A research – Libraries in Delhi

Libraries in Delhi

Old Libraries in Delhi

Old Delhi is a fascinating place, not just for foodies or those interested in period architecture, but for lovers of architecture, but lovers of literature. Here in old Delhi we have many old libraries. Located amid this chaos, are several libraries that date back well over a century. Housing some rare books and manuscripts, these libraries are a treasure trove for researchers. The buildings they are located in are landmarks and of architectural importance as well. Sadly, these libraries see few serious visitors, save for researcher and students while the union and state government have set aside funds for their keep up, it’s a constant struggle to keep up with the times. As people’s reading habits change and technology makes huge strides, these libraries appear to face a bleak future. It seems like the only people who have kept any public library alive in the city are students or some tenacious newspaper-readers. In this research I will try to capture the history of these libraries in Delhi and their present situation. I will also look at the relevance of these library for common masses in the past and how it’s changed. What kind of aid these libraries were getting when they established and what is the present situation of the management?

Shah Waliullah Library

This library is one of the smallest libraries in Delhisituated at narrow lanes behind the Jama Masjid. This place we searched for is not even listed on Google maps. If someonehas to reach there one has to ask for Pahariimli beyond bulbulekhana. Shah waliullahlibrary is a tiny room over flowing with rare books. The library named after shah walliullah, the Islamic scholar, who first translated the Quran to Urdu. The library was founded in 1987 by group of young individuals, who formed Delhi Youth Welfare Associations (DYWA) to help out individuals when communal differences in old Delhi led to a four day curfew. The group does much more than running a library. It provides free education to children, gives them counselling and helps apply for colleges and sometimes pays their fees also.

The library started with personal donations from members of DYWA but now more and more people have started donating books. Today this collection has touched about 20,000 books with exquisites like a century-old Quran, which has Bismillah written in 114 styles and an 80-year old Quran. The oldest book in the library is a 600- year old Arabian book on logic. A prized possession is a book of poetry written by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, in whose presence the was printed at Red fort. Interestingly, towards the end of the book are poetry written in Punjabi. The digital copies of these rare books are available for general public and most of the originals have been carefully wrapped and kept away until a new place can be found for them

Translation of Ramayana in Persian Language.

Main Area of the shahwaliullah Library.

The library is brimming with books and is in urgent need of space for them. In all these years, officials of the union ministry of culture visited the library once to wrap these books. Beyond that, no efforts have been made by the government to preserve or help the library. This place is known only because of the hospitable and generous caretakers there. Their love and fascination for knowledge and books has kept library and other operations alive all these years.

Writings and collection of translated words from Persian to Urdu. Bhahdur Shah Zafar’s work published at Royal press at Red fort.


Shah waliullah library have huge collection of books in Urdu, English, Persian Manuscripts, translated texts from different languages.

History, Geography books in Urdu donated by different people. And new collection also

Old literature in Urdu, Persian, and Punjabi also

anuscript of Bahadur Shah Zafar poetry which was published at the royal press of Red Fort

Library also have Mythological texts translated into Urdu and Persian and old copies of Quran.

Members of the library also have a collection of different contemporary courses for commerce, science and humanities. And books related to competition exams for the local students.


Library located at PahadiImli, churiwalan, Jama Masjid.

Nearest Metro station- Jama Masjid Gate no 1


Fatehpuri Library

This library is part of the Fatehpuri Masjid courtyard, built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of emperor shah Jahan’swife. One can easily spot the Mughals lineage from the use of red stone and iconic Mughal arches in the building. The library entrances are difficult to spot even after reaching fatehpuri Masjid. It’s as if everyone has forgotten the library, including the courtyard it resides in, the corridor holding the library accords a stunning view of the whole courtyard.

The library holds a vast collection of books from pre partition era in all subjects- English, Hindi, Urdu, Arabian, Persian and Farsi. The library has not issued any book for several years and is hardly in a position to be called a library. It has not received any funds and is slowly fading into oblivion. It’s difficult to find any mention of the library in the internet and has not received any media attention. The only people who visit the library are nearby residents, who came there to read the daily newspaper, with the exception of occasional students or researcher, who drop by for reference.



Inside veiw of the fatehpuri Library.

Fatehpuri Masjid complex veiw from Library.


Fatehpuri Library have no of books, history of Urdu literature, Urdu texts, Persian texts, Farsi texts,

Manuscripts in Arabic, Mathematics, Logic books,

Collection of old novels in English, travelogues.

Diaries ofIslamic Scholars from nineteenth century.



Straight to the Fatehpuri Masjid form Lahori Gate road Library Situated in the premises of fatehpuri mosque.

Nearest Metro Red fort or Chnadni chock.

Main Enterance of the Marwari Library.

Marwari Library

The story of Marwari Library, situated near Gurudwara Sis GanjShaib, is not very different. The library was built by a Marwari sethKedarnathGoynka in 1915 and has been visited by many notable personalities from Mahatma Gandhi to vijayalakshmiPandit. Today the library receives about 100 visitors every day, most of them students or people who come to read the newspaper and preparing for government exams. The collection of books mostly comprises Hindiliterature and rare early- and mid twentieth century periodicals. The library houses a collection of 35,000 books, among which there are many first editions of books like DharmvirBharti’ssoorajkasatwanGhoda. One can find the earliest edition of the magazines like Hans and Time. The most prized

This Library in the earlier days was one of the most important centres for the political and social activities. Many decisions of national movements taken from this library by nationalist leaders. Now this Library run by Marwari charitable trust and Delhi municipal corporation jointly.

Patrons of the Marwari Library.


Today this library is just not a public library even this is a important monument or symbol of national and historical importance.

Reading Hall of the  Marwari Library.

List of the donors of the Marwari Library.


All most thirty five thousand books collection with Magazines.

Old Hindi Books, Hindi Magazines,

Marwari’s history Text from Marwari writers.

Old Manuscripts, Mythological texts Published from Naval kishor Press and Geeta press Gorakhpur.

Books on Economics, Geography, fine arts, children Literature,

Currently Library hasMagazines of General studies for the competitive Examination





Main Street from Lahori Gate to Fatehpuri just opposite to Sis GanjGurudwara up to Haldiram café.

Nearest Metro station- Red fort, Chandni chock.

Hardayal Municipal Public Library

The library presents a completely different scenario from the streets of old Delhi. Built in 1862 by the British and named Lawrence institute library, it resides in lush green surroundings, untouched by the chaos around. The tranquilly with in this historical library is unique. Hardayal library is the oldest public library in the city and has gone through several names before it was named Hardayal library in 1970, to honour freedom fighter LalaHardayal. It’sinteresting to note that the library was named Hardingmunicipal library in 1916 and then reanimated to honour the man who attacked ViceroyHarding. The library is like a treasure trove of the books with more than 1.7 lakh books of which 7000 are rare ones. Their books are not available for public viewing and can be only availed after submitting a letter to the librarian. Other than these are 20 books, which are just one of their kind. This collection includes a copy of TravailBegvenne’s relation of some year printed in 1634; a handwritten Quran by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb; and Persian translated Mahabharata by AbulRaizi.

These books are out of bound for general public and are only displayed on special occasions. Somehow times has managed to stand still inside Hardayal Library since the British left. One can still find hand written catalogues, humongous ledgers and accounts calculated down to passé. However, the library has not been able to buy a single book due to a shortage of money. A year back, Delhi development authority set aside 3 corers for the preservation of the books and the building. The north Delhimunicipal corporation( NDMC) handed over the task of preparing the detailed project report for its restoration to the Indian national trust for Art and cultural heritage(INTACH) The decision was taken after much persuasion and intervention of former Delhi lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.  A sum of 50 Lakh total budget was set aside for the preservation of the books and equal amount was to be spent in digitalising the rare books. A year later no effort has been made to digitlise the books or preserves the rare texts. A walk into narrower lanes of old Delhi will let you know that Hardayal Library isn’t only library that has been perishing in the city.


Old text in Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic,

History books, Geography books, census Data,

Economic texts from colonial time, Economic Planning Record after independence

Old Magazines, Traveller’s Records

Old Visitor’s booklet,


Behind the kotwali police station, Chandni chock

Nearest Metro, Chandni chock


DaraShikoh Library

Main  gate of the library which is now under construction.

Dara Shikoh Library

DaraShikoh( 1615-1659) was the favourite son of the Mughal emperor of shah Jahan. He was believed to be the successor to the Mughal throne. Like his father shah Jahan, he also exhibited a keen interest in art, literature and architecture. He made a mansion of his own near Kashmir gate, which housed the famous Darashikoh Library established in 1637. Once a personal library of Mughal prince, today this library lies on the verge of decay, inside the campus of AmbedkarUniversity Delhi.  If you are on Lothain road and going towards red fort, behind the row of shops on your left is a significant centre for learning. Earlier it was the campus of Guru Govind Singh University. Now Indira Gandhi women’s technical university is also situated in this campus area.

The library was believed to be multiple purposes during the Mughal era. Now library has been converted into a makeshift museum under the protection and care of the archaeological survey of India. An old but renovatedbuilding sporting a mix Mughal and British architecture is the proud legacy ofDaraShikoh. After the prince death, the library building changed hands several times. The death of Dara in 1659 also meant to destruction of his library as it was

given to the subedar of Lahore, Ali Mardan Khan. The building further changed hands before finally being captured by the British in 1803. According to historian SwapnaLiddle, it was given to Donna Juliana, the Portuguese governess of the royal Mughal children and the name behind SaraiJulena near JamiaMiliaIslamia. It remained in her family till NawabSardurjung purchased it in mid-18th century. After that, the building morphed into first British residency occupied by sirDavidochterlony and then in subsequent years into government college, a municipal school, office of the state archaeology department. Liddle said that ochterlony, after buying the building with personal funds, transformed it by incorporating European features while revamping the building. “The original fluted pillars and arches were covered over to produce a façade of pillars in neoclassical style” explained liddle. In 2011, the Sheila Dikshit government decided to convert the library into a city museum in collaboration with INTACH with “the intention of preserving and promoting cultural heritage” He was an erudite scholar, had a huge collection of books. An example of his penmanship is his translation of several Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian.

Inside gate of the darashikoh Library Reading hall.


Old Persian text belongs to Mughal Empire

Sanskrit translation of the Upanishads

Arabic language books, Mathematics, philosophy, Astronomy

Many Mughal Farman’s related to Delhi


Current location of the library is at the VikasBhawan part II, at INA

½ Kilometre from Kashmir gate on Lothian road,

Time to visit; open on all days, 10.00 am-5.00 pm

How to reach there

Tourist can either take local buses from various points within the city to reach this place, which is located near Kashmir Gate inter bus terminal.

Nearest metro station; Kashmir gate