The Woodburn Library in Bogura contains three rare handwritten manuscripts by the fifteenth century royal Poet Srimad Gyanendra Kumar Bhattacharya. Each of the manuscripts is about a thousand pages and handwritten with Doyatkali and bamboo pens on ancient Tulat paper.
Readers in Bogura say that they have merely turned the pages of these books called Padmapuran, Govinda Kathamrita and Hiranyakashipu. As these have not been translated into Bengali, no one has yet been able to taste its true essence.
Most of the books of this library known as the beacon of heritage are of 50 to 150 years old. The age of the library is no less. This library has passed 166 years. In 1854 with the help of an English officer named Mr. Royal, the library started its journey in a wooden building in the Station Club area on the banks of the Karatoya river.
The then Nabab of Bogura, Syed Abdus Sobhan Chowdhury built the wooden house for the library. In 1906, the library was named after Sir John Woodburn by the then collector of Bogura and governor of Bengal, JN Gupta.
When the library was damaged by the fire, it was shifted to Edward Park with the help of Syed Abdus Sobhan Chowdhury.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and many other prominent writers and politicians visited the library at different times. The library was damaged by the Pakistani invaders during the Liberation War in 1971. Despite this, writer Charles Kinley’s rare book – The Heroes of Greek Fairy Tales, published from London in 1855, and many rare books, including the history of Bogura by Sri Prabhas Chandra Sen, published in 1929, remained intact.
Due to various reasons the public library was locked for more than 12 years. On 15 March 2014, as per the decision of the public library department under the ministry of culture, the library was merged with the district government public library and was renamed as Woodburn Government Public Library. Of the 28,482 books by Woodburn at that time, only 8,000 were recovered by the government public library, but there was no trace of the remaining over 20,000 books.
In a recent visit to the Bogura Woodburn Government Public Library, Prothom Alo correspondent found that about 8000 old books have been kept in the bookshelves on the third floor. Most of them have gathered dust.
Amir Hossain, the assistant librarian of Woodburn, said, Woodburn contains about eight thousand rare 50-150 years old books of all kinds, including stories, novels, articles, research, art-culture, history-heritage, local and foreign journals, reference books and many other books written in English.
Bogura’s writer and educationist, Bazlul Karim Bahar said that Woodburn was rich in books by world-renowned writers in various languages. Among these, there were handwritten manuscripts of ancient English, Bengali and Arabic literature which were rare in any other library in the country. The three handwritten manuscripts of the fifteenth century are invaluable resources of literature and folklore.
Poet and novelist Shoaib Shahriar told Prothom Alo that he went to Woodburn Public Library with the late novelist Akhtaruzzaman Elias and saw three handwritten manuscripts of Padmapuran, Govinda Kathamrita and Hiranyakashipu books in Sanskrit.
He checked those invaluable pieces of literature that time. Now they are not even in a condition to hold them by hand. These manuscripts need to be preserved and translated into Bengali. These are invaluable pieces of literature.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu.