Continuing legacy of MLBD
A bookstore with more than a century of inheritance is Motilal Banarsidass a.k.a. MLBD. The timeless legacy of this bookstore located at Bunglow Road near Delhi University in Delhi is still alive and kicking in its age-old tradition of shelving books on Indology and beyond. RP Jain, director, MLBD unfolds a brief chronological saga of this landmark bookstore on the eve of its 110th anniversary. It all began from a scratch at Said Mitha Bazaar in Lahore where MLBD founder Motilal Jain with the help of his wife first opened a small bookshop which they converted from their home library of Sanskrit books. They named the store after Motilal and his eldest son Banarsidass. The Jain family left the region during the partition and settled down in Patna where they re-opened the store selling only school textbooks. Then the current format of MLBD stocking books on Indology was reincarnated in Varanasi, which is one of the main centres of Indological studies in the country.
RP JainAfter the demise of Motilal Jain, his son Sunderlal took over the business to push it to a level of international recognition. Then Sunderlal passed away in 1978 and late Banarsidass’ son Shantilal Jain took up the responsibility of the bookstore with a commitment towards the promotion of Indian culture in global arenas. For his perseverance in promotion of the country’s culture and heritage, he was conferred on Padma Shri Award in 1992. Perhaps, he is the first publisher being honoured with the prestigious award in the country.
Generation after generation, MLBD continues to carry its legacy forward and expand its footprints all over the world. The current store in Delhi was unveiled in the year 1958. And now, it’s the turn for sons of Shantilal who manage the overall activities of MLBD. “When I was at St Stephen’s College, half of my time was spent browsing books in the bookshop,” he recollects. Soon after the college, enthusiastic RP Jain hooked immediately to the bookstore business.
As MLBD kept on expanding, the bookstore began to carve up into new divisions – MLBD Publishers, MLBD Books International and New Age Books. Printed in its own printing press, MLBD has so far produced thousands of titles available through its branches at Jaipur and others at pan-India level. The bookstore also has its franchises in overseas countries including the UK.
Titles produced by MLBD are predominantly of English followed by Hindi, Sanskrit and Tibetan. “Our specialised publications include Buddhism as well as Vedas, Upanishad and other Sanskrit literatures,” mentioned RP Jain adding that India is one of the largest producers of rarest books in the world. Since the topics/subjects of MLBD books revolve around religion and spirituality, the Jain family has been associated with Jain Temple Project started by his father and seers keep visiting the bookstore to give advice on texts.
Even after its 110th anniversary, MLBD’s basic philosophy remains the same – promotion of Indian culture and heritage. This philosophy is reflected even in the Jains’ continuing joint family system!