A bibliophile’s travel itinerary

Ten must-visit libraries in India for the book lover and the architect lover

Freestyle

April 11, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

Some are part of a palace, some a protected monument; one of these even served as the residence of India’s first Prime Minister. Significant due to their architecture or stories attached to them, a visit to these ten libraries could make for a significant part of a bibliophile’s travel itinerary.

Land of Bollywood, the city of Mumbai is also home to two of India’s most famous libraries. A site for the shooting of many films, TV and print commercials, the Asiatic Society of Mumbai library boasts of a colonial architecture, in line with rest of the neighbourhood, was built in the year 1804. Not too far from it is the David Sassoon Library in the Kala-Ghoda neighbourhood of South Mumbai. Built in 1870, the library is one of the 145 monuments protected by Indian government, and is the oldest library in Mumbai.

Another protected monument and library is the Raza library in state of Uttar Pradesh. Established by the royals who resided in Rampur, where the library is situated, it houses an inherited collection of valuable manuscripts, historical documents, Mughal miniature paintings, books and other works of art.  However, the biggest library in the state is the Allahabad Public Library also known as Thornhill Mayne Memorial. Boasting of a Scottish Baronial architecture, it once served as the house of legislative assembly during the British rule in India.

Also home to some original manuscripts, with few of them being as rare as palm leaf records, the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tamil Nadu is one of Asia’s oldest.  It is in fact, one of the few medieval libraries existing in the world and roofs a repository of culture and knowledge that was built by the rulers of this place. The Encyclopaedia Britannica in its survey of the libraries of the world has mentioned it as “the most remarkable library in India”.

The State Central Library in Hyderabad and the State Central Library in Kerala are the oldest of public libraries in India. While the library in Kerala is the first public library in India, the State Central Library in Hyderabad has a heritage status. And down south, the Connemara Public Library in Chennai is one of the four National Depository Libraries in India. It receives and stores copies of various books, newspapers and magazines published in the country.

On the other hand the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi and the National Library of India in Kolkata display a comparatively contemporary architecture while housing huge collections of books. The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, in fact served as the abode for Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.

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