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Published in the 16-30 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Peer Mohammad Shah Library: a storehouse of culture 

Ahmadabad: Peer Mohammad Shah Library of Ahmadabad is a priceless storehouse of Indian culture in which Arabic, Urdu and Persian translations of many Indian classics in Sanskrit and other languages, for example Mahabharat, are available. The library caretaker, Prof. Mohiuddinji Bombaywala says that Urdu, Arabic and Persian translations of Hindu scriptures which are mostly in Sanskrit have been preserved in the library which are historical proofs of their original. 

A 900-year old book on astronomy in Sanskirit Kiran Tilak translated into Arabic by Al-Biruni, a distinguished astronomer, historian and Indologist of the 11th century, has been preserved in the library. Al- Biruni had come to India along with the army of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi. He spent many years in India learning Sanskrit and other sciences. He also translated Upanishads and many other Sanskrit scriptures into Arabic. All these are no doubt rare books but the rarest of them all is his translation of Kiran Tilak in Pandav script which is hand-written and only a single copy of the book is found today anywhere in the world. The author of this book Kiran Tilak was Pandit Baij Nath of Allahabad. 

Another important and rare book in this library is Radha Krishn Prasad and other Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit including Gita. The shalokas of the book were translated into Arabic and Urdu by “Hindu Rajasthani” but nothing is known about the original author of the book. Translation of Mahabharat in Persian was done by Sanskrit and Persian scholar, Jeevan Das in the 15th century. Prof. Mohiuddinji says that approximately 150 books in the library are in Gujarati Urdu which were written by Urdu speakers of Gujarat in olden times. The language of these books is a mixture of three language: Sanskrit, Urdu and Gujarati. About 500 years ago Urdu and Gujarati were commonly spoken in Gujarat. Moreover, these books are reflective of the impact of Mughal and Gujarati culture of the period between 15th to 17th centuries. Many poets during this period wrote in Gujarati and Urdu.

Bombaywala says that 400 literary books of the library have been written by distinguished scholars, some of the books contain the seals of the authors or kings. Some books have the seal of Ahmad Shah, who had founded Ahmedabad city in 1411, while some contain the seal of Mughal empress Noor Jahan. The seals indicate that those important personalities had studied those books, he said. «

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