has interacted with some of the world’s most impactful social networking platforms in the world. At present, he operates as the Front-End Software Engineer for Facebook and directs 'Indian Rajputs' in his free time. Invariably, the technical insights gained by him at work are bound to enrich his website with an added sophistication. These very insights better equip him with a foresight to predict possible foresights, information trends and important considerations to bear in mind while further cultivating his digital platform. “I’ve learned a lot about the rapid growth of online social networks and how to harness their energy in a positive way. We are living in a hyper-growth of digital age where information and data flow are growing at an unprecedented pace and it’s important to make sure e’re at the right juncture to digitalise and deliver relevant information”, he says.
Abhinay’s experiential advantage has sensitised him to stay cautious of the possible threats and limitations of such a project. Amongst the multitudinous loopholes of digital logistics and ethical dilemmas, he points out the importance of maintaining authentic content as well as optimum security considerations. He discusses the challenges accompanying issues of information verifiability as well as user authenticity, and justifies calculated decision of refraining from automating the website in order to maintain content quality on 'Indian Rajputs'.
Within the six years of its inception, 'Indian Rajputs' has made an impressive outreach to the Rajput community worldwide, not just in collaborating varied informational content but in also providing an important networking platform. Abhinay has played a promising role in creating a prospective point of multilateral reference for the Rajput community and continues to further develop his digital annals. In the near future, he envisions an expansion of 'Indian Rajputs' from its present database on genealogy to a global directory and an online networking forum to help foster greater online networking for Rajputs across geographical diversities. He hopes for these optimisations to further enhance cultural ties as well as professional liaisons between community persons.
In his concluding remarks, Abhinay reiterates his motives of further nurturing 'Indian Rajputs' in order to provide meaningful values to his community without compromising the integrity of the platform. “I always wanted all the buried information to come out on a digital platform and I know I’ve only been able to capture a tiny percentage of it. But by God’s grace and the continued love and support of the community, we will be able to immortalise it for our future generations”, he supplements, says Abhinay.
We salute his generosity and dedication, and wish him a bright journey ahead. May 'Indian Rajputs' continue to gain greater eminence and success.