Left: The front of the library with a statue of Malayalan poet and historian, Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (1877–1949), showing the original name of the library. © Rajith Mohan. Right: Approaching the entrance portico.

State Central Library, originally called the Victoria Diamond Jubilee Library, at Palayam, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). Completed in 1900, the library is in the striking red brick and white stone Trivandrum-Gothic style that was used in other public buildings of this period, like the Napier Museum and Victoria Town Hall.

The collection itself was established back in 1829 by the then Maharajah of Travancore (present-day Kerala), making it one of the oldest libraries in India, perhaps even "the oldest of its kind" (Nair 35). The British resident of that time, who was given the task of building up and organising the collection, was none other than Colonel Edward Cadogan, grandson of Sir Hans Sloane, who founded the British Museum. As explained on the library's own website, Colonel Cadogan was the first president of the library committee.

Left: Seen from the other side of the building. Right: Closer view of the window with its corbels.

At first, this select resource was for a "privileged class" only (see "History"), but eventually, in 1898, the library was put under the government's control, housed in these splendid new purpose-built premises, and opened to the general public. Along with an orphanage, the new building was seen at the time as one of the "memorials" of a recent milestone: hence the words "Victoria Diamond Jubilee Library" inscribed above the entrance portico (Travencore State Manual, 629). At this point, the British Resident was still the head of the library committee (see Nair 36).

There would be several more important developments: in 1938 the University of Travancore took over the administration of the library; post-independence, in 1948, the library was taken over by the State Government. In 1958 it became, officially, the State Central Library, and in 1988 it became part of the Higher Education system. The language of the department is Malayalan, and the statue of the prominent Malayalan poet and scholar, Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (1877–1949), stands in the grounds in front of the library. There could hardly be a more appopriate place to remember him, especially since, along with his other accomplishments, "Ullor" had risen to become the Chief Secretary of the State (see Venu).

Left: The entrance hall and stairway. Right: View from the side when leaving.

Inside is a spacious entrance hall, from which a broad wooden staircase with a finely carved balustrade leads up to the large first-floor reference library. It is common to have to wear white gloves when handling old documents, but here the would-be reader is also required to remove shoes before entering.

First photograph, top right, © Rajith Mohan, with thanks, originally posted on Wikimedia. This may be reused on the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence. Other photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images too without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


"History." State Central Library, Kerala (the library's own website). Web. 30 April 2019.

Nair, R. Raman. The People's Library Movement. New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 2000.

Travancore State Manual. Trivandrum: Travancore Government, 1906. Internet Archive. Contributed by Harvard University. Web. 29 April 2019.

Venu, Mukesh. Statues of Trivandrum: Mahakavi Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer." yentha.com. Web. 30 April 2019.

Created 29 April 2019