A unique repository

Home to a priceless collection of Arabic and Persian manuscripts, Raza Library in Rampur, piques Aftab Husain Kola’s interest in exploring this treasure trove of Islamic books

Rampur Raza Library

Consider a rich, historical collection of some of the oldest pieces of handwork in the field of Arabic Calligraphy. A copy of the Quran written by master calligrapher of the 13th century Abu’l-Majd Jamal al-Din Yaqut, known as Yaqut al-Musta‘simi, which is inlaid in gold and precious lapis lazuli and Diwan-al-Hadira dated 629 AH; a 7th-century Quran written on parchment in early Kufic script, attributed to Hazrat Ali ( CE 661); an 8th century manuscript of the Quran attributed to Imam Jafar Sadiq, known for his unique penmanship; a 9th century script attributed to Imam Abul Hasan Musa, who served as prime minister to three caliphs of Baghdad; Arabic manuscript Sharhal-Kafia of Razi or Ziauddin Barani’s Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi.

And many more Arabic and Persian manuscripts which are the legacy of its collectors.

One need not visit any library or centre in Middle East or any Islamic country to feast on such beautiful, rare collections. The Raza Library in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, is home to a magnificent, unparalleled treasure trove of cultural heritage and fantastic collection of Oriental manuscripts built by successive Nawabs of Rampur State.

The Raza Library is home to a very rare and valuable collection of manuscripts, historical documents, specimens of Islamic calligraphy, miniature paintings, astronomical instruments and rare illustrated works in Arabic and Persian languages besides 60,000 printed books.

Collections of successive Nawabs

Nawab Faizullah Khan who ruled Rampur State from 1774 to 1794 is credited with the establishment of the famed Raza Library. His personal
collection of manuscripts, miniature specimens of Islamic calligraphy kept in the Toshakhana of his Palace now adorn the library along with the priceless collections of successive Nawabs, including Nawab Ahmad Ali Khan (1794-1840). In all, its holdings illustrate the interests of Nawabs of Rampur during their reigns and shed light on the Islamic documents. Nawabs were known for being great patrons of scholars, poets, painters, calligraphers and musicians. The library occupied a pivotal place among
libraries and publication activities. After the merger of Rampur State in the Union of India in 1949, the library was controlled by the management of a Trust which was created in the year 1951.

The trust management continued till July, 1975 after which the Government of India took over the library — which is well organised, catalogued and open for both scholarly and tourist visits — on July 1, 1975 under the Act of Parliament and assumed full funding and management of the library.

Historical

Architectural features also signpost the library’s history. The palatial high domed and turreted mansion, the library is housed in the more than 100- year-old magnificent palaces of Hamid Manzil and Rang Mahal in the fort of Rampur. It is an excellent specimen of Indo (Mughal)-European architecture of northern India. It has an Italian sculpture gallery with niches and canopied ceilings and a dozen spacious rooms with a magnificent Durbar Hall highly embellished in gold. The library’s treasure is distinguished by its 17,000 historical manuscripts in the Arabic, Persian, Pashto, Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi and Turkish languages and also spans a very broad spectrum of subjects like art, history, culture, and some astronomical instruments.

The Rampur Raza Library has many palm-leaf manuscripts as its valuable asset. Most of them are in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Sinhali and Tamil languages. They are generally religious in character. Prof Syed Hasan Abbas, director, Rampur Raza Library, “As an institution of knowledge, Rampur Raza Library plays host to scholars and researchers across the globe. We have been focused on growing and improving our facilities to the scholars and researchers. We will persevere and do our best to move up still further.”

The library’s primary objective is to extend all facilities to the scholars in their endeavour for researches and to ensure preservation and protection of invaluable collection of manuscripts, paintings and rare books besides publishing text of Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hindi manuscripts and catalogues, journals etc. The library has undertaken a project of publication of books on history, art and culture of medieval India. The library also organises workshops, seminars and holds special lectures for promotion of learning and creating awareness among the young scholars. The library also provides photographs of manuscripts and xerox copies of printed books on payment. The library has established a museum at its Durbar Hall which is an impressive place of arts, education, research and archaelogy for scholars.

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