Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Saraswathi Mahal Library rare medieval Library, Thanjavur

Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur city, Tamil Nadu.
Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur city, Tamil Nadu
Saraswathi Mahal Library, also known as  Tanjore Maharaja Serfoji's Sarasvati Mahal Library, a unique and one of the the few medieval Libraries that are active  in the present world, is located on the palace premises in Thanjavur (Tanjore) city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India.
Maharajah Serfoji II,(1798-1832 A. D).Maratha ruler.
The most fascinating  aspect of this library is it has a large collection of manuscripts - more than 49,000 out of which  25000 are palm leaf manuscripts -  and a host of other  items from the last 1200 years written in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, English and a few other languages indigenous to India. The collection comprises well over 69,000 printed  books, though only a small portion of these are on display.  It has rare books  and artifacts   by Maharajah  Serfoji, the  great  Maratha  ruler. Considered a precious jewel in the crown of modern day India, it is one of the most important Oriental manuscript collections in the world, perhaps the largest one in Asia.
Location map -
It was during the Nayak rule (1535-1673 A. D.), this library( Saraswati Bhandara) came in to being containing valuable manuscripts, texts, etc invoking Goddess Sarawathi. Later the Maratha dynasty took keen interest in the Royal library  and developed it on a large scale. These two dynasties gave importance to  art, literature science and music and developed Thanjavur into a major center of Art and Music. The compositions of Purandhra Dasa are well preserved here and  earliest in Carnatic music. They  are being sung even to day.  The credit goes to Maharajah Serfoji II (1798-1832 A. D.) an eminent scholar whose mentor was one Rev.Christian Frederick Schwartz (1726–1798), a German Lutheran Protestant missionary to India, representing Danish Mission. The ruler  gained good knowledge of English and other European languages. He traveled widely and collected  a vast number of manuscripts on various subjects including medicine, Sastras, Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata  in thousands with the help of learned Pundits on his trip to Benares (now in Uttar Pradesh), a well-known Hindu pilgrimage center.
Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur city, Tamil Nadu .
On 5th  October,1918, the then Madras Government during the British rule took control of this library under the management of a committee with the District Collector as the Chairman.  The same old management tradition is being followed even today. The collections include various works, covering  the Vijayanagara rulers under Nayaks, the Maratha rulers, personal collections of Rajah Serfoji, etc. As for manuscripts  39,300 works out of 46,695 belong to Sanskrit language. There are more than 3500 Tamil manuscripts, including rare Sangam works. Besides, there are more than  rare 3000 Telugu and 600 Marathi works and 4500 books in various European languages personally collected  by Raja Serfoji  available here. Dr. Samuel Johnson's dictionary published in 1784, ancient maps of the world, Globe, etc used by Rajah Serfoji. Telugu was the court language during the Nayak and Martha rules.  There are about 1000 Modi documents written on sheets of hand-made paper mainly to record  court and administrative works. Modi is a short hand form of Marathi first used in the 13th and 14th centuries. 
Encyclopedia Britannica in its survey of Libraries world over has  mentioned about this rare treasure house as "the most remarkable library in India." Truely, an outstanding repository of ancient manuscripts and rare books covering several centuries - a combined combination of Nayak and Maratha dynasties of Thanjavur kingdom. Ref: