A treasure almost lost - The New Indian Express

A treasure almost lost

Published: 19th October 2009 01:30 AM

Last Updated: 16th May 2012 12:03 AM

“This could be described as the largest repository of Malayalam books in the State. Even the public libraries in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam and Thrissur do not possess such a massive collection of Malayalam literature. This is a University, which has not been recognised by our University.’’

Thus wrote the late Prof S. Guptan Nair about the Sree Chithira Thirunal Granthasala at Vanchiyoor in the introductory article of ‘Smaranika’, a souvenir published in 1990 in connection with the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Granthasala.

Unfortunately, as the library inches towards its centenary year, it seems stuck in a primitive mode. There has been considerable decrease in fresh memberships. The drop out rate, too, has been alarming. Both these factors have then conspired to starve this age-old library of much-needed funds. The sad truth is that the library still holds enough potential to be developed into a monumental cultural centre.

To realise the significance of the library, it is better to have a  look at its history. The Granthasala was the outcome of a daring challenge undertaken by a 16-year-old boy way back in 1914. With a collection of 25 rather insignificant books collected after begging from several houses, Kesava Pillai started a new library at his home   in Palkulangara in the name of Sree Chithira Thirunal, then a two-year-old king-in-waiting.

The library gradually evolved under the determined and unselfish efforts of Kesava Pillai, who later came to be known as Vayanasala Kesava Pillai. “For the growth of the Granthasala, the number of books should be increased. But, there was no money to buy books. Kesava Pillai conducted a walking trip to Kollam, Karunagappally and Mavelikkara and secured 52 books and collected a sum of Rs 3,’’ these lines of Nagavally R.S. Kurup in an article in the souvenir published during the golden jubilee celebrations of the library reveals the struggle behind the establishment of the library, which later flourished as the repository of Malayalam literature.

The library has records regarding the evolution of municipalities and corporations, Assembly sessions, early books of K.C. Kesava Pillai and Swadeshabhimani, history of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom,  including administrative reports, and a collection of earlier magazines like ‘Malayalarajyam’, ‘Sarada’, ‘Manorama’ and ‘Mathrubhumi’.

“There is a collection of ‘Panchangams’ of over a 100 years. These are equivalent to government diaries. Earlier copies of Bailey’s dictionary and Collins dictionary are also available,’’ said veteran journalist Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan, who has been a member of the library for the last 20 years.

According to him, it is high time that the library is developed as a Research Centre of Languages and a cultural centre under the aegis of the present management. “The government should take up the matter seriously and make some effective interventions,’’ he said.

However, some members alleged that the inefficiency of the management was the reason for the present situation of the library, which owns enough infrastructure facilities.

“There is no initiative on the part of the management for the uplift of the library. The library is not a member of the Library Council as the management is not willing to accept government nominees in the governing body of the Granthasala Library Trust. Due to this, the library does not receive any grant from the government,’’ a member said.

Presently, a part of the upper storey of the building is given out on rent, which is the main source of income of the library.

“Now, the concept of library has changed. Most of the libraries have become centres of instant knowledge. This is possible only through computerisation. Books should be listed and catalogued so that people can easily refer them,’’ a library member said.

The Granthasala Trust members, when contacted, said that they are planning to seek financial assistance from the State Government for the expanding the library into a cultural centre. “For generating a supplementary income, we are now planning to construct an auditorium on the library premises. Besides, there are plans to computerise the library,’’ Trust secretary Bhanuvikraman Nair said.

Guptan Nair, in the 1990 souvenir, speaks about the construction of a community hall, separate section for women and children and the expansion of the stack room. Even after 20 years, Guptan Nair’s vision is still to be realised.

athullal.ag@gmail.com

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