On April 23rd 2011, marking the World Book Day, the biggest annual celebration of books and reading, the two oldest public libraries in Jammu & Kashmir hosted exhibitions of rare and reference books drawing large number of enthusiastic visitors.
Minister for Tourism & Culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora inaugurated the exhibition at SRS Central Library, Jammu and described the displayed collection as an intellectual treat. He lauded the Department of Libraries for holding the exhibition. Director Libraries & Research, Khalid Bashir Ahmad briefed the Minister about the exhibition and the titles on display. Deputy Director, Rajinder Singh was also present.
The SRS Central Library is the oldest public library in J&K established in 1879. It was followed by setting up of SPS Central Library at Srinagar in 1898 where a similar book exhibition was thrown open for public today. During the day, a stream of visitors including school children visited the exhibitions to be face to face with their heritage.
Jora said that holding of events like these go a long way in inculcating the habit of book reading especially among the youth. He drew on history to highlight the importance the State had enjoyed in the past as a centre of learning and knowledge. He emphasized the need to reclaim this place of pride, adding that developing the habit of book reading would help in achieving this objective.
The Minister spoke about the initiatives taken by the Government in improving library facilities in Jammu & Kashmir. He said as an important measure, it has sanctioned the Automation of Public Libraries Project for the implementation of which an agreement with the National Informatics Centre has been reached. In the Pilot Phase costing Rs. 114 lakhs, four main libraries were being taken up for automation and computerization, he said, adding that funds have been released to the project executing agency and the work is expected to start very soon. The NIC has also been approached for digitization of the precious collection of rare books, he said. Infrastructure development and purchase of new and quality books including titles on competitive examinations are other measure taken by the Department. He asked the people, especially the youth, to avail of these facilities.The exhibition comprised rich collection of rare books in different languages including English, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Sanskrit most of which are published in the 19th century A.D. A title, ‘History of the World’ published by Oxford 200 years ago in 1810 A.D generated huge interest. The Persian collection included prized titles like Bhagwat Geeta in verse published in 1978 Bikrimi, Aain-e-Akbari published 158 years ago, Shahnama Firdousi published in 1874 Seerat-un-Nabi (SAW) by Maulana Shibli Namani published exactly a century ago. A very old print of Asli Wadi Heer Waris Shah (Punjabi) published in Lahore also caught attention of the visitors. In the Urdu Section, Makhzan ul Advia, a book on medicine, published 150 years ago, Tareekh-e-Lahore published in 1884 A.D, the first prints of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini in Sanskrit (1892) with a foreword by M. A. Stein and Walter Lawrence’s magnum opus, The Valley of Kashmir (1895), Katha Sarit Sagar (1880) and Works of Charles Dickens (1905).
Other attractions were photo albums about the Visit of Prince and Princess of Wales to Jammu in 1905, Kashmir-Dharampur Wedding 1923 and marriage of His Highness the Yuvaraj of Mysore, Census Reports of 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1941, 1951 and 1961, Administration Reports and maps of India and the world in Urdu published in 1268 Hijra and 1852 A.D., respectively. Another map of Ancient Kashmir was published in 1897 A.D.
The exhibition at SPS Central Library Srinagar too was a big draw where old and, now, rare books in various languages were on display. Here also a large number of people including school children visited the exhibition throughout the day. Officials of the Department of Libraries & Research led by Deputy Director, Munib ul Hassan introduced the visitors to the books on display.