Islamic knowledge house, Khuda Bakhsh Library retains glory
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Sanjay Kumar Sinha Patna, Jul 8 (PTI) The Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library here is a treasure trove of Islamic studies, possessing more than 21,000 manuscripts, including Tarikh-i-Khandan-i-Timuriyah of Emperor Akbar's days, drawing Indian and foreign researchers.

The valuable collection of the library includes Tarikh-i-Khandan-i-Timuriyah of which the only extant copy is with the library. This excellent and profusely illustrated text narrates the history of Taimur and his descendants till the reign of Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, said library director Imtiaz Ahmad.

Yet another unique manuscript is the Sirat-e-Firoz Shahi by an anonymous writer. It is the only extant copy in the world and narrates the major events of the first half of the reign of Firoz Shah (1351-88) and sheds light on some notable personal qualities of the sultan.

Other valuable possessions are "Shahanshah Nama" of Husaini which offers a detailed account of the reign of Sultan Mohammad III of Turkey and "Padshah Namah" of Qazwini written in 17th century giving account of life of Shah Jahan.

The library also has a rich collection of about 40 Sanskrit manuscripts written on palm-leaf and some manuscripts in Mithilakshara, Ahmad said.

He said housing rich Islamic manuscripts and those of Sanskrit and Hindi reflected Khuda Bakhsh's broad vision of secularism.

The library also has a copy of English romantic poet Lord Byron's 'Ode to Napoleon', wherein two additional stanzas have been added in what is considered to be Byron's own handwriting, according to the director. With a rich collection of Islamic manuscripts and paintings of Mughal era, the over century-old library's nomination for inclusion in the UNESCO's World Heritage Register is under "active consideration" he said.

"The registration of the library for inclusion in UNESCO World Heritage Register was done in March this year. The UNESCO authorities recently sought some details about the library, which we supplied." The library, which was inaugurated by Sir Charles Elliot, Governor of Bengal on 5th October, 1891, continues to attract scholars from all over the world. Avid researchers from Pakistan, Israel, Syria, England, the US, Kuwait, Egypt and Japan pour in to the library, Ahmad says.

He said efforts are on to prepare a CD of these rare manuscripts to preserve them for future generations. These manuscripts are kept in a special shelves in controlled temperature to increase their longevity.

Space constraints is a problem for the authorties to expand the activities of the library, Ahmad said adding a proposal has been sent to the Central government for construction of an additional storey on the building.

The library was started by a bibliophile Mohammad Bakhsh and expanded by his son Khuda Bakhsh who added to the collection of his father and converted it into a private library by 1880. In 1969 by an Act of Parliament, Government of India declared Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library a centre of national importance and assumed the responsibility of providing funds for its maintenance and development. Its administrative control was assigned to a board headed by the Governor of Bihar as the ex-officio Chairman.

The list of eminent visitors to the library includes at least six viceroys, Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore and four Presidents of India, including A P J Abdul Kalam, says the library director.

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