A Gift from God

The literal translation of Khuda Bakhsh is a gift from God, and when one sees the collection of the library and museum in Patna, Bihar, one is left in no doubt about providence.

The manuscript collection that the Khuda Bakhsh Library houses has an unusual history. Maulvi Mohammad Bakhsh, a man of letters and law, and with a great passion for books left his collection of manuscripts and rare books to his son with the injunction that he open a library for the public whenever he should find himself in a position to do so. Khuda Bakhsh inherited his father's love for books and made all possible efforts to acquire rare books and manuscripts. In 1888 at the cost of Rs. 80,000 he built a library and housed the books. The Oriental Public Library was opened for the people of Patna on 29th October, 1891 with 4,000 rare manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, apart from the printed books in Arabic, Persian and English. Today, it is known as the Khuda Bakhsh Library.

The generosity with which the collection was started has paid rich dividends. There are gems in the library that make it a most valuable source for scholars. And they have a publications program, with a modest number of titles in English, but with a wealth of material in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, much of which cannot be obtained elsewhere... Here is a sampling

  • Contribution of Islam to Indian Culture / Nanalal C. Mehta, 1998
  • Cultural History of India as depicted in foreign accounts (8th-12th Century AD) / Dr. Badar Ara, 2004
  • Early Urdu Historiography / Dr. Javed Ali Khan, 2005
  • India in the Early 19th Century - An Iranian's Travel Account: Translation of Miratul Ahwal-i-Jahan Numa / Ahmad Behbahani tr. by Prof. A.F.Haider, 1996,
  • Khuda Bakhsh: A Biography of the founder of the Khuda Bakhsh Library, second impression / Salahuddin Khuda Bakhsh & Sir Jadunath Sarkar, 1991,
  • Religion & Society in the India of the 10th Century as described by the Arab Scholar - Al-Masudi / tr. by Dr. Mahmoodul Hasan, 2004
A similar collection is in the Raza Library in Rampur, recently documented in the book of the same name. But more on that later this month...