By Fazil N C
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure” – Rumi
Amidst the chaos and bustles of old city stands the splendid Chowmahalla palace, built over 200 years ago. Among its several attractions, which include Vintage cars to ancient artifacts, is the recently renovated library containing an array of royal books, mostly of the sixth and seventh Nizam which beckon visitors.
The most fascinating aspect of the library is that it has its shelves of books which are more than 1000 years old and most of them cannot be reproduced. These rare collections illustrates that the rulers were also fascinated by books. In fact some of them were bookworms themselves and admired language and literature. Miss Thardees who is in charge of the library said that research scholars and academicians benefit the most from this collection of books.
Books from whole Asaf Jahi period have been relocated from Nazri Bagh and Chiran Palace to the freshly painted Mahtab Mahal with the help of newly appointed library staffs. The cultural relation between the Nizams and the other dynasties such as Ottoman Empire and others in the sub continent have not just resulted in the import of luxurious artifacts but a diverse collection of books, as well.
There are nearly 10,000 books on a wide range of topics. History, literature, poetry, philosophy, geography, culture and religion – you name it, the library has it. Besides the library has a good number of Qurans of different sizes dating back to 2000 years, as well. The Nizam’s were ardent collectors of Quran and you can find different versions in the library and even the oldest printed ones.
One can lay hands on a variety of books like Malabar Magician, History of Don Quixote, Glimpses of India, surveys on flora and fauna of the South India, Sufi poetry, History of Mughals, Biography of Rulers.
The elegance of a royal reading room and the tranquility surrounding it takes the readers back to the magical world of literature several thousand years ago. The royal library housed in the Mahtab Mahal, one of the four palaces in the Chowmahalla, is an initiative of the palace authorities to protect and preserve for posterity everything that is connected with the Asaf Jahi kings. After proper cataloguing, the books are put in wooden almirahs that look like antiques in themselves. The largest collection of books is in English which is close to 3000. This is followed by Urdu, Persian and Arabic. The sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, and his son, Mir Osman Ali Khan, were poets of no mean status. The library also contains the eight printed volumes of Urdu and Persian poetry penned by the seventh Nizam.
“The books are not for lending. One can sit here and read,” says G. Kishan Rao, director of the Chowmahalla Palace. Various initiatives such as online cataloging, an updated website and a nominal membership fee of 100 are an attraction for readers, not to mention an entry to the splendid palace.