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Whether you are visiting India or live here, these are the 5 Indian museums that should be on your must-see list.
By Anuradha Goyal
Museums are not very high on the tourist agenda in India, so let me tell you about 5 Indian museums that you should visit before you decide whether you like museums or not:
This is probably the biggest museum in the country with amazing collections housed in a beautifully designed building with a circular opening in the middle, located in Lutyen’s Delhi. To see this museum properly you need many days, but if you are short on time I recommend two galleries that are must see at the National Museum – Miniature Paintings and Chola Bronzes. Both are very well presented and reasonably well documented. You can pay your respects at the Buddha’s relics stored in this museum. If you remember the dancing girl of Harappa from your history lessons, you can see her here in the Harappa Gallery.
This is an old living library with a very interesting museum attached to it and it is located at the Maratha Palace campus in Tanjore. This library originally used to be the royal library of Maratha kings who ruled this region in the 16-17th century. The library is not open to tourists but the museum is. At the entrance a wall-size Tanjore painting greets you and inside you can see some of the first Tamil-English dictionaries, various manuscripts including a miniature Ramayana and 19th Parva of the Mahabharata. There are encyclopedias documenting flora and fauna and some amusing things like Chinese punishment techniques as well as ancient maps. All the displays put together give you a glimpse of what was important to the kings a few centuries back. This may be one of the oldest living museums in the country.
This young museum is one of the best-designed and displayed museums I have seen in the country. It gives you everything about North East India and its tribes under one roof. At the entrance, dioramas of tribal people in their traditional dresses greet you and then you go around the museum that is designed so well that it keeps you engaged and entertained. Sensor based lighting makes sure that minimum electricity is used while small kiosks ensure you have all the information at your fingertips. There is a small film show that tells you about the tribes of the seven states in the region. The top of the museum is designed as a skywalk and gives a vantage point to see 360-degree top view of the hill city below.
This is a campus with three different museums – Terracotta, Everyday Art and Textiles. I found the terracotta bit most appealing here though the others are also nice. The displays are spread over an open space with manicured lawns as background. Terracotta art and designs from various regions of the country have been displayed like a wall made of terracotta tiles from Rajasthan. A display of clays from various parts of the country along with a map traces the history and geography of the terracotta art; after all this art has existed since the Indus valley Civilization. The Museum of Everyday Art displays the articles of everyday use that had art as an integral part of them. You will identify many of them from your grandparents’ house and would wonder why did we lose these personalized pieces of art in the era of standardization.
This beautiful museum on the banks of River Musi gets a mention here not only for the huge collections that it displays in three blocks with two floors each but for the fact that this is a collection of one single person, Mir Yusuf Ali Khan, popularly known as Salar Jung III. Famous displays of this museum include a statue of Veiled Rebecca in white marble by an Italian Sculptor and a musical clock where every hour a timekeeper’s figure comes out to strike the dong and announce time; you can usually find a huge crowd gathered around the clock when the hour changes. Even this huge museum holds only 25% of the collection of Salar Jung III – imagine his passion for collecting rare artifacts and maintaining them.
What Indian museums are your favourite, and which would you suggest as a must-see?
*Featured image photo credit: Nataraja figurine at the National Museum, Delhi – verseguru (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
*Terracotta photo credit: Meanest Indian (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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