Since 1968, every year, National Library Week has been celebrated in the month of Nov.14 to 20. To know its origin let me go back by a century.
In 1918 the then British Indian Government planned to conduct a Conference of the Librarians at Lahore. But unfortunately, it restricted the entry only for the Government Librarians. Doors were closed for the private Librarians.
From the fag end of the 19th Century itself Library Movement was making its headway in almost all parts of India. Particularly in Andhra Pradesh, it was marching forward with the participation of the enlightened and philanthropists. The movement was sharing the honors with the National Movement.
Ayyanki Venkataramanayya, Kashinathuni Nageswara Rao Pantulu, Noori Venkatanarasimha Sastry, and many other patriots were at the forefront of the Movement.
When they were not allowed to attend the Lahore Conference, they felt it an insult and challenged to host a conference on their own at Madras. Accordingly on 14th and 15 November 1919, they organized an All India Librarians Conference at the Gokhale Hall, Madras.
The Commissioner/ Director, Public Libraries, Baroda State, Sri Kudalkar presided over the Gala. Anyyanki Venkataramanayya was the guiding spirit. Distinguished delegates from all over the country attended and participated in the proceedings. There were fruitful discussions and it yielded the desired results. The message of the Library Movement reached far and wide and nook and corner of the Country.
The Indian Library Association, particularly S.N.Chakravarthi of the Ministry of External Affairs had an abounding interest in the Library Movement and special admiration for the Library Movement in Andhra Pradesh.
They had unfathomed affection for the unselfish services of Ayyanki Venkataramanayya. They were able to reach the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, and impress upon her the need to commemorate the 1919 event.
India Gandhi instantly responded and the Ministry of Education declared November 14 to Nov 20 as the National Library Week from 1968.
Incidentally, the birthdays of both Nehru and Indira occur during the Week. Nehru’s love for books and his preeminent position as a writer is well known. R.K.Narayan said Indira Gandhi was a voracious reader and she was fond of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda. On this auspicious occasion, let us pay homage to the departed leaders.
In a relevant sideline, the idea of constituting a National Academy of Letters in India was considered by the colonial British government.
Though some steps were taken, it did not see the light of the day. The Government of Independent India carried out this proposal, constituting a National Academy of Letters, called the ‘Sahitya Akademi’ by a government resolution on 15 December 1952.
The first General Council of the Akademi included members such as S. Radhakrishnan, Abul Kalam Azad, C. Rajagopalachari, K.M. Panikkar, K.M. Munshi, Zakir Hussain, Umashankar Joshi, Mahadevi Varma, D. V. Gundappa, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, and was presided over by none other the then-Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Government of India clarified that the choice of Prime Minister Nehru as the first chairperson was “not because he is Prime Minister, but because he has carved out for himself a distinctive place as a writer and author.”
The Sahitya Akademi was formally inaugurated on 12 March 1954 in New Delhi in a ceremony held in the Indian Parliament’s Central Hall. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and S. Radhakrishnan spoke on the occasion.
A key concern in the early days of the Sahitya Akademi was the establishment of its autonomy from the Central Government. This concern was echoed by the Prime Minister himself, who noted that, “…It is an honor to be the President of an organization that includes in its fold the eminent writers of India in various languages. As President of that Akademi, I may tell you quite frankly, I would not like the Prime Minister to interfere in my work.”
The First Council recommended proposals to have the chairman elected by the Council and not appointed by the Government.
Accordingly, with such suggestions incorporated, the Akademi was constituted as a society under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. The Council was reconstituted and elected Prime Minister Nehru as its president, and he continued in that capacity until his death in 1964.
Pujas are performed all through the year in the temples. Then why Car Festivals? Libraries function all through the year. Libraries are the temples of learning. Library Week Celebrations are the occasions to observe revelry and create a festive mood and scene in the libraries.
Libraries are decorated; new and rare books are exhibited; encourage people, particularly youngsters to cultivate reading habits; Conferences, symposiums and seminars are held; competitions in essay, elocution, drawing, singing, awareness on National Movement and patriots, scientific, industrial and economic development. We are also expected to bring home the services of the scions of library movement and science are remembered.
I am pained to hear even from the knowledgeable: “Why the Libraries? What is the use of Old books? There are digital libraries, the internet, google search, and Wikipedia facilities. They meet the demands.”
There is no number of imported cooked food items. Yet the doctors prescribe as diet or as healthy regular food, only the age-old traditional varieties, containing Shadrasas: Rice, Wheat, Jawar, Ragi, idli, Chapathi, Roti, Rasam, Sambar Chatni, Green Vegetables, etc. Pizza, Burger, Somasa, Omelet, Chicken, and Mutton are not advised. When asked why he was writing the repeated Ramayana, Kavi Samrat Vishvanatha Sathyanarayan said:
“మరల నీ వేల రామాయణమన్నచొ తినుచున్న అన్నమే తినుచున్నదిన్నాళ్ళుతన రుచి తనదిగాన, చేసిన సంసార మే చెయుచున్నదిన్నాళ్ళుతనయనుభూతి తనదిగాన తలచిన మమ్మునే తల చెద నా భక్తి రచన లు చిదిగిన”. విశ్వనాథ సత్యనారాయణ అన్నారు.
(“Why do you eat the very same rice as tasty food and continue to lead the same conjugal life to derive pleasure? So I write Rama’s devotional story”.)
For the last few days, the printed, electronic and social media are full of Barack Obama’s compliments to Ramayana, Mahabharata, Abraham Lincoln, and Gandhiji as sources of his inspiration.
For generations, crores of people have been witnessing the Harischandra Drama and reading his story. One among them was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He not only became ‘ the Mahatma Gandhi’ but caused the ‘destruction of an Empire’, perhaps the greatest one in the recorded History, and ‘forged our age’.
I am confident that the Director of Libraries will take all steps to strengthen the public libraries. I urge him to hasten the book and furniture purchasing and construction of buildings. As the cess collection is not poor, these activities may be a non-stop process,
Dear Fraternity, before parting I would like to place on record, the services of the triumvirates of the A.P. Library Movement in Andhra Pradesh Ayyanki Venkataramanayya, Gadicharla Harisarvothama Rao, and Pathuri Nagabhushanam. Dr. Raavi Sarada, the present Secretary of the A.P.Library Association is imaginatively engaged in carrying on the legacy, taking the link from where her father, Pathuri had left.
(KC Kalkura is an advocate from Kurnool. He was chairman, Zilla Grandhalaya Samstha and has long been associated with the library movement in Andhra Pradesh)