Saraswathi Mahal Library
Saraswathi Mahal Library or Maharaja Serfoji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library, located in Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, is one of the oldest libraries in Asia. The library is located inside the campus of the Tanjavur Palace.
The library has the most remarkable and rare collection of Palm Leaf manuscripts and papers (more than 49,000) written in different languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, English, Marathi and some of the local languages of India. The library also consists valuable collections of manuscripts, books, maps, and paintings highlighting the arts, culture and literatures.
History of Saraswathi Mahal Library
The Saraswathy Mahal Library was started as a Royal Library, for use by the Nayak Kings of Tanjavur who ruled between 1535 CE-1675 CE. It was later on developed until 1855 under the Maratha rulers who captured Thanjavur in 1675. It was Maharaja Serfoji II, an eminent scholar, who took an exceptional interest in the advancement of library by collecting a vast number of literary works from prominent Centres of Sanskrit learning. The library was thus official named in honour of this great Maratha patron.
Notable Features of the Library
- The library is under the possession of the State of Tamil Nadu since 1918.
- The library has been acclaimed as “the most remarkable library in India” by the Encyclopedia of Britannica in its surveys of libraries of the world.
- The library’s collection of manuscripts include:
- A major portion of the collection consists of 39,300 Sanskrit scripts which are also written in Grantha, Devanagari, Nandinagari and Telugu scripts.
- A collection of around 3076 Marathi Manuscripts from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
- The Tamil manuscripts are around 3500 that covers works in literature, music and medicine.
- The collection also includes 22 Persian and Urdu manuscripts belonging to the 19th century, 846 Telugu manuscripts,1342 bundled records of Maratha Raj and medical records of Ayurveda scholars piled up under the Dhanvantari section.
- The library also supports publishing of the rare manuscripts from its collection. The library activities are computerized and also ensures that the volumes are preserved on microfilm.
- The library conducts audio visual documentaries emphasizing the importance of our history and important places to visit.
- There is a museum located inside the library that is open to general public to have a view of the ancient manuscripts, original drawings in printed format, paintings in different forms(paper, canvass, wooden, glass paintings), Physiognomy charts of Charles Le-Brun and portraits of Thanjavur Maratha Kings.
- The library is open on all days of the week, excepting Wednesdays, from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. Entry fee of Rs. 50 is charged with an additional fee of Rs. 50 for camera.
How to reach Saraswathi Mahal Library
Tanjavur Royal Palace is 2 kilometres away from Tanjavur Junction and 0.5 kilometre away from the old Bus stand. Tanjavur is well connected to other cities. There are frequent local buses to Tanjavur, and it also has direct buses from Hyderabad, Ernakulam and Bangalore. Tanjavur Junction is the nearest rail head and Trichy international Airport is the nearest Airport (around 48 kilometres away from Thanjavur).
The place is a must visit for history enthusiasts. The quiet ambience of the library offers the tourists a glimpse of Indian culture through primeval paintings, scriptures and manuscripts.