Ten Of The Most Beautiful Libraries In India
The National Library
NEW DELHI: Libraries are one of the most incredible tributes to human knowledge imaginable, and make for an even more powerful setting when combined with historical and artistic splendour. The national libraries of countries across the world are housed in visually stunning, imposing structures. Countries with a rich architectural and archeological past often use buildings of historical significance as their primary libraries.
It should therefore be of no surprise that India, one of the most culturally blessed countries in the world, has an innumerable number of libraries that would put the best national libraries to shame. Yet, neither Indians nor library aficionados in other parts of the world seem to be aware of India’s stunning libraries. Here’s a list of ten such libraries in India, and the list is by no means exhaustive.
1. Raza Library
Built in 1904 as part of a palace in Rampur, the Raza Library is one of India’s few protected monuments (and deservedly so). The collection in the library dates to the royal family’s efforts since the 1700s, and includes 17,000 rare manuscripts, 205 hand-written palm leaves and 5000 miniature paintings.
The Raza Library also contains printed works in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto (having the original manuscript of the first translation of the Qur'an in addition to other important books/documents), Tamil and Turkish, and approximately 30,000 printed books (including periodicals) in various other languages. It’s also breathtakingly stunning.
2. David Sassoon Library
Located in the heart of Mumbai, the David Sassoon Library was completed in 1870. Like the Raza Library, the David Sassoon Library is one of only 145 monuments protected by India’s government, and the oldest library in Mumbai. It’s best feature, in addition to the design and history, is the leafy garden out back -- perfect for wandering into with a thick book (and poof, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of one the busiest and most chaotic cities in the world).
3. Nehru Memorial Museum And Library
Situated in a historical building that served as the residence of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the aptly named Nehru Memorial Museum and Library has arguably one of the best collection of resources in India. Designed by Robert Tor Russell, the British architect of Connaught Place and of the Eastern and Western Courts on Janpath during the British Raj, the bhawan housing the Library was built in 1930 as part of the new imperial capital of India, New Delhi as the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army. Thus, it has all the grandeur (and solace) expected to come with it.
4. The National Library of India
The National Library of India situated in Kolkata is the largest library in India by volume and India's library of public record. It has a huge collection of over 2.2 million books. If that’s not enough, the library is situated in a scenic part of the bustling city of Kolkata, on a 30 acre green, lush plot. The building housing the library was once the official residence of the Lt. Governor of Bengal.
5. State Central Library of Hyderabad
The State Central Library Hyderabad is a public library in Telangana. The building was constructed in 1891 by Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk and was granted heritage status in 1998. The library building has an area of 72,247 square yards and was built under the supervision of architect, Aziz Ali. The foundation stone was laid in January 1932 by Prince Mir Osman Ali Khan. At the construction's completion, the Asafia Library shifted to the new building in 1936 to mark Nizam VII's silver jubilee. The architecture is reminiscent of a palace with its huge halls and high ceilings. Impressed?
6. Sarasvathi Mahal Library
The Sarasvathi Mahal Library is one of the oldest libraries in Asia. Located in Thanjavur (Tanjore), Tamil Nadu, it has on display a rare collection of Palm leaf manuscripts and paper written in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, English and a few other languages indigenous to India. The collection comprises well over 60,000 volumes, though only a tiny fraction of these are on display. The library has a complete catalogue of holdings, which is being made available online. Some rare holdings can be viewed on site by prior arrangement. The Library’s history lies in its use as a Royal Library for the private pleasure of the Nayak Kings of Thanjavur who ruled 1535 - 1675 AD. Beautiful, right?
7. State Central Library, Thiruvananthapuram
State Central Library of Kerala is also known as Trivandrum Public Library is the first public Library in India. The Library was established in the year A.D. 1829 during the reign of King Swathi Thirunal of Travancore. Today, it houses various collections such as a Malayalam section, a reprographic section, a digital library, a children’s library, etc.
8. Connemara Public Library
The Connemara Public Library in Chennai is one of the four National Depository Libraries, which means that it stores/receives copies of various books, newspapers and magazines printed in India. Established in 1890, the library is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. It also serves as a depository library for the UN.
9. Asiatic Society of Mumbai Library
Situated in a beautiful colonial building in Mumbai, the Asiatic Society of Mumbai library houses the collection of the society, which includes 20,000 rare books. It can trace its origin to the Literary Society of Bombay which first met in Mumbai on November 26, 1804, and was founded by Sir James Mackintosh. It was formed with the intention of "promoting useful knowledge, particularly such as is now immediately connected with India".
10. Allahabad Public Library
The Allahabad Public Library also known as Thornhill Mayne Memorial is a public library situated at Alfred Park in Allahabad. Established in 1864, it is the biggest library in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The building designed by Richard Roskell Bayne is a remarkable example of Scottish Baronial architecture. It served as the house of legislative assembly in British era when Allahabad was the capital of United Provinces. In 1879, the Public library was shifted to the present premises at Alfred Park. The library has an approximate collection of 125,000 books, 40 types of magazines and 28 different newspapers in Hindi, English, Urdu and Bangla and contains 21 Arabic manuscripts. It also has a collection of old government publications, parliamentary papers, and blue books of the 19th century, old manuscripts and journals.