Rampur Raza Library
Rampur Raza library, one of Asia’s largest and oldest libraries has its fair share of identity crisis. The novelty of the library is not just in its structure, which becomes obvious when one moves through its vast reading hall and the gallery. Every morning Zakir Ali, the 40 years old caretaker opens the magnificent gate of the Library telling me with great pride - “I have been working here for the past 18 years”.
The gallery has a number of classical feminine Greek icon figures of 18th century which were imported from Italy more than a century ago. The gigantic life size statues have been carved out of white falcon marble. The niches in the gallery, cornices and ceilings of the canopy are embellished in pure gold adding much to its stately grandeur.
The Rampur Raza Library is a treasure of Indo Islamic learning and arts which was founded by Nawab Faizullah Khan in 1774, who ruled the state up to 1794 and formed the nucleus of the library through his personal collection of valuable manuscripts, historical documents, books and paintings. A passionate traveler Nawab Hamid Ali owns the credit of constructing impressive palaces and buildings in Rampur city. He constructed a magnificent palace inside the fort called Quila by the local residents and named it Hamid Manzil which is now housing Rampur Raza library.
After the independence and merger of the state in the union of India the Library was brought under the management of a trust. The Librarian tells,” presently it has a collection of 17,500 manuscripts and 82,000 printed books with 205 manuscripts on Palm leaves and 5000 miniature paintings”.
The manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkey, Pashto, Hindi and Urdu languages represent all important subjects like History, Philosophy, Religions, Sciences, Literature, Art and Architecture. Its rich collection also includes Art objects, Astronomical instruments, Historical coins and miniature paintings representing the Turku-Mongol, Mughal, Persian, Rajput and Anglo European schools of art.
The Conservation laboratory has conserved successfully a number of art objects, manuscripts, books, paintings and historical documents. Himanshu, a senior conservator said, “these days they are working on a Sanskrit manuscript which has 750 pages”.
But sadly, the building was lying in neglected conditions and needed restoration. In the year 2005 the entire building has received minor repairs and color. The ornamental ceilings and pillars were badly damaged till then.
The history of Library comes alive when the five large size antique chandeliers of Darbar Hall lit the room with their electric bulbs that are nearly hundred years old. Mirza Ali, supervisor said that,” it’s a great honor for the library to own rare pieces of art like handwritten documents of Shah Jahan, Babar and Jahangir”.