Back of the Book
The Treasures series bring to you objects of great aesthetic quality and historic significance from collections of major Indian museums. Each book has an introduction to the particular museum, set in broad thematic sections. Several significant treasures have been selected and presented with an introduction by the Director and staff of the museum.
This treasure series is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, in collaboration with major Indian museums and the National Culture Fund (NCF) has been entrusted with the responsibility for its production.
The aim of the Treasure series is to create a listing interest in Indian art and inspire more visitors to enjoy the wonders to enjoy the wonders of India’s great cultural legacy.
About the Book
This volume highlights the treasures of the National Museum-New Delhi. The museum has over 2,10,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of Indian art and craftsmanship. The collection includes sculptures in stone, bronze terracotta and wood , miniature paintings and manuscript, coins, arms and armour, jewellery and anthropological objects. Antiquities from Central Asia and pre-Columbian artefacts from the two non-Indian collections in the museum. The museum is the custodian of this treasure trove of our multilayered history and multicultural heritage.
The collection allows Indian visitors to feel a sense of pride in their ancient culture and identity and enable visitors from other countries to appreciate India’s cultural and its values.
National Culture Fund (NCF) was established by the Ministry of Culture in 1996 and is a Trust under the Charitable Endowments Act of 1890. It is governed by a Council with the Hon’ble Minister for Culture as its chairperson and managed by an Executive Committee chaired by an Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
The primary mandate of the NCF is to nurture Public Private Partnership (PPP), to mobilise resources from the public and private sector for the restoration, conservation, protection and development of India’s rich, natural, tangible and intangible heritage.
The NCF believes that two of the vital pillars of national development are the promotion of cultural diversity and heritage conservation.
Introduction to National Museum
The National Museum is located in the heart of New Delhi, the capital of India. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India, laid the foundation of the present building, on the 12 May 1955, and the first phase was completed by June 1960.
The conception, however, goes back to the year 1946, when the blueprint for establishing a National Museum in Delhi was prepared by the Gwyer Committee, set up by the Government of India. From 29 November 1947 to 29 February 1948, a seminal exhibition titled 'Exhibition of Indian Art' was held in Burlington House, London. The exhibition displayed selected artefacts from various museums of India and was sponsored by the Royal Academy (London) with the cooperation of the governments of India and Britain. The collection exhibited at Burlington House was later showcased in the staterooms of the Rashtrapati Bhawan (President's House), New. Delhi from 6 November to 31 December 1948. This initiative turned out to be a great success and the event became the first step towards the creation of the National Museum.
On 15 August 1949, the Governor General of India, Shri R.C. Rajagopalachari, formally inaugurated the National Museum. Until a permanent building for the National Museum was constructed, it continued its activities from Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. Meanwhile, the success of the 'Exhibition of Indian Art' and the magnificence of the collection made it amply evident that it could form the foundation of the upcoming National Museum. Thus, state governments, museum authorities and private donors who participated in the exhibition were approached and the exhibits on show formed the core holdings of the National Museum.
National Museum was initially looked after by the Director General of Archaeology until the year 1957, when the Ministry of Education, Government of India, declared it a separate institution and placed it under its own direct control. At present the administration and financial control of the National Museum is under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Today the Museum holds approximately 2,00,000 objects representative of Indian and world history. The objects cover a time span of more than 5,000 years of Indian cultural heritage. The museum has several collections related to specialised fields.
The National Museum has the world's most representative collection of antiquities of the Harappan Civilisation-over 3500 objects that are on 'permanent loan' from the Archaeological Survey of India to the Museum.
The collection contains objects from famous sites of Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro. The urban Harappan Civilisation left behind valuable historic information in their painted earthen vessels, bronze items and seals. The bronze 'Dancing Girl' recovered from Mohenjo-Daro, and the toy animals are evidence of this creative, sensitive and distinctive culture that existed over 5,000 years ago.
The Department of Archaeology is among the National Museum's most prestigious departments with a collection that has a wide range of masterpieces of sculptural art in a variety of medium: stone, terracotta, stucco, bronze, gold, silver, etc., spanning a period of over two millenniums, from the 3rd century BC to the 19th century AD-one of the longest in the history of world's art-heritage. There are galleries dedicated to Buddhist art, representatives from different regions, styles and schools of art of India.
Worthy of being the part of the nation's leading heritage custodians, the National Museum's collection of manuscripts is simply fabulous not merely in its volume but also in its massive breadth. It comprises over 14,000 manuscripts and texts, of which about 1000 are illustrated. Dated manuscripts, of which the collection has a good number, are of academic importance to authenticate events of history. The collection covers a period of 1400 years, from the 7th century to the 20th, and is in different medium, language, subject, and are written on parchment, birch bark, palm leaf, paper, cloth, wood, and metals. Besides the classical Sanskrit or sacred dialects like Pali, Prakrit, or Apabhransha, or trans-border languages like Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Burmese or Tibetan, the collection has manuscripts rendered in Hindi, its many dialectic forms: Rajasthani, Maithali, Oriya, Bengali, Awadhi, Brij, Marathi, Bundeli, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gurumukhi ... ; using scripts like Brahmi, Devanagari, Nastaliq, Roman, Gurumukh and others. The manuscripts are therefore a critical and important source of historic information, literature, from the point of view of secular and sectarian, aesthetic and scientific inquiry.
Miniature paintings, on paper, cloth, bark, wood and ivory, forms one of the National Museum's most prestigious collections, and the world's largest. There are over 17,000 paintings in the Department of Painting in the National Museum, spanning 900 years and most stylistic formats to be found in India: Pala, early Jain style, Sultanate, the indigenous styles of Malwa, Mewar, Bundelkhand, Raghogarh, Mughal, Deccani, later Rajasthani, Pahari, Sikh, Jammu, Tanjore and Mysore, and the Company School paintings.
One of the finest collections lie with the Arms Department where one can find over 6500 objects representative of Indian arms and armour covering every epoch of history; Ancient, Sultanate, Medieval, Company. Some of the weapons belonging to heroes of past, or with a rare historical context, are the other outstanding items of this collection.
The Decorative Arts Section
This represents India's age-old crafts traditions in different materials such as wood, metal, ivory, glass, ceramic, precious stones and different artistic techniques like carving, damascening, filigree, repousse, enamel, inlay among others.
This also displays 1669 corns along with five replicas of coins, five measuring vessels and some couries and ratties that were used in ancient times as weights and measures. The collection of coins in the National Museum is remarkable for its variety, rarity and antiquity. The entire history of Indian coinage, starting from about 6th century BC to the beginning of the 21st century AD, is well represented here along with the dioramas depicting various techniques of coin production. It has practically all Indian coins from the earliest bent bar, punch-marked coins to those of Indian States, British India and Post-independence coins. Pot with Seated Monkey A study of these currencies reveals how the Indian currency system developed from cowrie shells to credit card. This collection is a rich and authentic source of information on various aspects of Indian history, it serves as a record of political and economic changes, its narrative and aesthetic impact reflect the cultural effervescence in different epochs and in various regions of the country.
The textile collection in this section belong mainly to the 17th to the 20th century yet provide glimpses of textiles traditions and trends, fashions and costumes and manufacturing techniques.
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