When did Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, visit the Patna University and who designed the aesthetic buildings on its campus? These are some of the questions on the Patna University’s history and heritage that its administration is struggling to answer. As a course correction, the country’s seventh oldest university has decided to set up an “archive cell” so that it faces no such problem in the future. The Patna University (PU), established on October 1, 1917, may have completed 100 glorious years but its historical documents and photographs “have not been properly archived over several decades”. On its centenary, however, the administration has decided to set up an “archive cell” to give the historical records on the varsity a permanent home. “While doing research for our centenary souvenir and a book on its journey of 100 years, we realised the old records and photographs have not been properly documented,” Vice Chancellor Rash Bihari Prasad Singh said. “We wanted to know which eminent personalities have visited the PU campus since its inception, and which famous events have been hosted here and any other important milestones. But, we had to look into scattered sources,” he said.
The centenary souvenir committee found records about the visits of Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other personalities to the university but it could not access the archives related to the visit of Lord Mountbatten in late 1940s. “We looked into the Silver Jubilee Souvenir published in mid 1940s and old college magazines and personal collections too. Now, we have realised the need for a proper ‘University Archive Cell’, which we wish to set up this year coinciding with its centenary,” Singh told PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially kicked off Patna University’s grand centenary celebrations yesterday at a function held on the grounds of the prestigious Patna Science College, which incidentally turns 90 next month. The iconic buildings of the Science College, a premier institution under the Patna University, was inaugurated in 1928 by the then Viceroy Lord Irwin.
The university celebrated its architectural heritage and the colonial-era buildings of Science College, the PU office, the Wheeler Senate House, the over 150-year-old Patna College, by beautifully lighting them up to mark the occasion. The university is steeped in history. In 1936, Nobel Laureate Rabindra Tagore was given a grand public reception at the Wheeler Senate Hall.
The elegant building having Doric columns in its facade, was inaugurated by then Lt Governor of Bihar and Orissa Sir Henry Wheeler in 1926.
However, while putting together its centenary publications, the university faced with the problem of poor record-keeping of historical documents and pictures, and has not been able to trace any pictures related to many such landmark events, officials said.
“We are still searching for the old layout plan of the Patna University building and the Senate Hall, and details about the architect(s) who designed them,” a senior faculty and a member of the core centenary committee said.
The university in its initial days was functioning out of a wing of the Patna High Court building, which was inaugurated in February 1916 by then Viceroy Lord Hardinge, said Jayshree Mishra, professor of the history department, Patna University. “It later also had its office, housed in a colonial-era bungalow, which is currently in the premises of Magadh Mahila College, a part of the university,” she said.
Mishra and two other authors have written a book on 100 years of Patna University which would be launched along with the souvenir during this period of centenary celebrations which culminates in January. The administration was able to access the copy of the Patna University Act from the records kept at the Bihar State Archives. Some of the documents related to the PU are in fragile condition and in need of restoration.
“We have also rummaged through our collections on the central library for old documents and photographs. Many alumni members, teachers, retired professors have also contributed whatever they could trace,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
“We have planned at ‘Centenary Building’ on the banks of Ganga near the PU campus. Maybe the archives cell can be housed there once the modalities are complete for its creation,” he said.