Employees of the Saraswathi Mahal Library here welcomed the announcement of hike in maintenance grant of Rs. 75 lakh to the library in the Governor’s address to the Assembly on Thursday. Till now, the annual allocation was Rs. 40 lakh.
The employees also welcomed the announcement regarding the constitution of an expert committee to upgrade the library to international standards.
There are 26 permanent employees, including ‘pandits’ for Sanskrit, Telugu, Maratti and Tamil. The employees’ monthly salary bill is around Rs. 5.50 lakh.
The library also gets funds from the Central government for its development and projects. Recently, the library has sought Rs. 1.65 crore from the Centre for taking up works such as computerisation of manuscripts, improvement of museum, translation of Sanskrit books and conservation of rare books and paintings. The Centre had released Rs. 50 lakh.
One among the handful of medieval libraries in the world, the Saraswathi Mahal Library is a treasure trove with nearly 40,000 manuscripts in Tamil, Telugu, Maratti, and Sanskrit, reflecting the history and culture of South India. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, in its survey of Libraries of the World, describes this library as the “most remarkable library in India”. During the reign of Nayak Kings of Thanjavur (1535-1675), the library was formed and developed in the name of “Sarasvati Bhandar” (Collection place of manuscripts). Maratha kings, who succeeded them, supported the Royal Palace Library till 1855 A.D. During his reign, Rajah Serfoji Two (1798-1832) enriched the library with his collections of manuscripts and books.
Till the survival of the last Maratha Queen, the Library was the property of the palace. Subsequently, it, among others, became the subject of litigation in civil courts. Having realised importance of the library, members of the royal family dedicated it to the public after creating an endowment of Rs. 1 lakh for upkeep.
On October 5, 1918, the Madras government formally took possession of the library. Sixty five yeas later, the library was declared an institution of national importance.