New Delhi : The week-long festivities of the Delhi Public Library’s (DPL) 60th year celebrations at the Lalit Kala Akademi were cut short when a fire broke out at the exhibition venue on Monday, the inaugural evening.
The fire, which according to Library officials occurred due to an electrical fault, destroyed the entire exhibit area, including 130 rare books, some dating back to the 17th Century.
According to the DPL officials, the fire started at 8 pm after the exhibition had wound up and most of the guests had left.
Banwari Lal, Director of DPL, said: “We are still estimating the damage but almost all books on display were gutted in the fire.” Around three fire tenders were employed to douse the flames that raged for half an hour.
The fire destroyed 1,300 books from the DPL stock, with titles on cooking, gardening and bonsai, children’s books and bestsellers. The exhibition centre also had on display 100 rare books borrowed from the Hardayal Municipal Public Library and 30 books and magazines from Marwari Library. Among the rare and irreplaceable books that were destroyed in the fire was a handwritten Bhagwat Mahapuraan (dated 1800), a 17th Century book Voyages and Travels of the Ambassador and seven volumes of rare Hindi magazines such as Stree Darpan, (1918), Sudha, (December 1932) and Saraswati (1916).
Chairperson of the Delhi Library Board Shailaja Chandra, who had conceptualised the exhibition, said “Around 80 per cent of the stock can be restored. I believe the collection of rare books can be resurrected with the help of Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts. The DPL stock can also be replaced with new books. What cannot be replaced are the bonsai plants, part of a demonstration that was supposed to unfold later in the week.” The DPL staffers managed to retrieve two bound files of the Hindustan Times and the The Navbharat Times, dating from 1952-1972.