New Delhi, a city of ten million or so people, takes its history seriously. Pretty much any museum experience you can imagine is available. Whether you want an overview of what’s been happening during the past 5,000 years, an insight into the life of Mahatma Gandhi or a journey through the crafts representing India’s incredible regional diversity, you can get it.
That said, if you’re only in the city for a short stay, you don’t have time for everything. So here are three museums that you really shouldn’t miss. For a place to stay that’s convenient, check out the some of the great hotels in Delhi Dwarka.
To really understand a country, there’s no substitute like visiting the National Museum. Found on the corner of Janpath Street and Maulana Azad Road, and run by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Culture, India’s is home to a stunning collection that will take you on a truly amazing trip through five millennia.
The numerous objects and more than 200,000 art works are divided into twenty-one galleries. One of the highlights is definitely the Harappan Gallery, where you’ll see evidence that technology was exceptionally advanced and lifestyles rather sophisticated even back in 3000BC. Another is the absolutely delightful Miniature Gallery, filled with over 17,000 miniature paintings. Styles include Mughal, Deccani, Central India, and Pahair, and you’ll see art works on all kinds of materials, from palm leaf to wood to leather.
In order to really understand what you’re seeing, nabbing an audio guide is highly recommended. The museum is unlikely to give you one unless you can provide ID, however, so don’t forget to take your Driver’s Licence or similar with you. The National Museum is open between 10am and 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, but closed on Monday. Admission is 150 INR (general), 10 INR (Indian citizens) and 1 INR (students). To make an inquiry, call +91 1123019272.
National Gallery of Modern Art
The National Gallery of Modern Art, located at Jaipur House, India Gate, is committed to preserving and promoting post-1850s art. More than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs and graphics range from miniature works to cutting-edge contemporary installations. Some of the major artists represented include British painter Thomas Daniell (and his nephew William), Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil, Raja Ravi Verma and Abanindranath Tagore.
Since opening in 1954, the gallery has received significant renovations and upgrades. Most recently, in 2009, it saw the addition of a brand new wing, increasing the overall space six-fold and incorporating a theatre, an auditorium, a library, a section dedicated to academia, a laboratory committed to conservation, an eatery and a retail outlet. You can visit the National Gallery of Modern Art between 10am and 5pm on any day except Monday.
National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum
If you’ve already fallen in love with silk sarees and shadow puppets, this is the place to find out all about them. India’s handicrafts have become popular in various incarnations all over the world, having developed in their own country over the course of thousands of years.
Given India’s immense population (more than 1.2 billion) and expansive area (over 3.2 million square kilometres), the artistic regional diversity is incredible. At the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, you can find out all about the evolution of various sets of aesthetics – and how they inform an array of crafts, including carving, pottery, weaving, puppetry and painting. You’ll find the museum in Pragati Maidan on Bhairon Road. Between July and September, visit between 9:30 and 5pm, while between October and June, opening hours are 9:30am-6pm. It’s closed Mondays all year around and on public holidays.
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