The Bharati Bhavan Library was established in November 1889 in the locality where Malaviya resided. It was a by-product of the session of the Indian National Congress in the sense that many young men who had worked as volunteers during the session became inspired with patriotic zeal. There was already a strong feeling that the culture of the land was in grave danger from the insidious impact of the west. Education was being imparted through the medium of English, the subjects taught were mostly western and the Indian languages had no places in the courses of study at the higher stages. Government’s policy of encouraging the minority community to check the tide of rising nationalism, threatened to submerge the culture of the majority. The battle cry of Bhartendu Harish Chandra that advancement of the mother tongue was a necessary condition of all progress had caught the imagination of the younger generation.
Balkrishna Bhatt who represented the school of Bhartendu in Allahabad resided not far from Malaviya. He was an enthusiast for Hindi and gathered round him a band of young men of whom Malaviya was one and inspired them with the missionary zeal for promoting the mother tongue. They felt bitterly the backwardness of Hindi and longed for the day when it would find a respectable place on the shelves of the libraries. The only public library in Allahabad at the time Thornhill-Mayne Memorial Library established in 1864 by the efforts of the two British officers (whose name it bears) and for which the present beautiful and the imposing building was created in 1878. Situated far away from the centre of population in the city, and stocked almost exclusively with books in European languages, it was of little use as an instrument of public enlightenment. It was felt that the masses could not be awakened except through the medium of the local languages and, therefore, a library of Hindi books and of Sanskrit books in which the culture of the land is enshrined, should be established. Credit for the ideas goes to Balkrishna Bhatt and to Lala Lal Behari, a raise of Satna who graduated at Allahabad and resided. He was related to Brij Mohan Lal Bhalla, a wealthy banker living in the vicinity of Malaviya’s house, who had no children and was philanthropically minded.
Brij Mohan Lal Bhalla was himself a great lover of Hindi and had made a large collection of Hindi books. These he gave away to form a library for which he also provided accommodation in his own premises. He met all the expenses of the library in the initial years. He creates a Trust with a sum of Rs. 47,200 out of which Rs. 10,000 was earmarked for the construction of a building for it. He did not live to see the building created; having contracted a fatal disease on a pilgrimage to Badri Nath in 1901, he died on May 15, 1902. He had satisfaction, however, of hearing just before he breathed his last that the foundation stone of the building had been laid. Lala Ram Charan Das another wealthy philanthropist had undertaken at his instance to put up a building for the library which he did at a cost of exceeding Rs. 22,000/- himself meeting the amount spent in excess of the sum of Rs. 10,000/- provided in the Trust. The building was formally opened on the 12th May 1913 at a function presided over by Dr. Sir Sundar Lal. Speaking on the occasion Malaviya dwelt on the importance of propagating knowledge (Vidyadan), citing the Hindu Shastras in support of his views.
Malaviya identified himself closely with the library. He had not taken a conspicuous part in establishing the library as he was away in Kalakankar editing the Hindustan till about a month before its foundation, but he was an enthusiastic supporter of the movement which it represented. His cousin Jai Govind Malaviya who was the principal teacher of Sanskrit at the Government High School Allahabad, had given it his priceless collection of Sanskrit manuscripts which together with the Hindi collection donated by Brij Mohan Lal Bhalla constituted the initial stock of the library. He was a member of the first Managing Committee which drew up its constitution and defined its aims and objects at its meeting on 26th November 1889. These were conceived in a liberal spirit and reflect the vision of the promoters. The books in the library were to be available to anyone who asked for them. The Library was to acquire books in Hindi and Sanskrit. It would accept books in other languages as gifts but not purchase them at a price. It would subscribe for at least ten journals-dailies, weeklies and monthlies. It was also to encourage writers of good books. A further object, later added at the time of registration of the Trust (but never implemented) was to collect manuscripts of Sanskrit and Hindi books and to edit and publish them within the limits of available funds. The Library received the constant care of its promoters, Lal Behari, Balkrishna Bhatt and Jai Govind Malaviya who met daily on the upper story of the house of Brij Mohan Lal Bhalla. Malaviya joined them frequently.
When a Trust was created for the Library, Malaviya was named a Trustee and continued to be member as well as president of the Trust till the end of his life. How dear the institution was to him may be judged from the fact that he adopted its name as his address, dating his letters, as from “Bharati Bhavan, Allahabad” and thereby changing the name of the locality from Kucha Sanval Das to ‘Bharati Bhavan. Whenever he had occasion to speak about the library he referred to it in terms of high appreciation.
At the fifth annual function of the Bharati Bhavan Library (December 1894) which was presided order by T.C.Lewis, the Provincial Director of Public Instruction, Malaviya made a speech in which he dilated on the importance of libraries of Sanskrit and Hindi books.