For a culturally rich country like India, which also boasts of one of the most diverse heritages in the world, it is only imperative that steps have been and should be taken to preserve the past to set an example for the future. Fortunately, for the current and future generations, there are more than just a handful of museums that curate the best specimens from history to represent our rich heritage.
Here is the list of 24 Museums in India For Every History Buff!
The National Museum in Delhi is one of the most iconic museums in India and one of its kind, housing over 200,000 artefacts ranging from the pre-historic to the modern age. In fact, not just spanning over these eras, the collection at the museum is spread over a huge number of civilizations and religions. In a very rare feature among all the Indian museums, the National Museum houses the National Museum Institute of History of Arts, Conservation and Museology, which offers deemed Masters and Doctoral courses in History of Art, Conservation and Museology.
Easily the most thronged site of rail enthusiasts visiting the city, the National Rail Museum in the capital of the country is one the most invigorating experiences. If the thumping of a steam engine reverberates in your head and you still can't get enough of it. With a toy train taking rounds of the 10 acre wide spread museum, with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, this museum in India has something to offer to visitors of all ages. Among the most popular exhibits are the Fairy Queen, the oldest working steam locomotive and the saloons of various Maharajas of states of India. If the thudding of the tracks is what excites you, don't miss this one.
Constructed in 1915, Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai has one of the most illustrious descents. It was constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V, the Prince of Wales back then. With ample government and royal donation, the museum was styled as an amalgamation of a multitude of Indian architectural styles. The architecture drew strongly from the Golconda Fort and the Bijapur Gol Gumbaz, 18th century Maratha mansion styles, interior columns styled from Jain sensibilities, and an overall influence from Indo-Gothic and Indo-Western styles of architecture. This museum in India itself houses pieces from three distinct categories of art, architecture and natural history. With artefacts from the lesser known periods such as the Rashtrakuta period, the Museum is now expanding to take in pieces of religious relevance as well.
Truly a crown jewel in the list of the most illustrious museums in India, the Indian Museum is the oldest and the largest museum in India. Established in 1814 under the aegis of the celebrated Danish botanist Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, the museum boasts of over 35 galleries in with pieces broadly classified under archaeology, anthropology, art, economic botany, zoology and geology. Some of the rarest exhibits include a human mummy, preserved prehistoric animal skeletons, the Buddha's ashes, and the resplendent Ashoka pillar, complete with the four lion emblem which now India's official emblem. For all history buffs, the Indian Museum is one thing they should not miss in a lifetime.
The City Palace, one of the most resplendent structures in all of Jaipur and the official residence of the royal family, is not only an architectural marvel but housed within it is a museum. The Palace itself is divided into many complexes, and within the most imposing palaces of it, the Chandra Mahal is where the museum is located, open to the local public. The grandeur of the palace and the museum is beyond words, with the intricate carving and every inch of the walls painted to reflect the taste of the royalty over generations. The silehkhana, or the armory, is of special interest to the tourists, which has on display, the largest and rarest collection of weapons and handguns in the country.
Birla Industrial and Technological Museum was set up on 2nd May 1959 and opened to the general public. Dr. B.C. Roy, who was the chief minister of Bengal at that time, followed the idea of opening the museum. It was first known as Birla Park and within a span of 3 years was converted into a museum. It is situated on the Gurusaday Road in Kolkata and has become a famous tourist attraction visited to view the galleries and 3D shows organized in the premises.
HAL Aerospace museum is India's first Aerospace museum established by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautical Limited) in 2001. It is located at the Old airport road as a part of HAL premise. The place is a must visit for all the people wishing to witness the glory and growth of the Indian Aviation Industry through the passage of time.
Albert Hall Museum is a museum in Jaipur city in Rajasthan. It is the oldest museum of the state and functions as the State museum of Rajasthan. The building is situated in Ram Niwas Garden outside the city wall opposite New gate and is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The building was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, assisted by Mir Tujumool Hoosein, and was opened as public museum in 1887. It is also called the Government Central Museum. Maharaja Ram Singh initially wanted this building to be a town hall, but his successor, Madho Singh II, decided it should be a museum for the art of Jaipur and included as part of the new Ram Nivas Garden.
One of the youngest textile museums in the Indian history, yet the Calico Museum of Textiles is still the foremost authority in the textile world as of today. The city of Ahmedabad was one of the prime trade centres of textile in the subcontinent and the museum became crucial for the technical and historical study of industrial textiles and Indian handicrafts. With the museum running two publications on the two branches of study it offers, it is one of the most contemporary and sought after institutes in its field.
In the best possible words, the Napier Museum is a delight for adults and children alike. The museum houses one of the oldest zoological gardens in India in its premises. The museum itself, based on the Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture is one of the most visited art and natural history museums in India. With works of famous artists, such as Raja Ravi Varma, and the celebrated Russian theosophist, Nicholas Roerich, and specimens of Tanjore and Mughal art forms, history was never more fun for those willing to delve into it.
With what seems like a lifetime for a museum, the NHHM, created with the blood and sweat of a revered freedom fighter Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, is one of the most diversely curated, extremely rich with culture and heritage from communities all around India, displaying over 35,000 distinct pieces of handiwork of varying techniques and designs, is truly an institutional marvel. Textiles, tribal crafts, courtly crafts are just some of the many galleries housed within the museum. If you thought that was it to the museum, a longer ride around will prove beneficial, for the museum also houses a village complex within itself, spread over 5 acres and 15 structures constructed within itself, to depict the daily rural life in India. Kashmiri dushalas, Chamba handkerchiefs, Baluchari brocade sarees and Kutch embroidered works are just a few of the pieces that are a part of the treasure trove at NHHM. For all those who cherish culture and Indian diversity, the NHHM is your destination.
Dakshinachitra Museum, located in Chennai, is one of the living-history museums in India. It stores in itself great works of architecture, crafts, performing arts, and lifestyles that belong to South India. The museum has its vision and mission to promote the cultures of South Indian states by making them more engaging and enjoyable for its viewers. It is a project of Madras Craft Foundation which is an NGO that was opened to the public on 14th December 1996. The heritage museum is home to 4,220 artefacts and 1,000,000 pictures. Visiting here will give you an in-depth knowledge of south Indian heritage. You are going to leave with the most magnificent treasures of learning.
The Government Museum in Chennai is the second oldest museum in India and spread over a lavish 16.25 acres of land also houses the colossal Museum Theatre, which stages Shakespearean plays regularly. The exhibits in the museum are extremely priceless and rare, as is the heritage of the museum itself. Palm leaf manuscripts, Raja Ravi Varma's famous paintings, and the largest antique Roman collection outside Europe. The Connemara Public Library, one of the most iconic libraries in the city, is also a part of the museum. With a footfall of about a 1000 visitors daily, and more on the weekends. An iconic structure built in Indo-Gothic style, the Government Museum, also known as the Egmore Museum is a one of its kind museum and a gem in the Indian heritage.
The Victoria Memorial, built on the banks of the Hooghly river and in the memory of the British Queen Victoria, is the epitome of some of the strongest blends of Indian styles such as the the Mughal, Islamic and Deccan and foreign architectural styles, such as the Venetian and Egyptian. Again, as one of the most illustrious museums in India, the overall style of the museum is based on the Indo-Saracenic or the Indo-Gothic style. Made entirely of the white Makrana marble, the museum is as exquisite as its exhibits, which include the rare copies of illustrated texts by Shakespeare, works by Omar Khayyam and books on thumri music and kathak dance as well. The royal gallery is houses one of the biggest collections of the British royalty, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The museum, with its sprawling lawns and enviable architecture is clearly a sight to behold.
Situated in the Children's Book Trust Building at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Shankar's International Dolls Museum is one of the most unique and beautiful museums in India, housing a collection of dolls from all world, curated by K. Shankar Pillai, one of the most celebrated political cartoonists in India, who also set up the pioneering children's publications, better known as CBT, or the Children's Book Trust. With political figures from all around the world gifting and donating dolls to the museum, the collection now stands at a whopping 6,500 dolls, divided into two sections, with dolls from the the Asian subcontinent in one and from the rest of the world in the other section. For a lazy weekend in the city, the museum is a fun place to explore.
The Coswaji Jehangir Hall, also known as the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai is one of the most important and elitist galleries of modern art in the country. Facing a strong cultural decline in the 20th century, the museum underwent 12 years of heavy renovation, physically and ideologically, to reach the heights of exclusivity it has reached now. With world class amenities for patrons, exhibitors and visitors alike, within the museum, are the curated works of some of the best artists, classic contemporary painters like Amrita Sher-Gill and Abanindranath Tagore to the genius MF Hussain as well. One thing not to miss is the beauty of the structure of the museum, as much as the art it houses.
With artifacts and manuscripts that date back to the 12th century, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is one the pioneering institutions in the study and research of Buddhism. With as many as 80,000 manuscripts, 600 Buddhist artifacts including beautifully crafted silk applique thangkas and a three dimensional, wood carved mandala of the Avalokiteshwara, one of the most revered and compassionate Bodhisattva in Buddhism. With an air of peace and serenity descending upon people who visit the museum, it is indeed a calming experience to visitors of this offbeat museum in India.
In the capital of the state that bustles with culture and heritage, the Patna Museum is a lesser known and often underrated museum of today. Filled with masterpieces made by Buddhist and Hindu artists, a true reflection of the strength and potency of heritage of these cultures, it also houses quite rare British paintings, and even an original World War I cannon. For all that matters, Patna Museum deserves a visit for the old world charm it has to offer and the sheer variety of exhibits here.
Government museum and art gallery in Chandigarh is one of the prominent museums of India that speaks well of the history and partition of India. Established in August 1947, the museum is known for its rich collection of paintings, artifacts, sculptures and also for its unique architecture designed by Le Corbusier. The museum is located in the center of the town and offers the view of the Shivalik ranges in the backdrop.
One of the three national museums in India, Salar Jung Museum houses the most meticulously curated collections of all times, by Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad and the former prime minister of India. Over 35 years, Salar collected items to exhibit and as a personal passion, and the collection grew to a whopping one million pieces in present day. While only a certain part of the total collection is on exhibition, some of the most priceless exhibits include Aurangzeb's sword, Tipu Sultan's wardrobe, Emperor Jehangir, Noorjahan and Shah Jahan's jade daggers and paintings of the iconic Indian painter, Raja Ravi Verma.The museum also houses Quran collections from around the world, including those written with gold and silver. Not to be missed when visiting Hyderabad.
Located just inside the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, this museum includes more than 600 samples of the actual human brain! Can you imagine? The real motive behind starting up a museum of this sort, was to show people how the human brain actually functions. Though it might be just a little weird to see brain after brain lined up for your inspection, won’t it be wonderful to get to know how the brain works?
In Mayong village of Assam lies the Mayong Central Museum and Emporium. Often been dubbed as the Indian capital of black magic, this little village has been known for its legends of witchcraft and black magic and this museum shows it all! This museum includes several books, masks and mythological tales about black magic. It also has detailed writings on black magic and Ayurveda and if you want to experience a chill up your spine, you must definitely visit the Mayong Central Museum.
No, this is not just any car museum! Imagine a pretty bag posing as a car…a bag that actually is a car! Wacky? We sure think so! This museum was started off by Sudhakar Yadav. Turning everyday objects like shoes and bags into cars had been his hobby ever since he was a child. For Women’s Day, Sudhakar Yadav designed automobiles shaped like a stiletto and a purse, both with a 6 cc engine. Located in Hyderabad, this museum displays tonnes of cars, ranging from quirky, vintage-looking ones to some shaped like burgers and computers!
If you love kites in every shape, form and colour, you MUST visit this museum in Gujarat. Since Ahmedabad city is popular for the kite flying festival, it comes as no surprise that it also proudly boasts of its own kite museum! This museum was the brilliant idea of Mr Bhanu Shah, who donated his own collection of kites to the Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad. His kite collection is a supremely rare one, too! Once you enter, prepare to be mesmerised by beautiful kites. Some of them depict garba sequences, some are decorated with glittering mirrors and some look dashing with their signature block print. Entry to this museum is free and it’ll be a real treat to each and every kite lover.
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Visiting any of these museums in India gives a feeling of revisiting the country's past and enabling a scientific understanding of culture. Let us know what you think in the comments below!