Indian Museum, Calcutta, established in 1814 A.D., a multidisciplinary Museum, having a very rare and immensely valuable collection of varied objects of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Economic Botany, is the largest of its kind in Asia. This year the Museum is celebrating its 180th anniversary by holding year-long events to celebrate the occasion. This exhibition on 'Nomad Mongols', a Festival of Dance, Music and Film shows from Mongolia and a Seminar on 'Early India, Central Asia and Mongolia' are being held as parts of this celebration. Besides these, among others, a Dr. Nathaniel Wallich Memorial Lecture, an International Exhibition of Indian Bronzes to be held in Australia, In-service Museum Training Course, and extension of the constituent parts of the Museum by opening of a new Gallery of Textiles and Decorative Arts, an Ecology Gallery and a Special Exhibition of rocks and minerals have been planned to form parts of this celebration.
Mongolia has had a very close and intimate relationship with India since time immemorial. This relationship had been the benedictions and the most noble and sublime graciousness of Lord Buddha who is held as the highest spirit in the field of guidance of life and the spiritual bearings of the peoples of these two great countries. At present, both are trying to regain that old intimacy and nearness in wide fields of varied contacts, particularly in cultural activities. An exhibition "The Way of the Buddha" consisting of antiquities and artefacts of varied nature including a rare and unique casket containing pieces of holy relics of the Lord Buddha had been taken to Mongolia where it was received with very deep and profound veneration. The exhibition had also been hailed as an event of great applause and appreciation by the people of Mongolia. A reciprocal event is being organised now in the form of an exhibition, "NOMAD MONGOLS", displaying the art and artefacts of their culture, besides exposition of dance and music and also a film festival. His Excellency the President of Mongolia will grace the occasion of its inauguration at New Delhi in the presence of His Excellency the President of India and other high dignitaries on 22 February, 1994. The exhibition, a part of the 'Days of Mongolian Culture', will be inaugurated on 27 February, 1994, in the Indian Museum, Calcutta and will be on show for a month.
The exhibition "NOMAD MONGOLS", is a unique presentation of about 95 exhibits on Art, Archaeology and Ethnography from the collection of the Museum of National History and Fine Arts Museum Mongolia. In the Archaeological Section of the exhibition, there are several interesting finds of prehistoric tools of Palaeolithic and Neolithic age along with some implements, ornaments and medallions with animal figure belonging to the metal age. The Historical Section includes arte facts from the Hung-Nu period of the Mongol Empire, specially from the Khar-Horum city and also some thankas of the Urga School. The Ethnography Section of the exhibition has on display dresses of different ethnic groups of Mongolia, household utensils, musical instruments and varied objects of sports and. games, all bearing a picturesque and panoramic view of the culture and life-style of the nomadic people of Mongolia.
The Indian Museum, Calcutta, considers it a matter of great pleasure and privilege to hold this multi-featured Festival of Mongolia including the exhibition 'Nomad Mongols' with the belief that these will go a long way in fostering and promoting a very close friendship and cooperation between the two great nations' of India and Mongolia.
The people of Mongolia have an age-old civilisation of their own. The earliest man donned the territory of Mongolia some 500,000 years ago, the fact which was supported by archaeological findings like hand axes and cleavers made out by flaking of pebbles of lower palaeolithic time. Some more evolved types of tool were found like knives, spear-heads and scrapers for processing the skins and woods belonging to the time of Neanderthal man who reigned the territory of central and western part of Mongolia. An important invention was the creation of artificial fire which was followed by building of dwellings and use of primitive clothes. With the emergence of modern man, cave paintings of high artistic value came into existence. Later phase was conspicuous by the presence of bow and arrow as weapon and domestication of animals. Excavation of the settlements and graves of Neolithic period showed that the people were buried in a sitting position in a narrow pit along with bone knives, arrow heads, pearl beads etc.. Stone implements fashioned by grinding and polishing revealed their awareness of beauty. Presence of stone pestles and primitive mortars Signifies that they were engaged in agricultural work and used those tools for grinding the cereals. Many rock pictures portraying mountain goats, horses, human figures and snakes reflect the idea of development of society, communal consciousness and religious notions.
After the Neolithic period, the Mongols developed expertise in producing metal objects. A rich find consisting of many household objects, made of bronze are kept in the Museums of Mongolia. The battle axe from Omnogov and the double and triple-bladed pendants for women are the examples of their skilful workmanship. The upright stone slabs decorated with stylized pictures of running deer, known as "deer stone" are typical to the Mongols of that age. A series of rock paintings show the evidence of the advent of wheeled transport and the development of horse breeding. In the Bronze-Age great change took place in the economy and cultural life of the ancient inhabitants of Central Asia. The so called stone-cist graves were excavated and it was found that along with the deceased, there were stone objects and earthen-ware vessels with handles besides various bronze possessions. Anthropologists, who have carried the craniological research on the bone materials found in stone-cist graves, suggest that they were ethnically Mongoloid and possibly formed the kernel of the future Huns. The natural condition of Mongolia favoured animal husbandry and there are evidences of land farming in many areas of northern and central part of Mongolia, dating back even to the 7th to 5th century B.C. The emergence of local products, made of iron no doubt contributed to the development of the productive forces of Mongolia's ancient inhabitants. There are firm grounds for believing that the old tribal system had begun to weaken in Mongolia during this period and a new form of labour division came into offing which led to the fall of the primitive social system and emergence of a clan society.
By the 5th to 4th century B.C. the two tribal unions of the Huns and the Dunhu had been formed in Central Asia. The Huns had become the most powerful cattle breeding tribe by the 3rd century B.C. and had a trading relationship with the neighbouring countries for agricultural products, handicrafts and jewellery. In the 1 st century" B.C. they acquired the knowledge of cultivation of land. The excavations of ancient Hun towns showed that they had acquired the experience in making pottery, both manually and on potter's wheel and also in manufacturing jewellery of gold, silver and precious stones. Weapons occupied an important place among the objects excavated from the sites, also including bows with bone layers and whistling arrows with iron heads. The examples of excellent applied art are the elaborate bronze medallions with the figures of fighting horses and discsets with precious stones. The Hun empire played an important role in the social and political history of the Euro-Asian nomadic life. The centre of the empire, headed by the ruler called the Shanyui was centered in the basin of Tuul river. The power of ruling was inherited by Moduli in 209 B.C. The land under the Hun rule was divided into three parts, the central part which was inhabited by the nomadic horde of the Shanyui and the eastern and western parts were headed by princes, chosen by the Shanyui from amongst his sons and relatives. There were 24 elders, each in charge of a unit of 10,000 horsemen who were subordinate to the princes: The wars waged by the Huns against other tribes and neighbouring countries, brought properties and slaves though the Huns did not lead to a slave-owning social system. Under the leadership of Modun the Hun state reached the zenith
of its power holding a vast territory which included East Turkestan in the west and Korea in the east and reached the great wall of China in the south and lake Baikal in the north. The Huns had a strong military establishment and a powerful army of cavalry with heavy armour for both horses and horsemen. They had their own written language, written in letters similar to the letters of Orhon script. However, the mighty empire did not last long. After a fierce internal struggle in 54 B.C. it broke up into Southern and Northern territories and the Huns ceased to exist as one independent state. Some of them joined the Xianpi tribe and some went to the Caspian steppe and moved further to the west and formed a nomadic state under the leadership of Attila.
The Xianpi tribe began to play an important role in the history of central Asia. They were cattle breeders, hunters and cultivators. Handicrafts were also well developed amongst them. In the middle of the 2nd century a member of the tribal nobility, Tan Shihuai established a state of Xianpi occupying all the territories subjected to the Hun empire. After consolidating their position, they began to raid the northern provinces of China. The aggressiveness of Tan Shihuai considerably strengthened the military system but conflicts among the aristocrat people weakened the power of Xianpi empire. In the middle of the 3rd century A.D. this single entity was divided into several separate new states and ultimately formed a new state of the Myyun and Toba in the territory of Southern Mongolia.
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