Patna’s iconic library caught in Centre’s cobweb

The 126-year old Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna, has been functioning without a full-time director since 2014. The appointment of the next director has been pending with the Centre



Photo Courtesy: kblibrary.bih.nic.in
Photo Courtesy: kblibrary.bih.nic.in
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Navendu Sharma

The 126-year-old Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna, has been functioning without a full-time director ever since the Modi government came to power as the appointment papers have been gathering dust at the Union government’s official cobweb.


Described by a British scholar as having “one of the finest collections on Moslem literature in the world”, the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library has been functions sans a full-time director since June 2014 – after the retirement of incumbent director Imtiaz Ahmad. The publication of books, digitisation of manuscripts and purchase of books, magazines, newspapers and other research materials have been hit hard.


Sources said a proposal for the appointment has been pending with the ministry of personnel for the approval of appointments committee of the cabinet (ACC).


The library, which opened to public in October 1891, has about 21,000 Oriental manuscripts (in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Hindi and Sanskrit) and 2.5 lakh printed books. In view of its rich historical and intellectual value, an Act of Parliament in 1969 declared the library an Institution of National Importance. It now functions under the aegis of the ministry of culture, Government of India, and is fully funded by it.


The collection includes about 3,000 epistles of eminent litterateurs. Four of its manuscripts – two in Arabic and two in Persian - had been declared as part of Vigyan Nidhi (manuscript treasure of India) by the National Mission for Manuscripts in 2006.


The secretary general of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Bihar chapter, Anwarul Hoda, said, “The Majlis had sent an RTI petition to the PMO, seeking to know when a full-time director would be appointed. The ministry of culture, in its letter dated March 22, stated that the matter is pending with the appointments committee of the cabinet.”


“Over two months have passed since then but the wait goes on,” he rued. Hoda pointed out that the library’s collection is not limited to Moslem literature.


The library specialises in Islamic studies, tibb (Unani medicine), tazkira (Biography), tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism), comparative religions, medieval history, South East Asian history, West Asian History, Central Asian history, medieval science, literature on freedom movement and National integration as also Urdu, Persian and Arabic Literature, the website states.

Photo Courtesy: kblibrary.bih.nic.in
Photo Courtesy: kblibrary.bih.nic.in
A leaf from a rare copy of the Holy Quran written in thick Kufi. Not dated; apparently 9th century AD

The manuscripts at the library include art from Iranian, Mughal, Central Asian, Kashmiri and Rajasthani Schools besides calligraphic masterpieces.


An autonomous institution, the library is governed by a board with the Bihar governor being its ex-officio chairman. Its day-to-day functioning is currently being overseen by the Patna commissioner, but he has several other responsibilities and is hardly able to spare enough time to look after the affairs of the library, lamented an official.


Located close to the banks of the Ganga, the library was set up by Khan Bahadur Khuda Bakhsh to fulfil the wish of his father, Maulvi Mohammad Bakhsh, who had expressed his desire to set up a library for the public from his death bed in 1876. Hailing from Chhapra in Saran district in Bihar, Maulvi Mohammad Bakhsh had collected about 1,400 manuscripts which he passed on to his son, Khuda Bakhsh, who then added more manuscripts to the collection. Once, the British Museum offered him him an undisclosed amount for his collection, but he refused it.


The library also runs the Curzon Reading Room, named after Lord Curzon, where people can read newspapers, magazines, reference books and books for competitive examinations.

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Published: 11 Jun 2017, 10:42 AM
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