Indian Museum at Kolkata
is a versatile and multi disciplinary institution of national importance. The Museum was established at the Asiatic Society, the initial learned body in the country on 2nd February 1814. Transferred to the present building in 1878 with two galleries, the Museum has now over sixty galleries of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Botany sections, spreading over ten thousand square feet area. Many rare specimens both Indian and Trans - Indian origin relating to Humanities and Natural Science are conserved and displayed in the galleries of these sections. The administrative control of
the cultural sections, Art, Archaeology and Anthropology rests with the Board of Trustees under its Directorate, and that of the three scientific sections is with Geological Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey of India. Indian Museum is an autonomous institution fully funded by the Department of Culture, Government of India.
This section displays several items like the costumes, ornaments, and equipment of the various tribes and also gives a close sight of the cultural life of both tribal and non-tribal people of India. There is also a gallery of rare musical instruments.
It comprises the collection of stone-age artifacts from India and abroad, pre-historic antiquities from Mohenjodaro, Harappa etc. Some of the galleries in this section are Bharhut, Egyptian, Coins, Orissan Art and Gandhara etc. Bharhut gallery displays the
railings and entrance of the Buddhist Stupa with carvings and sculptures depicting scenes from Buddha`s life excavated from Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh
in 1874 by Sir Alexander Cunningham. There is also a vase containing Buddha`s ashes. Due to this, the museum has become a place of pilgrimage. Gandhara gallery holds the best collection of Buddhist Sculptures
from Gandhara region and other stone sculptures. The Egyptian gallery has a 4000-year-old `mummy`, sculptures, paintings etc. The coin gallery has a collection of coins from the 5th century B.C, which displays gold coins issued by Kanishka, Samudragupta, Kumaragupta, Akbar
The Art Section has galleries of textiles, paintings, decorative art objects from China and Japan, specimens from Burma, Nepal and Tibet etc. The exhibits in the art section comprises Nepalese and Tibetan temple banners, metal images, enamelled wares, bidriwares, ornaments, silver wares, glass wares, pottery, ivory and bone work, wooden sculptures etc. The painting gallery has a rich display of Mughal Miniature Paintings
, Kangra-Kalam Paintings, Kalighat Patas from Bengal and a section of works of famous painters from Bengal. Along with the collection of Nepalese and Tibetan Thankas dated from 15 to 19 century, the textile gallery has a display of Muslin and Jamdani from Dhaka, Persian Carpets, Phulkari
work of Punjab, Kantha work from Bengal, rumal (handkerchiefs) from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh etc.
The South East Asian gallery in the Art section has three separate galleries for artifacts from China-Japan, Burma and Nepal-Tibet. In China-Japan Art gallery there are coloured porcelains, wine cups, ivory and rhinoceros horn carved articles, paintings etc. Burmese gallery displays brass and bronze figures, woodcarvings, silverwares and lacquer ware objects depicting `Jatakas`, scenes from the epic `Ramayana` etc. Nepal-Tibet gallery houses bronze figures and woodcarvings from 9th to 19th century, apron made of human bones, butter-lamp, ornaments etc. The wide Geological Section has over 80,000 specimens, displayed in four galleries showing varieties of meteorites, precious stones, ornamental building stones, rocks and minerals and fossils. The sections dealing with fossil and taxidermy are notable. There are a number of unique fossil skeletons of prehistoric animals and an enormous dinosaur skeleton. Among them the most interesting are a giant crocodile and an amazingly big tortoise.
Industrial Section has several thousand botanical specimens bearing upon medicine, forestry, agriculture and cottage industry. In a nutshell, the museum in Calcutta reveals the life and culture of Indians from the ancient times till date.
A major attraction for children and elders alike is the Nehru Children`s Museum established in 1972. Exhibits include puppets depicting the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There are dolls wearing national costumes from different countries. Miniature working models of railway crossings and other novelties and an elementary science gallery.
The Indian Museum displays a vast collection of some fifty thousand books and journals along with many rare publications. Books and Journals are available on Museology, Archaeology, Anthropology and Art etc. The National Library
is India`s largest library. Housed in the former residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the library contains almost 2 million books and nearly half a million documents. The building displays this treasure inlet was originally the summerhouse of Prince Azim-us-Shan, grandson of Aurangzeb, and in 1854, it became the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The Library was opened in these premises in the year 1903 and was renamed as the National library in 1948. It is an institution of national importance, which acts as a reference center for research scholars, attracts almost a thousand readers every day.