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Thursday, 1 November 2012


India’s National Library  :  secret room 
big indian secret


Restorers working on the 18th century Belvedere House in Kolkata, home to the National Library of India , have found a large hidden room  they had no idea was there. By found I mean they discovered that it existed, not that they’ve actually gone inside because there is no visible means of entrance or egress.

The house has suffered from neglect over the decades. Last year, all 2.2 million books were moved out of the old building into a new structure on the 30-acre estate so that the Belvedere House could be thoroughly restored.

The ministry of culture that owns the National Library decided to get the magnificent building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India since it is heavily damaged. Work has already started. It was while taking stock of the interior and exterior of the building that ASI [Archaeological Survey of India] conservation engineers stumbled upon a blind enclosure’ on the ground floor, about 1000 square feet in size.

A lot of effort has been made to locate an opening so that experts can find out exactly what it was built for or what it contains. But there is not a single crack to show.

“We’ve searched every inch of the first floor area that forms the ceiling of this enclosure for a possible trap door. But found nothing. Restoration of the building will remain incomplete if we are not able to assess what lies inside this enclosure,” said deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, Tapan Bhattacharya. “We’ve come across an arch on one side of the enclosure that had been walled up. Naturally speculations are rife,” said another archaeologist.

Among the speculations are the classics: skeletons and hoarded treasure. Apparently prisoners were known to have been walled up and left to die in death chambers during the Raj, and secret treasure rooms aren’t unheard of either. Since the ASI can’t just go knocking down walls in 250-year-old historic buildings, they have to find a way to peek inside without damaging the structure. They’ve applied to the ministry of culture for permission to drill a small hole in the walled up arch through which they can shine a searchlight.

Belvedere House was built by Mir Jafar, the eighth Nawab of Bengal, in the 1760s and shortly thereafter he gave it to Lord Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. It passed through various hands, private and public. Then in 1953, 3 years after Independence, the Imperial Library was renamed the National Library and the collection moved to Belvedere House.

It has long been rumored to be haunted, with lights mysteriously turning on in the ballroom and ghostly carriages seen driving up to the entrance. Certainly it has seen its fair share of intrigue. Hastings had a duel on the grounds with supreme council of Bengal member Sir Philip Francis in 1780. (Hastings had called him “void of truth and honor” in his private dealings, most likely referring to a number of affairs with ladies possibly including one Baroness Inhoff, a guest of Hastings’ at Belvedere House.)


 a short history National Library

The National Library of India  at Belvedere, Calcutta is the second largest library in India after the Anna Centenary Library in Chennai and India's library of public record.
It is under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. The library is designated to collect, disseminate and preserve the printed material produced in India. The library is situated on the scenic 30 acre (120,000 m²) Belvedere Estate, in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta City. The Library is the largest in India, with a collection in excess of 2.2 million books. Before independence, it was the official residence of Lt. Governor of Bengal.
The Calcutta Public Library
The history of the National Library began with the formation of Calcutta Public Library in 1836.
That was a non-governmental institution and was run on a proprietary basis. People contributing Rs. 300/- in subscription became the proprietors. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of that Library. Rs. 300/- at that time was a significant amount, so poor students and others were allowed free use the library for some period of time.
Lord Metcalfe, the Governor General at that time, transferred 4,675 volumes from the library of the College of Fort William, Kolkata to the Calcutta Public Library. This and donations of books from individuals formed the nucleus of the library.
Both Indian and foreign books, especially British, were purchased for the library. Donations were regularly made by individuals as well as by the government.
The Calcutta Public Library had a unique position as the first public library in this part of the world. Such a well-organized and efficiently run library was rare even in Europe during the first half of the 19th century.
Because of the efforts of the Calcutta Public Library, the present National Library has many extremely rare books and journals in its collection.
[edit]The Imperial Library
The Imperial Library was formed in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries in Calcutta. Of those, the most important and interesting was the library of the Home Department, which contained many books formerly belonging to the library of East India College, Fort William and the library of the East India Board in London. But the use of the library was restricted to the superior officers of the Government.
[edit]Amalgamation of CPL and Imperial Library
In 1903, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, the Governor General of India, conceived the idea of opening a library for the use of the public.
He noticed both the libraries—Imperial Library and Calcutta Public Library—were under-utilized for the want of facilities or restrictions. He decided to amalgamate the rich collection of both of these libraries.
The new amalgamated library, called Imperial Library, was formally opened to the public on January 30, 1903 at Metcalfe Hall, Kolkata. Metcalfe Hall had earlier been the home of the Governor-General; Wellington, Cornwallis and Warren Hastings had lived in the building, and the last-named had fought a duel with a member of his governing committee on its grounds.
The Gazette of london reported, "It is intended that it should be a library of reference, a working place for students and a repository of material for the future historians of India, in which, so far as possible, every work written about India, at any time, can be seen and read."
[edit]Declaring the Imperial Library as the National Library
After the independence the Government of India changed the name of the Imperial Library as the National Library, and the collection was shifted from The Esplanade to the present Belvedere Estate. On February 1, 1953 the National Library was opened to the public.
[edit]Discovery of hidden chamber
In 2010, the Ministry of Culture, the owner of the library, decided to get the library building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). While taking stock of the library building, the conservation engineers discovered a previously unknown room. The ground-floor room, about 1000 sq. ft. in size, seems to have no opening of any kind.[1]
The ASI archaeologists tried to search the first floor area (that forms the ceiling of the room) for a trap door, but found nothing. Since the building is of historical and cultural importance, ASI has decided to bore a hole through the wall instead of breaking it. There are speculations about the room being a punishment room used by Warren Hastings and other British officials, or a place to store treasure.[1]
[edit]Visiting
The National Library is located at the Belvedere Road in Alipore, Calcutta. It is open during 9 am–8 pm on all working days and 9.30 am–6.00 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Government of India holidays.
Access to the National Library main reading room (Bhasha Bhavan) is strictly controlled. The visitors need to have an approved Reader's pass to reading hall. For that they need to fill in an application form (available on the National Library website) and get it attested by a Government Gazetted officer. The reader's passes are issued only between 11:00-13:00 and 15:00-16:00, Monday to Friday, excluding a string of National and State holidays.
[edit]Library statistics
Over 2,270,000 books
Over 86,000 maps
Over 3,200 manuscripts
Over 45 kilometers of shelf space
Reading rooms can accommodate over 550 people




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