Located in New Delhi, the National Museum is considered as the ‘Pride of India’. Established in 1949, it is one of the largest museums in India, functioning under the careful governance of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. It houses a collection of over two hundred thousand Indian and foreign works of art that date 5,000 years of cultural heritage.
The National Museum began with an exhibition of Indian artifacts and art at the Royal Academy in London back in the winter of 1947 until 1948. Exhibition curators decided to bring the exhibition to India right after the end of the exhibition in London. In 1949, the Indian exhibition that was shown at the Rashtrapati Bhawan was a success and prompted the organizers to create the National Museum. While the new museum was being built, it was decided that the collection will continue to be housed in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The building was commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India at the time. Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari of India formally inaugurated the National Museum in August 15, 1949 and the building was formally opened to the public on December 18, 1960.
The National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology that was established in 1983 can also be found within the premises. They offer masters and doctorate degrees in History of Art, Art Conservation and Art Restoration.
Exhibited items in the museum are very diverse and rich in history. Sacred relics of Buddha discovered in Piprehwa at the Basti district are shown in the National Museum. Other collections include jewelry, archeological findings, decorative arts, paintings, arms, manuscripts, Central Asian antiquities and many more. There are fourteen collections in the National Museum to date. One of the most notable is the Harappan Civilization gallery with 1,025 artifacts of pottery, seals, weights and measures, tablets, terracotta figurines, toys, copper tools, jewelry and more.
The archeological collection in the National Museum showcases approximately 800 sculptures with most of them dated from the 3rd century B.C. all the way to the 19th century A.D. Most sculptures are made of stone, bronze, and terracotta that represent all the key regions, periods and schools of art. Among the most famous exhibited items are the head of Buddha statue, the Buddha in the Art of Gandhara, the Buddhist Stupa that contains the relics of Buddha which was built by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, the dancing Balakrishna, the wooden Garuda statue and the bronze 12th century CE Shiva dancing Nataraja Chola.
There are also many Buddhist art pieces seen in the museum especially in the spiritual journey gallery. Indian miniature paintings that belong to the Deccani, Mughal, Rajasthani, Pahari, Central Indian and other sub-styles are featured as well. There are also painted manuscripts, covers on wood, hardboard and Thankus on canvas. The evolution of Indian scripts and coins are also well-documented in the National Museum.
The National Museum has separate branches of publication, public relations, education, Hindi, exhibition cells, displays, modeling, security and administration, photography and library providing something interesting in everyone’s favor. Indeed, a stop at India’s National Museum will provide visitors with a glimpse of the extensive and rich culture and history India has to offer.