Book-lovers can read from the large collection, mostly of the sixth and seventh Nizam, which is all set to be thrown open to visitors at the Chowmahalla Palace

Think of the Nizams and what comes to mind is grand palaces, fabulous jewellery and art collections. Not many know that the erstwhile rulers were also fascinated by books. In fact some of them were bookworms themselves and patronised language and literature.

As is their wont, the Asaf Jahi rulers amassed a wealth of books. Now one can see them all. A library containing the royal tomes - mostly of the sixth and seventh Nizam - is all set to be thrown open to visitors at the Chowmahalla Palace here shortly.

There are nearly 10,000 books on a wide range of topics. From history to literature, poetry, philosophy, geography, culture and religion – you name it, the library has it. Bibliophiles can lay hands on a variety of books like The life of Samuel Johnson, History of Don Quixote, John F Kennedy – portrait of President, Glimpses of India, The Princes of India and an array of Encyclopaedias. There is also an interesting book on “Who’s who of 1920”. Besides the library has a good number of Qurans of different sizes. But they are still in the process of restoration.

The royal library housed in the Mehtab Mahal, one of the four palaces in the Chowmahalla, is an initiative by the palace authorities to protect and preserve for posterity anything and everything connected with the Asaf Jahi kings.

The treasure trove of books was in fact languishing in various palaces such as Nazri Bagh, Chiran Palace and Chowmahalla. Had they not been preserved they would surely have been the royal repast of termites. Thanks to the timely intervention of the authorities the books have got a new lease of life. For the last six months a dozen odd professionals are working hard to clean, bind and make the books fit for reading. “We have applied all preservation techniques, including fumigation, to protect the books”, says the librarian.

After proper cataloguing, the books are put in wooden almirahs which sport antique look. All the books carry the insignia of Nizam’s ‘dastar’ on the side. The largest collection of books is in English, close to 3000, followed by Urdu, Persian and Arabic. There is also a good number of Persian manuscripts containing the ‘farmans’ issued by the Asaf Jahi’s. They throw light on the day-to-day administration.

Both the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, and his son, Mir Osman Ali Khan, were poets of no mean repute. And no wonder one finds a rich collection of poetry, including of lesser known poets. The library also contains the eight printed volumes of Urdu and Persian poetry penned by the 7 Nizam.

“The books are not for lending. One can sit here and read”, says G. Kishan Rao, director, Chowmahalla Palace. However, for visiting the library one has to shell down Rs.100 which includes the cost of entry ticket too.

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