Historical Perspective


Growing through the years ...

Khuda Bakhsh Library emerged out of a collection of Maulvi Mohammad Bakhsh, who hailed from Chapra, a district of Bihar. He was a man of letters and law and had a great passion for books. He collected about 1,400 manuscripts including some rare printed books.


When he was on his death-bed in 1876 he entrusted the whole lot to his son and wished him to open a library for the public whenever he should find himself in a position to do so. Khuda Bakhsh, thus, inherited from his father love for books and dedication to public service.

He made it a mission of life to establish a public library so as to fulfil his father's dream. He made all possible efforts to acquire rare books and manuscripts. He also borrowed services of a book-hunter to collect manuscripts from the learning centres in the Arab world. He devoted himself to this noble cause.


With the acquisition of books he laid foundation of a two-storied building for the library. It was ready in 1888 at the cost of Rs. 80,000 and the books were shifted to this newly-constructed beautiful building. To fulfil the long-cherished desire of his father, Khuda Bakhsh opened it for the people of Patna on 29th October, 1891 with 4,000 rare manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, apart from the printed books in Arabic, Persian and English.


The library was donated to the public and the Govt. of Bengal was made its trustee. It was modestly named as Oriental Public Library according to the Trust Deed. The people, however, prefixed his name in view of his great service to the public. Since then it is officially known as Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library. But popularly it is called Khuda Bakhsh Library.


About Khuda Bakhsh


Born in Chapra on 2nd August 1842, Khuda Bakhsh was brought up under the guidance of his father who dedicated his life for the betterment of humanity.


Educated at Patna and Calcutta he started his professional career as Peshkar. In 1880 he was appointed the Government Pleader of Patna and in 1881 the title of Khan Bahadur was conferred upon him for his social service. He was elevated to the post of Chief Justice of Nizam's Court Hyderabad for a period of three years in 1895.


He was also honoured with another title of CIE in 1903. In spite of having all these titles and honours he was a very simple man with determination and vision. The library was his life-long achievement for which he was committed and devoted. He spent whatever he earned on its growth and as a result he was penniless. He had to borrow money for his medical treatment.


The Government of Bengal made him a generous grant of Rs. 8,000 to liquidate his debts. He died on 3rd August 1908 at the age of 66, and was buried in the premises of the Library.

Turning Points

The 26th Dec'1969 was a turning point in the annals of the Library when it was raised to the status of an Institution of National Importance by an Act of Parliament. Being an autonomous body it has been working since then under the control of the Govt. of India, Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The raised status played an important role in accelerating the pace of overall development of the library over the years.

Today, this Library has emerged as an outstanding research Library embracing a large number of rare manuscripts, some of them richly illuminated viz. "Tarik-e-Khandan-e-Timuriya", the only copy in the world, contains 132 beautiful paintings by the famous court artists of Akbar the Great and a writing of Jehangir.