Founded on 19th August 1946;
The 67th Geography Foundation Day B.H.U.; 19 August 2013.
The teaching of geography at the Banaras Hindu University was initiated at Intermediate level in 1944 in the Department of Geology under chairmanship of late Prof. Rajnath. An independent and full-fledged Department of Geography was, however, created on 19 August 1946 [Monday, Bhadrapad Krishna 7th Samvata 2003, Janmasthmi] with late Prof. Harbans Lal Chhibber [1899-1955] as its first Head. During Prof. Chhibber's regime (1946-1955) late Dr. Ram Lochan Singh [1917-2001], late Phanishwar Kumar Dutt, and Dr. Parmeshwar Dayal (b: 15 Aug. 1920--, later shifted to Patna University, and lives there). Late Mr. N. Leiter, Dr. Shanti Lal Kayastha, Dr. Anand Swaroop Jauhari and late Dr. Ujagir Singh joined the University Department later, while Smt. Bibha Mukherjee and Dr. Nawal Kishore Pd. Sinha joined the Department in Mahila Mahavidyalaya and Central Hindu College, Kamachcha, respectively. In 1957 (late) Prof. Kashi Nath Singh [1932-2013] has also joined the department as faculty member.
On 26th February 1955, Prof. R. L. Singh took over the charge of the Department as Professor and Head, after the untimely demise of Professor Chhibber. Prof. R. L. Singh (1955-1977) has largely been responsible for providing new dimensions to the teaching of geography, by introducing manifold modifications in the Postgraduate and Undergraduate courses. Due to Professor Singh's great interest in all round development of the subject and his unending devotion, this department achieved an eminent position in India. In the early phase of research activities more attention was paid towards Settlement Geography especially urban aspects. In 1968 when the IGU Congress was held in India, this Department hosted a Pre-congress International Symposium on 'Urban Geography in Developing Countries'. During 1968-1980 Prof. R.L. Singh chaired the International Geographical Union's Commission/ Working Group on "Rural Habitat in the Developing World", and later on joined by Prof. Rana P.B. Singh as Co-Chairman (1976-1984), with the cooperation of the two national leaders of international fame in geography: Prof. Roland G. Lister (New Zealand) and Prof. Jiro Yonekura (Japan), and thus developed several collaborated programmes and resultant publications of sixteen volumes. Later the researches were diverted in diverse fields ranging from Applied Geography, Resource and Regional Planning, Applied Geomorphology and Hydrology, Medical Geography, Agricultural Geography, Transport Geography, Cultural Geography to Area Development and Environmental Studies. Under Prof. R.L. Singh's chairmanship the first National Summer School in 'Applied Geography' was organized during 1-10 November 1966. Since then, this Department has organized regularly many International/National seminars and conferences on various focal and contemporary themes. Till 19th August 2013 altogether 41 such seminars (13 International, and 29 National levels) were organized, and two international seminars are now in process or organisation (2013-14). These seminars had covered all the major focal and interdisciplinary themes. About eight dozen books, including research monographs, proceedings of seminars and symposia held in the Department, edited volumes and textbooks have already been published.
The University Grants Commission supported this Department under the Department Research Support (DRS) programme during 1981-86 and under the Special Assistance Programme (SAP) during 1986-92, and since 2011 the DRS Phase I SAP programme continued. At present there are three major research projects in the Department sponsored one each by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
The Department was first to install an imported Photostat unit in early sixties which catered to research requirements even of other centres in the country. There are six Laboratories in the Department of Geography: (1) The Surveying Lab, consists of instruments like Theodolite, Dumpy level, Prismatic compass, etc. (2) The Environmental Lab, having soil and water-testing portable kits, Muffle Furnace, BOD Incubator, noise sampler, High Temp oven Flame photometer, and Spectrophotometer, etc. (3) The Cartography Lab, consists of mirror stereoscope with binoculars, etc. (4) The GIS Lab, having facilities of Arc Info (ULK kit), ENVI Image processing software (about 10 lacs), 40" Scanner, AO Size Printer, server with High Resolution display monitor, Multimedia projector, and Networked set of 15 Computers (about 20 lacs). (5) The Computer Lab consisting of hardware with Internet facility and Xeroxing. (6) PG Computer Lab consists of Computers Printers, Scanners, Internet facility for PG Students and Research Scholars.
The present faculty consists of 16 Professors, 1 Associate Professor, 9 Assistant Professors, and 1 UGC Research Scientist 'C' in the main department. In the affiliating institution Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, in the same campus, there are 2 Professors, and 2 Assistant Professors. Thus, presently altogether there is a strength of 27 faculty in the main department and 4 in the MMV, reaching to 31 members; however, additionally 08 posts are vacant. That is how this department is placed as the biggest department of geography in the whole of Asia.
By virtue of its reputation and facilities, the Department has been attracting students from all over the country and also from abroad, viz. Japan, Iran, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, West Indies, Bhutan, etc. During the last 65 plus years of its glorious existence the Department has attained National and International recognition through its contributions on geographical studies covering India. One of the International Seminars sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Italy and the B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation in 1995 is a rare feather in its cap. The faculty members of the Department have been publishing on average one to two books and ten to fifteen research papers every year. Also at least one or two staff members visit abroad yearly to attend International Conferences/Exchange Programmes.
The existing Three-Year B.A./B.Sc. (Hons.) course in Geography is spread over three academic sessions, viz. Part-I, II and Part III. M.A./ M.Sc. Post-Graduate (P.G.) Semester system with total 90 credits consists of Departmental core courses, Major electives and Minor electives spread over I to IV Semesters is introduced from July 2004. For Ph.D. the department runs two-semester (One-year) compulsory system of teaching and practical training. Also, there is a programme for PG Dip. in GIS & Remote Sensing for two semesters (one year) in the main campus and in BHU's Rajiv Gandhi South Campus at Barkachcha.
The Department has its own library (besides the University Central Library) with a collection of about 9000 books covering various branches of Geography.