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Riches gather dust in S Delhi museums

Home to tonnes of exhibits of artistic, cultural, scientific, academic and national importance, they don’t get a fair footfall

cities Updated: Aug 12, 2016 19:52 IST
Sohil Sehran
National Rail Museum

Asia’s largest rail museum has the locomotives that were rolled out in 1853.(S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Being the national Capital and a city brimming with cultural heritage, Delhi attracts hundreds of tourists from all over the world. From relics belonging to different eras to contemporary additions, the Capital’s museums are well endowed. While the city is riddled with museums that are popular and witness impressive footfall, the ones in south Delhi don’t paint a rosy picture.

The National Rail Museum in Chanakyapuri that represents India’s railway traditions is well maintained, but the Ghalib Academy in Nizamuddin Basti housing several documents of cultural and literary importance is dying.

While the beautiful Tibet House Museum on Lodhi Road that has rare Tibetan art sees abysmal footfall, the Children Resource Centre (museum) in RK Puram is falling apart. It sometimes gets young visitors from various MCD schools.

At the Air Force Museum in Palam that celebrates its achievements, and the three museums inside the Sanskriti Kendra in Anand Gram that nurture Indian art and culture, one finds precious leather-bound manuscripts that smell of old libraries, shiny chrome-plated locomotive models, exquisite textiles and rare terracotta. But they don’t get many visitors.

National Rail Museum, Chanakyapuri

Established: 1977

Nearest metro station: Race Course

Average Footfall: 1,800 visitors per day

Timings: 9.30am to 5.30pm ; Closed on Monday

Entry: Rs 20

Spread over 11 acres, the National Rail Museum in Chanakyapuri is a crowd puller. It has more than 200 exhibits displayed indoor and outdoor. The outdoor exhibits include a wide range of steam, fireless and electric locomotives that have been used in India since 1853.

The indoor exhibits highlight the role of Indian Railways in creating a nationwide network. For visitors, the main attractions is the 18-seater Viceregal dining car, which was shown in the film, Ki & Ka; RMR locomotive engine, the first made-in-India rail engine; Fairy Queen, the world’s oldest working steam locomotive in operational service; and a joy train that offers half-a-kilometre ride.

The museum is Asia’s largest rail museum and its foundation was laid by President VV Giri in October 1971. It was thrown open to public in February 1977. It was inaugurated by railway minister Kamlapati Tripathi. The idea of setting up this museum was to educate people across the globe about the legacy of Indian Railways and its elaborate network.

“This museum is a symbol of courage and dedication shown by the Indian Railways. It is nice to see that the place is well maintained,” Dipanker Sen Gupta, visitor from Kolkata.

Over the years, the officials have faced many challenges to preserve its heritage. As the engines and coaches are placed outdoor, it is always difficult to protect these exhibits from rains and heat. To renovate and paint them, designers are called in every year to ensure that their originality is not compromised.

“In the outer part of the museum, we have the original locomotives that were rolled out in 1853, and we have also exhibited the future plan of the Indian Railways like bullet trains, special trains via slideshows, animation, videos and graphs. We will keep updating the museum with technological advancements as well as relevant literature,” said Uday Singh Mina, director, railway board, ministry of railways.

At present the musical fountain here has been closed by the civic body, and the stagnating water has become a fertile ground for mosquito breeding.

The children’s museum was set up in RK Puram’s Sector 6 with an objective to facilitate learning. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Children Resource Centre Museum, RK Puram

Established: 1985

Nearest metro station: Green Park

Average Footfall: 10 people a day

Timings: 10am to 5pm; Closed on Sunday

Entry: Free

The museum is run by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and is lying in a neglected state. It was set up in RK Puram’s Sector 6 with an objective to facilitate learning. However, due to negligence of the authorities, the infrastructure is deteriorating.

The only visitors it gets are students from SDMC schools. The rooms are in a shambles and erratic electricity often throws the museum into darkness. The civic body had announced in February 2013 that the museum will be renovated and renamed Nirbhaya Science Museum. However, nothing was done.

“The authorities don’t understand its importance. It can benefit students in a big way,” said an SDMC official.

In 1989, five acres of barren land was turned into a collective of museums to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the country. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Sanskriti Kendra Museums, Anand Gram, Ghitorni

Established: 1993

Nearest metro station: Arjan Garh

Average Footfall: 50 people a day

Timings: 10.30am to 5pm; Closed on Monday

Entry: Free

Surrounded by thick green cover, Sanskriti Kendra houses three different museums. In 1989, five acres of barren land was turned into a green oasis. It was founded by art curator OP Jain to preserve the art of the country. It has its own governing body and offers fellowships to artists and educational programmes for schoolchildren.

Museum of Everyday Art of India This museum has over 2,000 toys, kitchen utensils, ritual accessories etc. It aims to preserve the objects from everyday life which are now facing extinction.

Museum of Indian Terracotta It introduces visitors to the historical traditions of tribal art in India. The museum is divided into sections with images of protohistoric objects from the Indus Valley Civilisation as well as 1,500 everyday terracotta objects that were used in different regions of India.

Museum of Indian Textiles This museum houses old specimens of some of the best Indian textile traditions. It displays the double ikat of Gujarat, brocade from Banaras, Surat, embroideries from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and pigment-painted temple hangings from western India. The museum has created a bank of information that is valuable for research purposes.

The academy was founded by Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who was also the founder chancellor of Jamia Hamdard University. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Ghalib Academy Museum, Nizamuddin Basti

Established: 1969

Nearest metro station: JLN Stadium

Average Footfall: 15 people a day

Timings: 10am to 5pm; Closed on Sunday

Entry: Free

Founded in 1969 near the mausoleum of 13th century Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin, the Ghalib Academy is turning to an unfamiliar place. The museum was set up to celebrate the life and works of Ghalib.

The academy was inaugurated by President Dr Zakir Hussain and the museum was established in the memory of Urdu poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. The museum showcases statues, photographs, books and documents related his life. It also has an art gallery where paintings by artists like Satish Gujral, MF Hussain are on display.

The academy was founded by Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who was also the founder chancellor of Jamia Hamdard University. He was deeply moved by the poems of Ghalib and dedicated this academy to him.

As the museum is run by a private body, it is facing financial constraints. The museum has been managed well, but its infrastructure is crumbling. The entry to the academy has been encroached upon by vendors.

“The museum offers insight into Ghalib’s life and helps understand his works. We are trying our best to maintain it, but taking good care of the building and the exhibits remains a challenge,” said Aqil Ahmed, secretary of the academy.

The museum displays about 200 thangka paintings, 140 statues in copper, gilded bronze, sandalwood and stones that represent the religious heritage of Tibet. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Tibet House Museum, Lodhi Road

Established: 1965

Nearest metro station: Jor Bagh

Average footfall: 20 visitors a day

Timings: 10am to 6pm; Closed on Monday and Saturday

Entry: Rs 10

Tibet House on Lodhi Road was founded by the 14th Dalai Lama to encourage harmony and compassion. The museum aims to reach out not only to Buddhist masters and Tibetologists, but also to the people from different faiths. The museum has the calm of a monastery. The caretakers say the influx of visitors usually increases on weekends.

The museum displays about 200 thangka paintings, 140 statues in copper, gilded bronze, sandalwood and stones that represent the religious heritage of Tibet. It also displays ritual items, jewellery, costumes and ancient weapons. “This museum aims to bridge the gap between two cultures. People must visit this magnificent place. It’s so peaceful here,” Nandita Singh, visitor.

Tibet House has its own management that looks after it. The authorities regularly organise exhibitions and to showcase exquisite thangkas (traditional painting scrolls), statues and handicrafts.

“The idea is to bring people close to the heritage. People who come here are keen to know more about the Tibetan culture and we try our best to enrich their knowledge through talks and seminars,” said Tenzin Dhedon, secretary of Tibet House.

Besides aircraft, the museum contains historic photographs and weapons of the IAF. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Indian Air Force Museum, Palam

Established: 1954

Nearest metro station: Sector 9 Dwarka

Average Footfall: 500 people a day

Timings: 10am to 6pm; Closed on Monday and Saturday

Entry: Rs 10

The Indian Air Force Museum, Palam, is located at the Palam Air Force Station. It features an indoor display gallery that contains historic photographs and weapons of the IAF since its formation in 1932. Small aircraft used in wars have been placed at the hangar. The larger aircraft are exhibited in the outer area which is presently closed for public due to ongoing renovation work.

The outdoor gallery has war trophies, radar equipment and captured enemy vehicles. The museum provides details about the combat operations undertaken by the Indian Air Force.

Among the treasures are the photographs of officers who sacrificed their lives during Chinese Aggression in 1962 and Indo-Pak conflicts in 1965 and 1971. The photograph of Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi of the Pakistan Army signing the surrender document of Indo-Pak war 1971 with Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora draws many visitors.

A statue of Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, the only Air Force pilot to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his heroism. He was martyred in Srinagar during 1971 Indo-Pak war.

“The IAF has succeeded in spreading awareness about the challenges faced by the force. The war trophies celebrate the courage of Indian soldiers,” said Dr Khiyati Sharma, a visitor from Amritsar.