MYSURU: Clad in a white banian and a dhoti, holding a broom by its short wooden handle, he sweeps the huge hall filled with books and papers – looking at him, you won’t think he is a possessor of one million books. This has been a routine for Anke Gowda, 72, apart from buying books and magazines over the last five decades.
His Pustaka Mane (literally meaning Book house) boasts of over 10 lakh books of various genres. This book paradise, located at a small village called Haralahalli near Srirangapatna (Mandya district), has not remained a private library of Anke Gowda but a place for research scholars, teachers, writers, critics, competitive exam aspirants and people from all walks of life to refer the books free of cost.
From a tiny book of over 10 pages to those weighing more than 3-4 kg, Anke Gowda has all of them and more. Though Kannada books have a prominent place in his library, there are books in over 20 Indian and foreign languages. Pustaka Mane has books dating back to 1832 to a new book released last month.
And from novels to books on literature, science and technology, mythology. critiques, travelogues, research, astrology, women’s and children’s literature etc, are housed in this huge library. Anke Gowda dusts all the books every day and makes every effort to organise them for the convenience of his visitors.
Born in a family of agriculturists in Mandya to Marigowda and Ningamma, Anke Gowda comes from a poor family, but had a great passion for reading books. An MA in Kannada literature, he worked as a time-keeper at Pandavapura sugar factory for about 30 years during which he spent nearly 80% of his salary on purchasing books.
Anke Gowda says, “When I was in college, I could not get access to books. This made me think and I wanted to have my own collection. I initially started reading and collecting books published by the Ramakrishna Ashram. My professor Anantharamu’s motivational words turned my passion for books into an obsession. Though I worked in a sugar factory, whenever I went out of town, I brought home books.’’
Anke Gowda started collecting books as a small venture when he was 21 years old. By early 2004, his entire house was full with over 2 lakh books.
After learning about Anke Gowda’s collection, Sri Hari Khoday, industrialist, helped him in build a huge building in an area of about 22 guntas, which has now become a must-see on every tourist’s itinerary.
Gowda visits major book sellers in Majestic, MG Road, Avenue Road in Bengaluru to buy books, besides getting those discarded by libraries and households.
Even today, he and his wife Vijayalakshmi, who has been supporting him, live in this book house, sleep on the floor and cook in a corner. “My collection has helped thousands of people, research scholars and PhD students,” he says. Mahadeshwara, a research scholar in history says rare books on history are available at this book house.
Anke Gowda Jnana Pratishthana, the foundation, makes every effort to collect books. A new building is coming up next to his book house where Gowda hopes to make a classification of all the books and keep them in an organized way. As he is unable to employ the required staff for this, even today at the age of 72, he does it single-handedly. This, while more than 250 bags of books are yet to be opened and added to his collection.
10 lakh books of various genres
20 Indian and foreign language titles