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Bibliophiles’ paradise in capital

Meedhu Miriyam Joseph
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Golden past:Palm leaf manuscripts at the Sree Chithira Thirunal Library,Vanchiyoor.— Photo: Meedhu Miriyam Joseph
Golden past:Palm leaf manuscripts at the Sree Chithira Thirunal Library,Vanchiyoor.— Photo: Meedhu Miriyam Joseph

At the Sree Chithira Tirunal Library, Vanchiyoor, it’s more likely that those who are in love with the ‘old book smell’ would just not be willing to leave the place.

With an exclusive collection of regional magazines and journals dating back to early 1800s, it’s not long before the visitors to this library are transported to the days of yore.

Started in 1914, the library will celebrate its 98th anniversary on November 18.

The city’s ‘grandhasala’, which houses a large collection of rare books on history, culture, and mythology, continues to maintain its old charm, attracting a good number of scholars, students and historians alike. Age-old collections of palm leaf manuscripts of various Puranas and Tantras and texts on Ayurveda are preserved here for the generations to come.

Kesava Pillai’s picture adorns the main wall in the library. Popularly known as Vayanasala [library] Kesava Pillai, he was a man with a mission. He was instrumental in collecting books and setting up this library, says his son and secretary of the library, Bhanuvikraman Nair.

“Old magazines, those that used to catch the pulse of the city during the 1800s and 1900s can be found here and no other place in the city. These magazines can take you back to the life of the old Travancore. The library has also a good collection of titles in Malayalam and Tamil and a few English titles,” Mr. Nair said.

True enough for A. Shifna and her friends, M.Phil. students from the University of Kerala, this treasure trove is the top pick for their research programme.

“One can find the complete collection of magazines that dates back to as early as 1803, while most other libraries cannot boast of such an extensive collection,” Ms. Shifna said. For the very same reason, the library has taken up a massive digitisation drive since last year where books that are more than 50 years old are scanned and CDs are archived.

“This is no easy task. These books are so old and fragile. Since the collection is very vast, at present we are preserving scanned copies. The drive will take at least ten years to complete,” said Preasanna Kumar, who is in charge of the digitisation drive.

In tune with the traditions, each year in connection with the anniversary celebrations the members present a new drama to encourage and promote new theatre artistes. This year too there will be a drama presentation titled ‘Dhanyamary Paranja Kadha’, written by Ravi Vallathol and directed by N. Rajan Nair, which will be held on November 18 at VJT Hall.

The Sree Chithira Thirunal Library, Vanchiyoor, is celebrating its 98th anniversary with a drama presentation at VJT Hall on Sunday.

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