DARBHANGA (BIHAR): Seeking to preserve its bibliographic and architectural legacy, a prominent university here has set the wheels in motion to set up a heritage cell in its campus, perhaps the first such initiative in Bihar.
The Lalit Narayan Mithila University (LNMU), located in this historic city in north Bihar, is housed in a 19th century palatial building complex, constructed by the zamindars of Darbhanga Raj, and the initiative has been appreciated by the governor of the state.
"LNMU has a rich collection of books, manuscripts, photographs and other bibliographic material in the central library drawn from the repository of the Darbhanga Raj. Our buildings are also a priceless heritage and therefore a heritage cell was the need of the hour," Vice Chancellor of LNMU, S K Singh, told PTI.
He said the model was inspired by the upkeep of heritage at famed universities like the Oxford University.
"By virtue of our location, we have inherited a great architectural legacy. Besides, the main building (previously Raj Secretariat), there are other heritage buildings which form part of the university. And, so this heritage cell will help foster a systematic preservation culture in the campus,"
Besides, the main building, a magnificent structure surrounded with lush gardens and ornate fountains, other landmarks under its ambit include, the European Guest House (now Gandhi Sadan), and Nargaona Palace, rebuilt after the devastating 1934 earthquake.
"We have already set up an informal committee, which will manage the heritage cell. Besides, we had received a proposal from the National Archives of India for digitisation of our rich collection in the library. So, I have already written to them (NAI), seeking funds for it. Also, the Bihar State Archives has strongly endorsed our initiative," Singh said.
According to the university, set up in 1972, it is in possession of 70,935 volumes of rare books, journals and manuscripts donated by the liberal Darbhanga Raj in 1975.
"Besides, in the course of the last over 30 years, it has acquired over 1,60,000 volumes of books and journals. Hayward British Parliamentary Debates, Goods sets of Pictorial Books, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, volumes of the Journals of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, the Asiatic Researcher, are some notable collections in the Raj library," says the LNMU's website.
Incidentally, last November, INTACH's Darbhanga Chapter was opened in the city that is dotted with the legacy of the Darbhanga Raj, who contributed to building of many educational and socio-cultural institutions.
A professor of the LNMU is the convener for the city chapter.
The university is located close to the iconic Laxmivilas Palace or Anand Bagh Palace, built in 1890s. It now houses the Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University (KSDSU).
"Initially, we will work within LNMU but, eventually the idea is to involve KSDSU as well, as it too has inherited a rich legacy of the Darbhanga Raj. The ornate Darbar Hall, its magnificent building and old iron gates are its wealthy possession, and it would make sense for both the universities to work together on preservation," Singh added.
"During a meeting of all the VCs of Bihar universities with the governor (who is their chancellor) at Raj Bhawan earlier this month, we had put up the proposal of the heritage cell, and it was appreciated," he said.
Beginning its journey as Mithila University, it functioned for the first few years from the Mohanpur House in the district, and in 1975 shifted to its present campus. After the death of former railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra, his name was added to the university, spread over an area of nearly 230 acres.
Darbhanga is situated in the historic Mithila region and is home to several landmarks, many of which were rebuilt after the 1934 earthquake.
Other prominent heritage buildings in the city include the Zilla School, Zilla Hospital, Bela Palace, now housing the Postal Training College and the Lakshmiswar Public Library.