History of Saraswathi Mahal Library
The Saraswathi Mahal Library commenced its operations as a royal library which was erected as a pleasure palace for the Nayak rulers of Thanjavur whose regime lasted from 1535 till 1675 AD. Thanjavur was attacked by the Marathas during 1675, who introduced regional cultural traditions and then remodelled the Royal Palace Library till the year 1855. King Serfoji II, who was renowned for his knowledge of Latin, Italian, English and French languages and also his mastering of arts and all sorts of learning, had remodified the library. He is said to have recruited several Pandits for purchasing, accumulating and copying numerable literary works from reputed centres of Sanskrit learning in northern and many other parts of the nation. This library was owned by the State Government of Tamil Nadu since 1918. The name of the library was altered to 'Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library' to respect its greatest Maratha patron.
Collection of Saraswathi Mahal Library
Most of the manuscripts in the library are in Tamil, Devanagari, Sanskrit, Telugu, Nandinagiri and Grantha scripts and it is believed that the library contains about 39, 300 manuscripts. There exist nearly 35, 00, 000 Tamil manuscripts involving titles in medicine, literature and music. Apart from this, the library also possesses 3, 076 manuscripts belonging to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries of the state of Maharashtra. The hierarchy of the saints of Maharashtra are all described elaborately in such manuscripts which are parts of Dattatreya Mutts and Sri Ramadasi. Marathi manuscripts are generally present over paper, though a few of them have been published over palm leaf manuscripts in Telugu script. There are as many as 846 Telugu manuscripts in the library most of which have been embedded over palm leaves.
The library is also home to 22 Urdu and Persian manuscripts of the 19th century besides the medical statements of Ayurvedic scholars and interviews in manuscripts which have all been categorised under 'Dhanvantari' section. There also exists nearly 1, 342 bundles of official documents enriched with information related to the Maratha Raj and these were all composed in Modi script. Readers will be informed about the socio-political and cultural scenario which existed during the reign of the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur.
Museum of Saraswathi Mahal Library
Saraswathi Mahal Library is well organised into distinct sections which are characterised by those of Illustrated Manuscripts, Wooden Paintings, Portraits of Marata kings of Thanjavur, old manuscripts, Atlases, Glass Painting, Physiognomy charts of Charles Le-Brun, Printed copies of the Original Drawings, Paper Paintings portraying style of Thanjavur, Canvas Paintings and so on. The library is a part of the Thanjavur Palace, which can be easily visited by readers interesting in reading the collected books.
In the year 1965, the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, Government of India had financed further modifications to the library. The library is also a notified Manuscript Conservation Centre or MCC erected during 2003 under the National Mission for Manuscripts.
(Last Updated on : 14-04-2014)
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