Museums are the best way to learn about the history, culture, and society of the land. Here are 10 of the most popular museums from across the country.
National Museum, Delhi
Established in 1949, the National Museum of India in New Delhi is home to an impressive collection of displays and exhibits. The displays chronicle the history of India right from the days of the Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilizations to modern times. On display are relics dating back to the Vedic civilization, the personal effects of Gautama Buddha, arms and weapons used by Indian kings over the centuries (including an elephant’s armour), art work, woodcarvings, textiles, musical instruments, and sculptures. A tour of the museum promises to be a fantastic experience. This is also one of the most visited museums in the country.
Indian Museum, Kolkata
The Indian Museum was established in 1814 by the Asiatic Society. At the time, Calcutta was the capital of British India and remained the seat of political and cultural development for a century. No wonder, the Indian Museum is the oldest museum in south-east Asia and the largest in the country. The is divided into six sections with a total of thirty five galleries. The artifacts and displays are classified into Archaeology, Art, Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and Zoology. The archaeology section is one of the most fascinating sections of the museum with splendid displays including an Egyptian mummy. The coins gallery, musical instrument gallery, Mughal painting gallery, mask gallery, and the Palaeo-anthropology gallery remain favorites with the visitors.
Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad
The Salar Jung Museum of Hyderabad is probably one of the best-known in the country. The museum was established in 1951 at the palace of Nawab Mir Yousuf Khan, popularly known as Salar Jung III. The museum houses a collection of over 1.1 million artefacts and art pieces – all personally collected by Salar Jung III himself. One of the best collections here is the Clock Room – a gallery of clocks and timekeeping devices from across the world from historical times. The Quran Collection here is also impressive. Do not miss out on the antiques from the Mughal period. Aurangzeb’s daggers, Tipu Sultan’s wardrobe, Mughal sculptures and art work, and the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma are part of the astounding collection of Salar Jung.
The Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai
Despite being renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya, this museum is still called the Prince of Wales Museum. The museum was set up in 1922 to commemorate the Prince’s visit to India. Among the exhibits here are some ancient relics from the Indus Valley Civilization, some magnificent sculptures from the middle ages, artwork and miniature paintings, pottery and porcelain ware, and a fine display of ancient Indian weapons of war. The domed structure in which the museum is located is a beautiful blend of Hindu, Islamic, and British architecture and was designed by George Witte.
Government Museum, Chennai
The Government Museum of Chennai, often called the Egmore Museum due to its location in Egmore, is housed in the Pantheon Complex — a beautiful colonial building. This museum showcases one of the most impressive exhibits from south Indian history – the bronze sculpture collection. This gallery has on display bronze sculptures dating back to the 7th century Pallava times, but some of the best pieces come from the Chola empire from between the 9th and 11th centuries. It also contains some excellent Buddhist relics and coins from ancient south India.
National Rail Museum, Delhi
The National Railway Museum located in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi is a great favorite with children and rail enthusiasts. Spread over an area of about 11 acres, the museum showcases the evolution railways in India. Apart from a collection of steam engines and locomotive carriages, it also features special carriages such as the former Viceregal Dining Car, and the Maharaja of Mysore’s rolling salon. The Fairy Queen locomotive is also part of the display here. The indoor display includes a great collection of old photographs of trains from bygone times.
Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad
Fabrics and textiles have formed an important part of Indian trade and heritage. Showcasing the splendour of Indian looms and textiles is the Calico Museum of Textile in Ahmedabad. Not only does the museum display ancient textiles and clothes made in India during the Mughal era, it also chronicles the progress of the textile industry in different parts of the country. Don’t miss out on the display of fine Kashmiri pashminas and rugs and the Ikat handlooms. Children under the age of 10 are not permitted here, though.
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, Delhi
India is a land of dolls. They are used as idols, props for stories, toys, and for a number of cultural purposes. Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi houses one of the largest collection of dolls in the country. The galleries of this museum include an impressive display of dolls from various parts of India and also from some 85 other countries. From Japanese Geisha dolls to Spanish Flamenco dancer dolls, from American farmer dolls to Thai Women’s Orchestra, the museum takes us on a tour of the world. The in house workshop also produces a number of Indian dolls in regional attire.
Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram
Named after Sir John Napier, the former Governor General of Madras, the Napier Museum is located in a beautiful Indo-Saracenic structure right in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. The museum is home to a stunning variety of displays from across south India. Special emphasis, however, is on the wood, bronze, and ivory carvings and artefacts from Kerala. The museum has a special collection of Hindu god idols from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Do not miss the Ramayana and Mahabharata exhibits which have been fashioned out of Japanese leather dolls.
HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum, Bengaluru
One of the most interesting museums across the country is the HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum. The museum was established in 2001 by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to showcase the aviation history and developments across the years. The museum has a wonderful display of models of aero engines. There are some real engines on display too. These belong to Dornier, Jaguar, and Kiran aircrafts. The museum also has flight simulators and a mock Air Traffic Control Tower for aviation enthusiasts to try their hands at flying and aircraft control.