Art historians and connoisseurs would not want to miss a chance to visit the extraordinary Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum in the old city of Varanasi. It is housed within the Banaras Hindu University and is known to be the most admired university museum across India. Although considered to be one of the oldest museums in Varanasi, it is ranked as one of the eight best and the most preserved among approximately 600 museums found in India.
Fully dedicated to aiding in multidisciplinary researches and higher learning, the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum is prominent in the world of art and history. No other university can boast of having a museum of this kind nestled within the premises of the vast campus. The museum houses a diverse collection of antiquities that started out as a private art collection of the late Rai Krishnadasa in January 1920. Krishnadasa’s collection was barely a hundred at the time as it slowly evolved through the years to encompass almost 100,000 remarkable and historically important items. The museum displays a variety of art and architectural pieces that showcase India’s rich heritage from paintings and sculptures to precious textiles and other items that stood the ravages of time.
Upon entering the building, one will see a statue of Lord Krishna standing on one leg with one arm trying to lift a heavy stone. Antiquities experts explained that the statue represents Lord Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana in one hand. Once inside, there are four main galleries visitors would enjoy viewing. There’s the Chhavi or Painting Gallery, the Nicholas Roerich Gallery, the Decorative Art Gallery and the Mahama Malaviya Gallery, which was named after the famous freedom fighter who established the Banaras Hindu University.
There are also smaller galleries found like the Nidhi or Treasure Gallery, Sculpture Gallery, Archeological Gallery, and the Banaras through the Ages Gallery. However, its fame is due mainly to the priceless collection of miniature Indian paintings from the Mughal period that was even made famous when one prominent Indian art historian made mention of it. Simply inspiring, art students and fashion designers have made trips to the Bharat Kala Bhavan to view the amazing collection of one-of-a-kind textiles. Some of which include Banaras silks and brocades, period costumes, the elegantly embroidered shawls from Kashmir and the collection of extremely rare rumal or pieces of clothing resembling bandanas or handkerchiefs that were worn by Sikh men in lieu of a turban to cover their shorn or cut hair. Academics and scholars must see the exceptional literary and archival materials, stone and bronze statues, cast metal objects, Indian postage stamps, as well as various ritual icons on display in this museum.
Because of its amazing contribution in preserving India’s heritage, notable and very important people have visited this museum. Counting among them is Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation, who described the place as a museum that will appeal to all lovers of art. Gandhi also encouraged Indians in his journal to donate cash or other art objects to take part in preserving India’s cultural heritage.
The Bharat Kala Bhavan also serves as the Regional Museum in Varanasi that caters to a large number of visitors, tourists and other guests yearly – most of them are university students, BHU alumni, and art lovers all over the world. This inspiring museum is open daily from 11:00 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon.