National library- House of knowledge
One of the buildings, which have created a global presence for Kolkata, is its National Library. This building is the largest library in the country in terms of volume. It is also considered to be the second largest library in the continent. With a collection of more than 2.2 million books, the library which falls under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India, has placed Kolkata on the global map with its tremendous network of collecting, disseminating and preserving printed material written over several centuries.
However, this storehouse of knowledge and information had not always been the grand library that we prize today. Situated within the premises of the expansive Belvedere Estate in Alipore, which sprawls across a 30 acre land, the National Library had been the house of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, prior to India’s independence from the British colonial rule.
A royal house with intricate Italian architecture having tinges of Anglo-Indian style added to it- the original building went through several renovations under its varied inhabitants. Complete with wooden floors, arched supports and wide staircases, the building also had huge lawns with ample greenery in landscaped gardens that added to the magnificence of the building. Among some of the building’s renowned owners were Murshidabad’s Nawab, Mir Jaffar Ali Khan and the Governor-General, Sir Warren Hastings.
The National Library finally came into being, in 1953, when the huge collection of books, housed in the Imperial Library at Esplanade, was shifted to this building with ample space for several enormous and decorative galleries. Since then, the National Library has been an integral part of every Kolkatan’s life. With a massive treasure of knowledge, obtained from all around the world, this building is a heritage, every citizen should be proud of!
Did You Know?
In 2010, the Archaeological Survey of India discovered a hidden chamber in the ground floor of the National Library, about 1000sqft. in size, with no opening to enter. Since a trap door couldn’t be discovered, the room was broken into and was discovered to be completely filled with mud. While some people believe the place to be haunted, having been used as a torture chamber by Sir Warren Hastings, others believe it to have once hidden a royal treasure!