A tribute to Khuda Bakhsh
The founder of the world famous Oriental Public Library Patna
WORLD BOOK DAY 23RD APRIL BY DR. ABDUL MAJID BABA
When the world is celebrating World Book Day, let us pay our tribute to Khuda Bakhsh Khan Founder of Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library Patna Bihar. This Library is considered as Treasure House of Muslim Art and Literature. Established in 1891, the Library –The product of a Bibliophile’s labour of love- boasts of one of the world’s richest collections of rare books, manuscripts and original paintings, each an outstanding example of the best of Muslim art and literature. It enshrines the memory of scholars and kings long gone, of causes lost and won, and of a vibrant culture which in its time had a profound influence and inspired some of the greatest master pieces.
Today it is an institution of national importance having been declared so by the Government of India which took over control of the Library by an Act of Parliament in 1969. It houses thousands of Urdu, Persian and Arabic manuscripts - the world’s second largest collection, after the one at the Istanbul Public Library (Turkey).
Khuda Bakhsh Khan was born into a highly educated family of North Bihar, one of whose members, it is said, assisted in compiling the Fatwa-i-Alamgiri, the institutes of Aurangzeb. Khuda Bakhsh’s father, Mohammad Bakhsh, an advocate and a scholar, had built up a valuable collection of about 1400 Books, some of which he had inherited, these he bequeathed to his son with a death bed wish that they be made the nucleus of a great collection which would foster oriental learning. The son, with no patrimony other than these volumes, established the Library in 1891 in Patna and by a deed of trust “donated” the entire collection to the public. Then called the Patna Oriental Public Library, it was renamed after Khuda Bakhsh’s death in 1908. He died at the age of 66 and was buried within the Library premises.
The founder’s will specifies that under no circumstances can the Library be shifted from where it is now, Ashoka Rajpath, popularly known as Bankipore, in Patna. A man from Chapra, Khuda Bakhsh had reasons for coming to Patna to establish his Library. To him, Patna had great historical significance.
An advocate and later, a judge, Khuda Bakhsh travelled extensively all over India, his fame as a book collector spreading all the while.
Khuda Bakhsh’s son, Salahuddin Khuda Bakhsh, in his book, My Father: His Life and Reminiscences, admits with pride that many of the manuscripts in the Library had been stolen from elsewhere. Khuda Bakhsh himself was not ashamed of it. The Book quotes him as having told a friend, Sir Ali Imam, “The art of collection is one that soars above and defies the provisions of the penal code. There are three classes of blind men- those who are bereft of sight; those who (lend) valuable books even to a friend; and those who return such volumes, once they have passed into their possession”.
Khuda Bakhsh’s passion for books was intense. The British Museum made him a magnificent offer for his collection, but he turned it down saying, “I am a poor man. The money that has been offered is a Princely fortune. But how can I ever part for money with that to which my father and I have dedicated our lives.”
Descriptive Cataloguing of the Library’s Manuscripts was initiated by the Scholar- Administrator Lord Curzon in 1905 under the supervision of Sir Denison Ross, a British Indologist. Acquisition of manuscripts continues regularly. Rare books were donated from donors in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Italy, Iran, United States, and Saudi Arabia during 1990’s
Jawaharlal Nehru, while visiting the Library in 1953, expressed his desire to see the rare materials reproduced and reprinted so that those who could not come to Patna would still have access to them. Thereafter, large number of volumes rare and old prints were edited and published. Large numbers of manuscripts have been digitized. Large numbers of Scholars throughout the world visit this Library.
We wish to have the Library like Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library and person like Khuda Bakhsh Khan in J&K State. No doubt we have the great persons who donate or gift their rare collections to the Libraries without demanding any amount. But unfortunately we have the persons in J&K State particularly in Kashmir who demand high amount for their personal collections posing that they possess rare collections. I have my personal experiences during the last few decades and at certain times I feel disheartened when people charge for the manuscripts in their possession without knowing that the manuscripts are already published. Even we have the people who charge for the trash collections. During these days we have to keep in view the availability of space in different Libraries. We must work hard to get only those rare collections which are really beneficial for the future generations.
Author is Deputy University Librarian, University of Kashmir. Reach him at email@example.com
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 23 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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