In my entire chapter of adulthood, I have hardly been to museums. I mean, I grew up with the concepts that museums are stuffy places with a pall of gloom all around and where groups of bored children from school trips come trooping in. However, I credit Kolkata for having changed this perception of mine. There have been some fantastic experiences in my visits to the museums spread across Kolkata. The Indian Museum at Kolkata takes pride in changing my perception of museums. Hence this post is aptly titled Indian Museum in Kolkata.
The Indian museum in Kolkata has a rich and varied history. I was delighted to know that it is the oldest museum in India and the ninth oldest in the world. That is something to think of. As I walked through the streets of Kolkata, with its myriad frames of blue buses, yellow taxis and roadside stalls with the ubiquitous policeman, I eventually reached the Indian Museum in Kolkata. It stood magnificent and stately, the white pillars standing tall and regal.
History of Indian Museum in Kolkata
The museum, as per records, is spread over 900 square metres and houses 35 galleries. Believe me, attention to details gets overwhelmed when one is confronted by what is waiting for a visitor inside those hallowed halls.
The Asiatic Society of Bengal laid the foundation stone of the Indian Museum in 1814. That’s over 200 years ago. Eventually, in 1878, the museum was officially shifted to its present location and opened to the public post-renovation. The Indian Museum in Kolkata is designed to awe visitors not only by contents within but also by the symmetry of construction and the grandeur of the entire concept.
From the early years on, significant contributions were made to the museum’s growth in terms of artefacts generously donated by various eminent personalities who made the subcontinent their home.
Impact of Indian Museum in Kolkata
The institution has been rendering yeoman services to the people of India as an epitome of art and culture. The museum, it is said, has been a link between the social-cultural harmony in the society. The Indian Museum in Kolkata is one of the largest such institutions in the country. They say it has its share of richly deserved legacy in the history of India. I felt a sense of anticipation and defining moment in my life to visit this great piece of living history.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on the ancient history, the art of India, among other places of travel that I keep doing. In addition to travel and exploring offbeat places, I am also interested in visiting and increasing my awareness of Historical institutions and places within India. Read through the posts on the Kerala folklore Museum in Kochi which showcases the cultural heritage of Kerala. Then we have the reclusive Panch Kedar Trek into the Himalayas to see a slice of timeless History and legends. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from a visitor’s inquisitive magnificence prism of view, to say the least. In case interested, read about the lonely vigil of St Augustine’s Tower in Old Goa.
The contents of Indian Museum in Kolkata
As I entered the museum, a momentary uncertainty cropped in as I was unsure where to begin. Thankfully, a layout board describes where all the galleries are located, and I followed the same. The entire three floors of the museum houses artefacts in over thousands.
It is said that there are six major sections – Art, Archeology, Anthropology, Geology Zoology and Botany. From exotic Egyptian artefacts to relics of Buddhism and the stones carvings from Sothern India, the Indian Museum in Kolkata has it all, and there is something in store for every visitor who comes this way.
The ground floor was all about sculptures from Southern India. The Bengal sculpture of metal was also on display. I came across multiple stone sculptures dated 8 -12th century from central and Eastern India, from Nalanda to Odisha.
The Zoological garden at the Indian Museum in Kolkata was set up in 1878, and I came across unique well-preserved specimens more than 100 years old of animal species that had walked this earth hundreds of years ago.
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Important Galleries that I visited
These showcased sculptures developed during the Pala and Sena dynasties of Bengal, with basalt being the primary material. I also saw sculptures from Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, and so many places. The last I had heard about these places was in the serial – Bharat Ek Kohj, and my childhood memories cropped up as I stood face to face with these intricate sculptures that reminded me of our country’s great history.
The Gallery contains relics of Buddhism is another treasure trove to be seen. The mind is overwhelmed by the richness of the artefacts. One does not have to be a history connoisseur to understand these ancient treasures’ priceless importance. From bas-reliefs intricately made to the pillars showing the Dharmachakra, the Buddhist Wheel of Law, I was speechless and congratulated my decision to visit this magnificent institution.
As I made my way to the first floor, I came across galleries related to the marine world, the Mathura school of sculptures, the zoological Gallery of mammals, decorative art textures and Egyptian relics. The visuals that you are seeing will give you an indication of what is showcased for the visitor.
I walk into a stunning large gallery called Bharhut Gallery. This massive Gallery showcased the architectural remains from a region known as Bharhut in Satna, Madhya Pradesh. The excavation undertaken has been able to preserve certain arches and gateways that have been resurrected in the museum. The carvings speak about the life of Lord Buddha and Jataka Tales.
The bronze gallery on the second floor showcases a reflection of metal images collected from across centuries and is a sight to see. Most of the collections are from the 8th to 14th century period. One point to note is the artistic way the Gallery has been designed with no trace of the stuffiness and lifelessness associated with galleries that display mental images.
Decorative Art Section
Next to the bronze gallery, as I walked further inside, I came to the decorative arts section, which showcased the aesthetic creations of the artisans. The section included Burmese Art and a full-size model of a Kathiswar house from the porch, and a Salin monastery front faced itself. I must say this kind of work of such magnitude is a fantastic accomplishment in itself.
I also wandered through a textile gallery that reflected collections of fabrics from all regions of India. From Kashmir to Benaras, there were all that one could ask for, what a sight indeed.
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Kolkata ,the city of Art culture & Literature amidst the influence of Modernity
Kolkata is I think is the one city that is in consideration if one wishes to see how a blend of heritage art, culture & literature coupled with tradition is synced with the journey into modern times and age. As a visitor with no background in any of the above, I loved my introduction to art, culture in this city.
Read here if it appeals to you my experiences on Kolkata titled Amar Kolkata. Then there was my visit to the unique international book fair of 2020 before the pandemic hit us all. I will always look at early 2020 as a great time for I came across so many events in Kolkata. One such beautiful example was by Art Rickshaw in Hindustan Park. The theme of Old Currency building presently is in line with acknowledging the cosmopolitan transformation of Kolkata through the links to the past two centuries of art. Before I forget how about seeing something simple yet unique, visit the Train Museum in Kolkata.
My view post visiting the Indian Museum in Kolkata
The Indian Museum in Kolkata truly is a remarkable achievement. I think it is still to gain prominence in today’s world among the various genres of populations. Though silent and not in the league of social media and their pull, I feel if one does not visit this glorious institution, then one is missing out on something really significant in the city of Joy, Kolkata.
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