Treasure trove of political secrets

Treasure trove of political secrets

The Teen Murti Bhavan library has photo archives and century old papers besides historic books

Inspite of a lack of dedicated readers, Delhi does not lack libraries. Public and private libraries can be located in almost every district of the Capital city.

However, there are a few which are special in their historicity, purpose of establishment and book stock. One of them is the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). This magnificent library, located in the Teen Murti Bhavan complex, is a gem in terms of the archival material it has stocked over the years. Besides rare historic books, you will find here photo archives, micro-films documenting centuries-old newspapers and hand-written letters and files by political leaders difficult to find not only elsewhere in India but across the world.

Teen Murti Bhavan, the official residence of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was converted into a museum and library after his death in 1964. At that time, the library had part of Nehru’s personal book and letters collection and some donated by political leaders. Over time, it acquired more books and papers and now stands over atleast 20 acres of land, divided into two expansive floors, and stocking over 2,59,000 books, 18,223 microfilm rolls, 51,322 microfiche plates (a small sheet of microfilm on which many pages of material have been photographed), 500 periodicals, 1,95,000 photographs and 11,000 collections of manuscripts!

Professor Mahesh Rangarajan, director NMML, informs, “This is the world’s leading resource centre on political, social, economic and religious history of modern India starting from Raja Rammohun Roy to contemporary times with special emphasis on the Indian nationalist movement and the Nehruvian era. Today, we are supporting many research scholars and historians through study material and the Nehru Memorial Fellowship. The only problem is that not many are aware of this treasure trove of knowledge situated right in the middle of Delhi.” It goes without saying that the most impressive part of the library is its manuscript section. It houses carefully preserved collections of letters and papers of not only politicians but historic institutions, eminent businessmen, diplomats, academicians, scientists, bureaucrats and educationists. One of the oldest papers is that of the 1885 All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in Bombay detailing resolutions passed therein.

Besides, they have the original manuscript of Discovery of India handwritten by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1944 at the Ahmednagar Fort jail.

Other than thousands of letters by and to Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, C Rajagopalachari, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel etc., we also have here letters written to Nehru by Mahatma Gandhi undersigned as ‘Bapu.’

NMML is also the only library from the world over to have a huge stock of photo archives. These include black and white pictures of 15 August 1947 midnight session of the Indian Parliament; President Dr. Rajendra Prasad signing the Constitution on 24 January 1950; refugee camps across North India; the Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in Belgrade in 1961, the UN General Assembly in 1948 and several others.

Other than this, there is a section devoted to digitising fragile newspaper records in the form of microfilm rolls and microfiche plates. One can view the 1780 edition of Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, copies of Amrit Bazar Patrika from 1905 onwards, Times (London) 1785-1996, Census of India papers 1872-1931 and Madras Mail 1868-1981 etc.

The books include selected works by Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, their various biographies, excellent and rare books on the history of India and many other countries and scores of books on a variety of subjects like Sociology, Political Science, Economics and Geography.

Every year the NMML opens up some of its manuscripts which had remained closed because of confidential reasons until a certain time. These include private papers of Indira Gandhi, V K Krishna Menon, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and other leaders. So, besides general knowledge on Indian history, NMML holds in its folds, many political secrets waiting to be revealed. Be patient.

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