A sanskrit manuscript dating back to 1023, over 5,000 dictionaries, a Bhagavad Gita weighing 3 gm, and some than 8,000 topographical maps are among the priceless and rare collections that Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute can boast of, as it marks two centuries since its establishment in 1821.
Back then, it was known as Hindoo College, a centre to impart Sanskrit courses in Pune’s Vishrambaugwada. India’s third oldest college, it was reborn twice as Poona and, later, as Deccan College in the last 200 years.
Noted alumni include freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Indologist Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, philosopher Ramchandra Dattatraya Ranade, social reformer Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, and others, who collectively went on to lay the foundation for social sciences and linguistic studies in the country.
The main building, designed in the Victorian Neo-Gothic style, is a witness to India’s evolving history, culture and languages that have been well documented either in literary or archaeological evidence. The college will enter its bicentenary year on October 6.
“The contributions of Deccan College — be it the ambitious Sanskrit dictionary project or the many discoveries from Harappan sites — are of great importance,” said AP Jamkhedkar, Chancellor of the deemed-to-be Deccan University.
The college may be nearing two centuries, but many of its literary collections, dating back to the 15th century, were painstakingly gathered during extensive travels undertaken by scholars all over the country. Some never made it to the library records, as foreign scholars kept it to themselves.
Deccan College, spread over 115 acres, had its own share of a brief downfall when number of students opting for courses here recorded a sharp decline. Newer institutions like Fergusson College began attracting youngsters. This forced the British management to announce its closure between 1934 and 1939. The alumni, however, came to the rescue and raised funds to revive it as a postgraduate college, adding archaeology to its core subjects.
“When the college reopened, we received some 6,000 rare books in languages ranging from Latin, German, Sanskrit, Marathi and more. Today, the library has over 1.13 lakh books with some of them only available here,” said librarian Trupti More.
The oldest book, titled The City of God authored by St Augustine, dates back to 1523. Also in the league are Travels in to Africa and Asia (1665), History of Revolution of Mogol Empire (1671), History of the Church of Malabar (1694), Theory of Earth (1697), which find special space in the collections.
Tilak, who lived in the boys’ hostel room 134 between 1873 and 1876 while pursuing his master’s degree, later gifted his personal Vedic collection of 197 books.
With so much of history under one roof, the college administration is increasingly having a tough time preserving them. Over the past four years, the state government and University Grants Commission (UGC) have stopped their funds to the college, whose main building was awarded the heritage tag by the PMC.
As a result, many of these collections are in dire need of preservation and better space. “The library and preservation of its vast collection alone amounts to Rs 40 lakh a year. Without any support from UGC or the state government, the overall preservation has taken a hit,” More said, adding that paucity of funds prevented digitisation of topographical maps.
Subscriptions to new journals, some of which have an annual subscription of Rs 1 lakh, have also been suspended, she said.
The PMC, during the last two years, supported the college with Rs 50 lakh each for restoration works of the building structure. “The Centre will have to critically think about the importance of the subjects and their contributions, devise a firm policy and extend financial support to the college,” said Jamkhedkar, an alumnus himself.
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