To elaborte our thoughts on ‘Saraswati Bhavan Library’, we need to go into the annals of history when it all started. The Saraswati Bhavan Library, formerly known as the ‘Victoria Hall Museum,’ is located at Gulab Bagh in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The beautiful Gulab Bagh or 'Sajjan Niwas Garden' surrounds the library. The majestic Gulab Bagh, constructed in 1887 by Maharana Fateh Singh is regarded as Rajasthan's largest park and is the fourth-oldest zoo in the semi-continent. The library that is located in the park is well-known around the world. There is no denying that this library comes in the bucket list of wanderlust people.
History of the Library dates back to 1887
Maharana Fateh Singh, the man behind the Gulab Bagh, constructed the Victoria Hall Museum at Gulab Bagh in 1887 and made it public in 1890. The ‘Victoria Museum’ was Rajasthan's very first museum. The architecture and the aroma of the books takes you back in time. The structure was transformed into a public library and named ‘Saraswati Bhavan Library', while the museum was relocated to the City Palace and given the new name 'Pratap Museum'.
Viceroy Lord Lansdowne inaugurated the Victoria Hall Museum. The first curator of this museum was Gauri Shankar Ojha, who was appointed in 1890. Several unique items and stone writings from the third century B.C. to the 17th century A.D. were on display in the museum.
What makes this library special?
In conversation with Sunil Hada, the caretaker of the library, he revealed some of the library's hidden gems that are worth knowing about. The library continues to retain its serene atmosphere. Those that come here frequently sit inside the library and also like to sit outside. The library's natural surroundings add to its allure.
The Library is constructed in Mewar style and holds significant features like Jharokhas, Dome, Jalies and Entrance Verandah. Stone, wood, Lime and Iron were used to make this beautiful library.
In honour of Queen Victoria's (then Empress of India dominated by British Raj) Golden Jubilee (1887), her statue was placed in front of the library. The statue of Queen Victoria was crafted from white marble. In order to celebrate nationalism's success, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi was erected Post-Independence, and Queen Victoria's idol was removed. Queen Victoria’s idol is still placed inside the library.
Rare books found in this library
Scholars, historians, and authors may access more than 32,000 books from a variety of areas, including Archaeology, Indology, and an extensive collection of Historic Handwritten Manuscripts, in this magnificent library. There are also some rare books in the library that are difficult to find elsewhere. Every book enthusiast should see this library's book collections.
An additional library hall
Sunil Hada said that the library consists of 100 members presently who visit the library on a daily basis. The number of visitors to the library has decreased compared to before Covid, where many individuals used to visit frequently. In the back of the old library, one new library room has been built. Anandi, former District Collector of Udaipur suggested adding a library room. She cited the South as her inspiration, claiming that every colony there has a library, and that by building this location, another learning place has been created. Also, the additional library space, which was previously a waste of space, is now being used for good purpose.
According to Sunil Hada, daily visitors include tourists as well as retired people, researchers and students taking competitive examinations.
“Many hurdles came while building this additional one-storey library” - Sunil Hada
Sunil Hada also spoke about the difficulties he faced while creating this structure. He said that several false rumours were spread about the library, claiming that the old building will be demolished as part of the re-construction, although the truth is quite the opposite. According to Sunil Hada, students are the main factor behind the construction of this library. The students that frequently visit the library will be provided with extra space for sitting.
It took Sunil Hada 4 years to convince various authorities of the need for this library, but it was eventually built and opened on 8 February 2023. Tarachand Meena, District Collector, officially inaugurated the additional library room.