National Library – Largest Library in India
The well-known National Library is one of the largest libraries in India and an institution of national importance under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The library is located on Belvedere Road, Kolkata and is known not only for its collection of books but is also known to be the haunted houses of Kolkata, a former residence of former Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The library was designated to collect, disseminate as well as preserve the printed matter produced in the country which is situated on an attractive 30 acres Belvedere Estate in former Calcutta – Kolkata.
The Ministry of Culture, the owner of the library, decided to get the library building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India – ASI, in 2010. It was while taking stock of the library building, that a previously unknown room had been discovered by the conservation engineers. The ground floor room, the size of around 1000 sq. ft. did not have any kind of an opening. Search from the first floor area, forming the ceiling of the room, was carried out by the ASI archaeologists for a trap door, but they were not successful.
Mysterious Chamber Untouched for Over Two Centuries
Restoration of the building would be incomplete without being able to assess inside this enclosure according to Tapan Bhattacharya, deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, stating that they had come across an arch on one side of the enclosure that had been walled up and speculations were common as per another archaeologist. Some speculated that the room could have been used as a punishment room used by Warren Hasting and other British officials or a place probably to store treasure.
It was a common practice with the British to `wall up’ offenders in death chambers and according to some sources, this enclosure has the same look and feel of such chambers. Besides this the British were also know to hide their riches in such type of blind chambers. It is said that the chamber had lain untouched for more than two centuries. After Independence, the National Library, then in Esplanade, had been shifted to Belvedere House which is of great architectural and heritage value and all the treasure of books were shifted to the new building on the 30 acre campus while the old building was getting restored
Historical & Cultural Importance
The building being of historical as well as cultural importance, ASI director D.V. Sharma informed that they bore a hole through the wall instead of breaking it to peer inside with searchlight. National Library authorities had written to the ministry of culture for permission. The director of National Library, Swapan Chakravorty, had commented that `the ASI cannot drill into a building of such great historical significance as this, without permission and assisted this as caretakers of the building.
Matter on the enclosure had been raised in a recent meeting of the committee of experts which had been formed by the Centre to advise the ASI on the restoration with regards to the National Library. Historian Barun De, chairman of the committee had commented that `the ASI raised the issue of the enclosure in the last meeting of the committee and were anxiously waiting for the first look inside.