The history of the Oriental Public Library was written by my father Syed Ahsan Shere, a historian, the first Curator of Patna Museum and the Secretary of Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library from May 1957 till October 1962. I found in his memoirs the brief history of this famous international library which I wish to share with the people of Bihar and the remarks by some prominent people who visited this library.
The history of the Oriental Public Library, is in fact the sum total of the achievement of Khuda Baksh who, with his wide knowledge, far-reaching insight into public life, abundant energy and outstanding success in his association with people of all classes and creeds, founded the library. The Library was opened in October 1891.
In 1925 Mahatma Gandhi visited the library. His remarks are as follows:
"I heard about this beautiful library nine years ago, and ever since I have had the desire to visit it. It has given me great joy to be able to examine the rich collection of rare books which the keepers so patiently and so kindly showed me. The books are works of art. The magnificent finish and the colouring about the decorations of al-Koran and Shahnamah are an eternal feast for the eye. I revere the memory of the great founder who spared no pains or money to present India with such a rare collection".
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Library in 1953 and his remarks are as follows:
"I had long heard of the Khuda Baksh Library and knew that it was a very fine collection. It was only this morning that I first visited it and saw some of its treasures. I found them even more remarkable than I had expected - and I had expected much. It was a rare delight to see these beautiful works of art, which enshrine a period of India's history. It was a joy and an education to see these priceless treasures, some quite unique".
Sir C.V. Raman, a scientist of international repute visited the library in 1944 and made the following remarks:
"To describe the contents of this library as a national possession of which every Indian should feel proud is to put down a mere truism. I do not think the education of any Indian complete who has not seen this great collection and learnt to appreciate its value and interest".
The first Governor General of the Indian Dominion, Lord Mountbatten of Burma (1947-1948), visited the Library in 1948 and remarked as follows:
"A unique collection of which this great country may justly be proud".
The Library contains a unique collection of the choicest and rarest manuscripts and pictures which would do honour to any of the world's biggest capitals. Patna and Bihar the land of my ancestors have every reason to be proud of it and to remember with loving gratitude that great citizen, the late Maulvi Khuda Baksh Khan, whose public-spirited generosity made it available to them.
Syed Ahsan Shere writes, "In India there existed several well known libraries, but no traces of these libraries were found after the Mutiny. In those times of which history has doleful tale to tell, these libraries were either destroyed or their books were taken out of the country. Thus as far as I am aware there are no libraries in India today, as there are none at Medina, Cairo or Constantinople. Let us hope that before long we shall possess a press to multiply the copies of valuable works and so bring them within the reach of the reading public. The year the library was opened it contained 4,000 manuscripts, it is now in the excess of several thousand. The best collections of any libraries in the world.
The library further possesses select manuscripts which formerly belonged to great orientalists like Desacy, Sir Core Ousely and Blochmann. The work of Zahrevi on surgery is a manuscript which requires particular attention. This copy bears 585 A.H. as the date of execution. In this manuscript the pictures of the surgical instruments are carefully drawn, and the similarity which some of the instruments bear to those which are supposed to be of modern invention.
About the Writer:
Waris Shere is a former resident of Patna. He is the author of eight books including "THE STRUGGLE FOR PEACE". Professor Shere is a freelance journalist and was nominated for the "ORDER OF CANADA".