Children these days are mostly dependent on search engines to cull information, but there can hardly be a replacement for books. The sheer smell of those pale yellow pages is enough to make a bibliophile fall in love again each time he/she reads a new book. With the emergence of technology, readers have taken up reading e-books on mobile phones and other gadgets. Most youngsters get all their information through social media. But still, books in libraries attract its aficionados, who can be seen surfing through the pages while standing between the racks. The holy city, too, has two reference libraries — Sikh Reference Library and Khalsa College Reference Library — which have a great collection of historic documents. Apart from these, the Municipal Library, District Library and Guru Nanak Dev University’s library, too, have a good collection.
Sikh History & Reference Library, Khalsa College
The Sikh history research department of Khalsa College came into being in 1930. Dr Ganda Singh, a noted Sikh historian, who headed this department from 1930 to 1947 developed it into the chief and the first of its kind research centre in the field of Sikh religion, Sikh philosophy, Sikh culture, Sikh politics and history of Punjab by establishing a reference library and a gallery of thousands of manuscripts, rare books, portraits and paintings of great historical significance and value. Some of these have been brought here from the museum in Britain and Lahore. Historian Dr Kirpal Singh also contributed a lot to the reference library. It has a collection of 601 manuscripts, newspapers from 1904, 675 files, rare books and journals. Of these manuscripts, 261 are in Persian and Urdu and 207 rare manuscripts in Punjabi. The manuscripts include ‘Pothi Mehrban’, Janam Sakhi of Guru Nanak Dev by Mehrban (1651) and copies of 1928. Of approximately 6,397 books, over 500 are a century old. Apart from this, two old ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib are also present. The old and rare weapons and coins are among other treasures.
Bhai Gurdas Library, GNDU
The Guru Nanak Dev University library has been named after the great Sikh Scholar Bhai Gurdas, who had the privilege of taking dictation from the reverend fifth Sikh master — Guru Arjan Dev — for the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Gurdas Library was established in March 1970. The library building is a marvel of architecture. It is a five storeyed, inverted pyramid shaped magnificent building directly visible from the main gate of the university on the GT Road. It is centrally located with teaching departments all around. Bhai Gurdas Library has 1,516 rare manuscripts relating to Punjab history, culture, Sikh religion and other faiths. These manuscripts even have information about the present Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. These manuscripts are in Punjabi (Gurmukhi), Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages. In addition, the library has over 5,500 rare books. Most of these books relate to Indian as well as Punjab History, Sikh religion and various movements.
Comrade Sohan Singh Josh District Library
Comrade Sohan Singh Josh District Library was established in 1982. It is one of the few public libraries active in the city. It has 1,600 members and a collection of over 51,000 books. Initially, the district library was initiated with 100 books in Government College for Girls and later it was shifted to the existing building in Rani Ka Bagh. The library has a good collection of literature of Punjabi, English and Hindi and religious books. Young Readers’ Book Club comprising youngsters, who come to the library regularly, is also constituted here. Now, the district administration has proposed to shift it to old DC office Hall, which has been renovated recently.
Sikh Reference Library
Sikh Reference Library was established on February 6, 1947, by the efforts of eminent historian Dr Ganda Singh and the Sikh History Society under the supervision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Dr Ganda Singh and other Sikh scholars and historians contributed a large number of manuscripts and handwritten copies of Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth and Janam Sakhis. During the attack on Golden Temple in 1984, the library building was put on fire. The SGPC claims that the Army took over the library and gave an impression that it was destroyed during the operation. Later, a CBI officer RS Nanda returned some articles, which were taken by the Army. The SGPC gave a call to the Sikhs to revive the library in the ’90s and tried procuring the old manuscripts and books. Now, there are more than 30,000 books about history, culture and Sikh religion here.
Pandit Moti Lal Nehru Municipal Library
Pandit Moti Lal Nehru Municipal Library is one of the biggest and oldest libraries in the city, which was built in 1920. Despite having a collection of 20,000 books, it witnesses a few visitors every day. Newspapers are the main attraction for visitors. It hasn’t added any new book to its shelves for years. Apart from other prominent personalities, Sadat Hasan Manto used to visit the Municipal Library pre-Independence. He used to spend hours here. Residents fought against government’s plan to shift the library to Ranjit Avenue. Even renowned poet and filmmaker Gulzar, at a function of the Partition Museum, had advocated against the shifting of the library. Following that, books, which were packed for shifting, were once again displayed on the shelves. The MC General House has planned to hire a private firm to look after the library. The two-storey building has separate halls for reading newspapers, books apart from children’s reading room.
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