Friday, September 22, 2023

Rare manuscripts wear out at DU library

Century-old ‘puthis’ and manuscripts, rare books, newspapers and periodicals printed in Bangladesh during the last century have been wearing out at the Dhaka University central library for lack of proper preservation and proper materialisation of the exiting resources.
The authorities had taken hardly any measures to preserve these rare documents even after being informed several times, teachers and students alleged.
Sources in the library said about 300 rare manuscripts and at least 600 microfilmed newspapers had already been damaged although there was a supervisory committee to look into this.
Another 500 hundred ‘puthis’ and newspapers are going to meet the same fate if preventive steps are not taken in time, the sources told New Age.
The university library has a collection of more than 30,000 such books and manuscripts, dating back to the medieval period, written on palm and banana leaves, barks, stone slabs and handmade papers in Sanskrit, Bangla, Arabic, Pali, Urdu, Persian, Maithili, Uriya, Hindi and a few other dialects.
About 20,000 among the manuscripts have been identified and 6,500 almost-decayed manuscripts have been microfilmed and laminated, the sources said.
Work on identifying other manuscripts is on but they are in such a decrepit condition that it will be difficult to work on them, the sources said.
‘Sharada Tilak’, a Sanskrit ‘puthi’, more than 550-year-old, and rare Bangla works from the middle ages like ‘Padma Puran’, ‘Yusuf Zulekha’ and ‘Padmabati’ by Alaol are some of the notables among the most vulnerable volumes.
Some rare newspapers of the last century, which chronicled the events during the division of Bengal in 1905, partition of India in 1947, events relating to the language movement in 1952, mass upsurge in 1969, independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and other major social and cultural movements are wearing out in dusty and damp atmosphere.
‘The books lying at the reading rooms on the 1st and 2nd floors of the library have become foods for white ants,’ said Raju Howlader, a post-graduation student of law department.
He said most of the books have become damp owing to rain-splash and over-moisture during monsoon as they have been shelved on worn-out bookracks.
A post-graduation student of the information science and library management department, Anisur Rahman, said the authorities failed to utilise its existing resources and manpower and maintain the library.
‘Now, the library has become reading room for BCS examinees,’ he added.
The Dhaka University library with an enviable collection of rare books, ‘puthis’ and manuscripts, newspapers and periodicals, maps and other reference materials served teachers, students and researchers from home and abroad for decades, said Sadrul Amin, dean of the arts faculty of the university.
‘But, such a sorry condition of the library makes us unwilling to go there,’ he added.
Sadrul Amin, also professor of English department, said in developed and developing countries library are treated as heart of any university but here the library is the most neglected unit.
Terming the manuscripts as the foundation of knowledge for Bengali nation as they carry the national history, culture and tradition, Amin said there are many rare manuscripts in the library, which are not only a matter of pride for Dhaka University but for the whole nation.
A DU librarian told New Age that some microfilmed manuscripts have been damaged and a process to reprint them is underway.
In such a condition, chief librarian Nasiruddin Munshi told New Age that the university authorities have approved a development project worth Tk 6 crore against their demand for Tk 10 crore, which is waiting for the cabinet approval.
The library management are trying to take another Tk 4 crore project for library development under the Higher Education Enhancement Project Fund, he added.
‘The management has also taken an initiative to digitalise the puthis, newspaper archives and the university record cell but we have some resource constraints,’ said Munshi, also former chairman of information science and library management department.
Sources in the library, however, said the present administration emphasises only purchasing books and materials for library, ignoring its maintenance.
At present, the Dhaka University Library has 6 lakh 80 thousand books and magazines. Besides, the Library has 30,000 rare manuscript, 20,000 old and rare books and large number of tracts (booklets, leaflets, pamphlets, and puthis).

Courtesy of NewAge

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