City Hangout – National Museum, Janpath
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The past gets tangible here. With over 200,000 exhibits, spanning over 5,000 years, the National Museum, India’s largest, is a storehouse of heritage.
The museum has three floors. Its corridors are lined with 800 sculptures, from the 3rd century BC to the 18th century AD. The exhibition halls have statues, paintings and coins, toys and pottery.
There is also a woman’s skeleton, with pottery shards arranged around her head, indicating that people of the Harappan civilization believed in life after death.
With each gallery dedicated to a theme or period (Harappan civilization, Maurya dynasty, Sunga and Satvahana art, Gandhara sculptures), it is unsettling to walk through so many centuries in so little time. And almost each object, no matter if it is just a tiny terracotta animal, can be observed and admired for hours.
The Gandhara sculpture is remarkable for its Greek influence; some of its Buddhas are dressed in togas.
The gallery on Buddhism has Thangkas, or painted scrolls from Tibet, wooden sculptures from Java and Cambodia, and Buddha’s life scenes from Sarnath. It is most renowned for its Buddha relics (5th to 4th century BC) unearthed from Piprahwa in the Bastar district of Uttar Pradesh.
The section on Indian miniature paintings, with more than 300 exhibits, could make for a separate museum. Belonging chiefly to Mughal, Rajasthani and Pahari styles, most paintings, dating from 1000 to 1900, are inspired from scenes out of Hindu epics, court life and classical dance and music. A few show the remarkably liberal lifestyle of the era: embracing lovers, bathing women and harem princesses enjoying wine and music.
Other floors display textiles, musical instruments, coins and weapons.
An exhibit that must not be missed is outside the building. The octagonal chariot (18th to 19th century) from Tamil Nadu, at the entrance, is made of saal and sagvan wood. Dedicated to Vishnu, it has six wheels, 425 carved panenls and weighs more than 2,000 kg. It will take your breath way.
Where Janpath Time 10 am to 5 pm (Monday closed) Nearest Metro Station Udyog Bhawan
Looking at the lost time