October 22, 2016
B Krishnamurthy, better known as “Gnanalaya” Krishnamurthy, almost literally built his library book by book. The bibliophile and retired school teacher spent his life’s savings, time and energy to create his dream library—perhaps one of the biggest private libraries in the country—and built up the Gnanalaya Library and Research Centre to an impressive collection of over one lakh books, with several thousand rare ones.
Situated at Thirukokarnam, a suburb of Pudukkottai town, Gnanalaya, a treasure trove of research papers and books, is very popular among students and academicians from all over Tamil Nadu. A haven for book-lovers, research scholars, folklorists, publishers and even politicians, the collections in the library, which permits only reference and not lending, have proven invaluable to over 200 scholars doing doctoral research.
The library boasts an impressive collection of novels, biographies and travelogues on varied subjects, including history, philosophy, astrology and more.” You name it, this library has it,” confirms Gnanasambandam, a research scholar.
The over 2,000 rarest, out-of print and first edition books also bring Tamil publishers flocking to the library, hoping to bring out new editions. Rare books include poet Bharathi’s Swadeshi Geethangal, published in 1908, and Bharathidasan’s anthology of poems, published in 1930, and Veeramamunivar’ s Charthuragarathi, published in 1848, apart from a separate section for literary journals from Manikodi to the Kanayazhi.
“All this started as a passion in 1959; I went from door to door to collect rare Tamils books very much in the fashion of Tamil Thatha UV Swaminatha Iyer and I built up my stock,” says this humble Gandhian, ho constructed a two-storey building, with his retirement benefits, to house the library, whose fame has also brought foreign researchers here. A Swedish national recently used the library’s hostel facility for a couple of months to carry out research on terracotta sculptures.
Famous writers, like Jeyakanthan to politicians including Vaiko, have visited the library and lauded his service to book lovers. “This is my life work and the legacy I am going to leave behind,” says Krishnamurthy. “This is something that future generations will continue to benefit from, even if I am not there physically to help them.”