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Sudhijan Pathagar: Serving Narayanganj book lovers for over half a century

  • Published at 01:35 am July 19th, 2019
Sudhijan Pathagar-Dhaka Tribune
Local youths are engrossed in their studies at the historic Sudhijan library in the port city of Narayanganj Dhaka Tribune

To familiarise people with knowledge and literature, Sudhijan took the initiative to start a library, providing young people with some books. On June 1, 2019, Sudhijan Pathagar celebrated its 56th birthday

Sudhijan Pathagar, a pioneering library in the port city of Narayanganj, has been spreading the light of knowledge among locals for over 56 years.

To familiarize people with knowledge and literature, Sudhijan took the initiative to start a library, providing young people with some books. On June 1, Sudhijan Pathagar celebrated its 56th birthday.

The library initially started with only 10 books and 25 members. Fazle Rabbi, then assistant publication principal of Bangla Academy, pioneered the library. He later became the director of Bangla Academy.

Another individual besides Rabbi, Sarder Jayenuddin, director of the National Book Centre at the time, also worked actively to make the library. Fazle Rabbi was the founder secretary of the library. 

Travelling from Dhaka to Narayanganj, Fazle Rabbi and some of his fellow passengers dreamt of building a library. Their dream came true on February 2, 1964. The library began with a small room rented for Tk50 in a house owned by Rahmat Ullah Haji on Harkatan Bannerjee Road in the Amlapara neighbourhood of the city. 

At that time, the library had 10 books, a cupboard, a table, 10 chairs, and two hurricane lamps.

Although Fazle Rabbi was the pioneer of the library, Mohammad Nurul Haque, history lecturer at Government Tolaram College, was the founder director. 

In 1969, the library was shifted to the co-operative building on what is now Bangabandhu road, with the support of industrialist Hossain Jamal. After the independence of Bangladesh, Hossain Jamal and then Narayanganj municipality chairman Ali Ahammad Chunka came forward to give the library a fixed place. Ali Ahammad Chunka leased about six kathas of land for 99 years, on which the library exists to this day. 

On July 8, 1977, then Dhaka deputy commissioner AMM Shawkat Ali laid a foundation stone for the library. He also donated Tk125,000 for the construction of the library. On July 22, 1978, then Dhaka divisional commissioner M Alam Khan inaugurated the new building of the library.

A library that caters to both Bangla and English readers

At present, the library has about 40,000 books on poetry, literature, travel, science fiction, religion, sports, film, general knowledge as well as biographies and thrillers. Of those, 35,000 books are in Bangla, while around 4,500 are English books. The library has its own publications too.  

At present, there are 9,160 active library members. Of them, 6,901 are students and the remaining 2,259 are general members. Seven people supervise the activities of the library. 

In order to be a member of the library, students have to pay an annual fee of Tk120, and general members pay Tk180. Apart from this, a significant number of readers get the opportunity to read newspapers and magazines on site at the library.

The library has published two valuable books, "Narayanganjer Itihash" (The History of Narayanganj), and “Bongo Shongskritier Shotobarsho” (100 Years of the Culture of Bengal).  Over time, the library has developed and organised a range of creative and educational activities, including Bangla spelling workshops for teachers and students, and book reading programs for students and professionals. Last year, Sudhijan Pathagar introduced a mobile library service for several Narayanganj schools.

The library also provides eight scholarships to encourage poor yet brilliant city students in education, literary, and social services. Each year, the library honours a person with the “Hossain Jamal Memorial Prize” for his or her contribution to the education sector.

Mohammad Ishak, one of the founding members of the library, told Dhaka Tribune: “There is no alternative to reading books, but it is sad that the younger generation is not that interested in reading books.”