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Indian Languages Collection

The National Library receives books and periodicals in almost all Indian languages. These are received under the Delivery of Books and Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act 1954 (D.B. Act).

Language divisions acquire, process and provide reading materials in all major Indian languages. Hindi, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Sindhi, Telugu and Urdu language divisions maintain their own stacks. Other language books are stacked in the Stack division. Language divisions are also responsible for answering reference queries.

The library has separate Indian language divisions for Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Sanskrit language division also collects and processes Pali and Prakrit books. English books published in India are collected under D.B. Act.



Assamese Language Collection

In1963, a separate division was established in the National Library to collect and process Assamese books. At present the division has 12,000 books. This collection has some works published between 1840 and 1900. Some of the important publications are Asamiya Larar Mitra by Anandaram Dhekiyal Phukan (1849), Larabodh Byakaran by Dharmeswar Goswami (1884), Prakrit Bhugol by Lambodara Datta (1884) and several volumes of Sri Sankardev's Kirattan, Gunamala, Srimad Bhagavad, Bargit, Rukmini Haran Nat, and Ankiyanat. Volumes of the periodical Arunodoi (1846-1853, 1856-1858) are also available in the collection.


Arunodoi Patrika

Bengali Language Collection
The library has 85,000 books in its Bengali collection. The collection contains very rare and valuable books as well as periodicals published from the last quarter of the 18th century. Early Bengali plays and novels are well represented. The collection has many rare items such as the manuscripts of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya, Bibuti Bhushan Bandaopadhaya, Jibanananda Das and Bisnu De. 154 letters of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose written to his nephew Sri Asok Nath Bose and letters to Sarat Chandra Bose are also available in the collection. The collection has the complete set of Rabindranath Tagore’s works, except a few of his early works. This includes 190 first editions of Tagore’s works.

Some of the rare and important works in this collection are: A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, which is the earliest printed book in Bengali, Henry Forster’s A Vocabulary in Two parts, English and Bangalee (1799), William Carrey’s Dialogues, Intended to Facilitate the Acquiring of the Bengali Language ( 1801), Ram Ram Basu’s Raja Pratapaditya Charitra (1801), Mrityunjay Vidyalankar’s Batris Simhansan (1802), Ramayana translated by Krittibas and published in five volumes, Mahabharat translated by Kashi Ram Das (1802), Chandicharan Munshi’s Tota Itihas (1805), Jayanarayan Ghosal’s Sri Karunanidhanavilasa (1814), William Carey’s Dictionary of the Bengali Language, 2 volumes (1815-1825). There are 400 titles of Bengali periodicals including many rare 19th century periodicals such as Digdarshan (1818) first Bengali monthly and the first issue of Samachar Darpan (1831) -- the first Bengali weekly.

The library has published a four-volume catalogue of Bengali Books.


A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) by Nathaniel Brassey


Gujarati Language Collection

The library has 37,000 Gujarati books. 1100 of them are titles published prior to 1900. This collection also has 30 albums of paintings by Kanu Desai published between 1936 and 1956. Ancient Jaina miniature paintings are well reproduced in Sri Jaina Chitravali, Sri Jaina Chitra Patavali and other valuable books edited by Sarabhai Nawab. The authentic editions of the poetic works of medieval Gujarati poets such as Narsinh Meheta, Mirabai, Premanand and Symal Bhat are also part of the holdings.

The rare titles include Robert Drummond’s Illustrations of Grammatical Parts Guzerattee, Maratta and English Languages (1808), translations of Aesop’s Fables by Bapushastri Pandya Raykaval (1818), Edalji Patel's Suratani Tavarikh (1890) and Jnana Chakra --a Gujarati encyclopaedia in 9 volumes (1867).

Hindi Language Division

Hindi is the official language of Government of India. The collection building of Hindi books has been continuing since the time of the Imperial Library, and a separate division was established in 1960. At present 80,000 Hindi books are in the library collection. The collection has rare works published during the last decades of the 18th Century. Many of the publications published by Lulloo Lal, the first printer, publisher and writer of Kolkata, are represented in this collection. The following rare books published by Lulloo Lal are in the library: Braja Bhasha Grammar (1811), Lataife Hindi (1821), Rajaniti (1827), and Prem Sagur (1842).

In addition, the library has The Oriental Linguist with an Extensive Vocabulary English and Hindoostanee and Hindoostanee and English by John B. Gilchrist (1798), Hindi-Roman Orthoepigraphical Ultimatum by John B. Gilchrist (1804), Rajneeti by Narayana Pandit (1809), Sudamacaritra by Haldhara Dasa (1819), Raga Kalpadruma (1843), Baital Pachisi by Duncan Forbes (1861), Dictionary of Hindee and English by J. T. Thompson (1862), Yavan Bhasa ka Vyakaran by Hooper William (1874), Siva Simha Saroja by Siva Simha Senagar (1878), Hindi Pradipa edited by Balkrishna Bhatt (1877-1909), Brief Account of the Solar System in Hindi (1940), and a microfilm copy of Bal Bodhini (1874-77)--a monthly journal for women edited by Bharatendu Harischandra. There are also about 1200 rare first issues of important journals.

The division also has a good number of Maithili books.



Title page (top) and 1st page (below) of Lulloo Lal’s Prem Sagur (1842)

Kannada Language Collection

A separate Kannada division was set up in 1963 in the National Library. In 1960, the library purchased the personal collection of H. Channakeshava Ayyangar. It consists of 1300 books published between the last two decades of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century. An important contribution toward building the collection was the efforts of G. P. Rajaratnam, a noted Kannada author. Immediately after the enactment of the D.B. Act, Rajaratnam toured the erstwhile Mysore state to create awareness among the publishers about the Act. He collected about 1500 books without any expense to the library. The Kannada collection in the library is particularly useful for the study of the cultural history of Karnataka.

At present there are 32,000 Kannada books in the library.

Kashmiri Language Collection

The Kashmiri division was formed in 1983. Currently the library has 500 Kashmiri books. Some of the important items in this collection are Muhammad Yusuf Teng’s Shirin Qalm (2 volumes), Wiyur edited by Ghulam Muhammad Rafiq, Ghulam Nabi Khyal’s Akah Nandun, Nurnama (sayings of Nuruddin Wali) and compiled by Muhammad Amin Kaim, Fazil and Kashmiri’s Krishna Lila.


Malayalam Language Collection

The Malayalam division was established as a separate division in 1963, with around 5000 books. Now the collection has 34,500 books. The earliest printed book, Centum Adagia Malabarica, a Latin translation of Malayalam proverbs, dates back to 1791. The Latin translations are printed alongside the Malayalam originals. Rare and old books include Robert Drummond’s Grammar of the Malabar Language (1799), Dr Gundart’s Malayalam-English Dictionary (1872) Vartamanapustakam by Parammachkal Govarnnodoracchan, Appu Nedungadi’s Kundalata and Chantu Menan’s Indulekha (1889). Apart from these, many works representing earlier periods are part of this collection. A few of these are Ramacaritam (earliest known Malayalam work), works of Niranam (a 15th century poet), Cerussery’s Krishnagatha (16th century), Vatakkan Pattukal (Ballads of North Malabar), Ezuttachan’s Adhyatama Ramayana, Ramaprattu Variyar’s Kucelavrtam, and Kuncan Nampyar’s Tullol.

Marathi Language Collection

The Marathi division was established in 1963 with a collection of 8900 volumes. The division now has 37,000 books in its collection. In 1954 the National Library purchased the library of the Bengal Nagpur Railway Indian Institure, Kharagpur, which had a good number of Marathi books. Sir Jadunath Sarkar collection also has about 350 Marathi books, mostly on the history of the Marathas. The division has many rare and old Marathi publications. These include William Carey’s A Grammar of the Mahratta Language (1805) and Dictionary of the Maharatta Language (1810), Simhasana Battisi (1814), Raghuji Bhonsalyaci Vanshavali (1815), Vans Kennedy’s A Dictionary of Maratta Language (1824), Nava Karar (1850), A Short Account of Railways by K. Bhatwadekar (1854), Charles Hutton’s Bijaganit (1856), Tukaram’s Abhangachi Gatha (1869) edited by Vishnu Parashuram Pandit and Shankar Pandurang Pandit, Itihasaprisiddha Purushanche va Striyanche Povade edited by H. A. Acworth (1891).


An Illustration from A Short Account of Railways

Oriya Language Collection

A separate Oriya division was established in 1973. The Imperial Library had only 133 books; later the collection was increased to 425 books. Currently, the division has 19,500 books.

The oldest publication available in the Oriya collection dates back to 1831. It is Rev. Amos Sutton’s Introductory Grammar of Oriya Language . Some of the other rarities in the collection are Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, translated by Dharanidhara, Amos Sutton’s An Oriya Dictionary, 3 volumes (1841-3), Dharmapustakara Adibhaya (1842-3), and Purnacandra Odiabhasa Kosh (1931-40), a lexicon of the Oriya language compiled by Gopalachandra Praharaj.


Opening page of Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda

Punjabi Language Collection

A separate division for the acquisition and processing of Punjabi language books was established in 1974. Most of the works in this collection are of recent origin. There are a few old and rare Punjabi books, such as William Carey’s A Grammar of Punjabee Language (1812), Samuel Starkey’s A Dictionary of English Punjabee (1849), Geographical Description of the Panjab (1850), Bhai Santosh Singh’s Guru Paratap Suraj Granthavali (1882) and Gurudas Bhai’s Vars (1893).


Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit Languages Collection

Sanskrit has a rich literature in many fields of knowledge. A separate division in the library collects and processes Sanskrit books. At present the division has over 20,000 Sanskrit books, printed in the Devanagari script. Almost all Indian language divisions possess Sanskrit works printed in their respective language scripts. The library also has a rich collection of Sanskrit works edited or translated with original scripts, in English and many other foreign languages.

The collection attracts scholars from India and abroad. Apart from Sanskrit, books in Pail and Prakrit languages are also collected and processed by this division. At present the library has about 500 books in Pali and a comparable collection of books in Prakrit.

Sindhi Language Collection

Since 1957, the library has been building a collection of Sindhi books. At present the library has 2100 Sindhi books. Shah Abdul Latif’s Shah Jo Rasalo and Shah Jo Sher are the rare items in this collection.

Tamil Language Collection

The Tamil division was formed in 1963. The division currently has 57,000 books. Apart from this, the library has 1000 Tamil books and 300 Tamil manuscripts in the Vaiyapuri Pillai collection. There are many rare and old works among the Tamil titles. Early printed Tamil books in the library include the Tamil Bible (1723), John Philip Fabricius’s A Malabar and English Dictionary (1779), a Tamil translation of John Bunyan’s Piligrim’s Progress (1793), and Caldwell’s Comparative Grammar of DravidianLlanguages (1850). The collection also includes standard editions of five great Sangam Classics.


Tamil translation of the Bible (1723)

Telugu Language Collection

The Telugu division was started in the National Library in 1963. The collection has a good number of old Telugu books published since the earlier decades of the 19th century. Some of the rarities in Telugu available in this collection are William Carey’s Grammar of Telugu Language (1814), C. P. Brown’s A Vocabulary of Gentoo and English (1818), Vakyavali (1852), Catalogue of Telugu books in the British Library, London (1912) compiled by L. D. Barnett.


Urdu Language Collection

Like Arabic and Persian, the Urdu collection was substantial since the days of Imperial Library. Special collections such as the Buhar Library, Hidayat Husain collection, Zakariya collection and Imambara collection have some Urdu books and manuscripts. In 1968 a separate Urdu division was set up formed in the library. At present it has more than 20,000 books. Some of the oldest are Uklakhi Hindee or Indian Ethics (1803), and Mir Muhamad Taki’s Kulliuat-e-Mir (1811).


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