State of the art: Six must-visit museums in India

  • Sneha Mahale, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 16, 2015 10:01 IST
The Indian Museum in Kolkata, West Bengal is home to rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings. (Getty Images)

Last month, France’s famous waxwork museum, Musée Grévin, opened its first Asian outpost in Seoul, South Korea. The new museum’s focus is firmly on the world of entertainment. As a result, waxworks of global icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna rub shoulders with the likes of actress Choi Ji-Woo — star of one of the original TV series, Winter Sonata — who has quite a fan following in Japan. India, too, has a bunch of spaces dedicated to offbeat themes like black magic, folklore and even one showcasing the brain. Here are a few recommendations.

Andhra Pradesh: Nagarjunakonda

Photo Courtesy: Andhra Pradesh Tourism

This museum is located in the midst of the Nagarjuna Sagar Lake in Andhra Pradesh. "The chief attraction is the monolithic statue of Lord Buddha, which is simply magnificent to look at. It stands tall, and the posture is very graceful. There are coins and ornaments belonging to ancient times as well. An astounding collection of relics of Buddhist art and culture is housed here," says Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head, Expedia India.

Diu: Sea Shell Museum

Situated a few kilometres away from Diu, the Sea Shell Museum is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts. “Ex-merchant navy captain Devjibhai Vira Fulbaria’s labour of love, it chronicles the thousands of sea shells found during his 50-year-long sailing career across the globe. The museum houses close to 3,000 well-labelled shells displayed in magnifying glasses of various sizes. Captain Fulbaria personally conducts tours for the visitors, interspersing scientific information on the shells while talking about his travel tales,” says Vicki Parris, national brand leader India, Flight Shop.

Meghalaya: Don Bosco Centre For Indigenous Cultures

Photo: Sneha Mahale

This Shillong museum is probably the best place to visit, if you are looking to understand the multi-cultural lifestyles of the indigenous people of northeast India. Spanning multiple levels, cultural artefacts are thematically arranged from floor to floor in the different galleries along with paintings depicting various aspects of the cultures. "Every aspect of their day-to-day existence, from the past to the present, is available here. There are galleries dedicated to language, food, weapons, religion, costumes and ornaments, among others. You could spend a day here and not soak in all the information available. Another highlight is the skywalk that offers a panoramic view of Shillong," says Chanda Mahajan, a housewife. Jammu and Kashmir: Dras Memorial Museum

Photo Courtesy: Jammu and Kashmir Tourism

Built by the Indian Army, it is a war memorial, located in Ladakh, at the base of Tololing Hill. "The main attraction of the museum is a great sandstone block with the names of Indian soldiers, who lost their lives in the Kargil war, engraved on it," says Rajeev Kale, president and chief operating officer — MICE, domestic and sports tourism, Thomas Cook India.

West Bengal: The Indian Museum
Housing rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings, this museum in Kolkata was founded in 1814. “Some of the more resplendent exhibits here include an Egyptian mummy and the Ashoka pillar — whose three-lion symbol became the official emblem of the Republic of India. But the highlight undoubtedly is the invertebrate fossils gallery. Beside invertebrates, considerable Gondwana plant fossils are displayed. You will also find fossils of fish, dinosaur eggs and even an elephant here,” says Shreyoshi Bose, an IT analyst.

Karnataka: Brain Museum

Photo Courtesy: Human Brain Museum

If ‘offbeat’ or ‘unusual’ is the criteria, then this Bengaluru museum fits the bill. "With over 300 brains of humans, foetuses and animals preserved in glass containers, this brainchild of Dr SK Shankar, professor and head of department of neuropathology at NIMHANS, was established in 1995. It houses specimens collected over 30 years of facilitating brain donations. The museum has various brain samples, including a brain eaten by an amoeba, destroyed by a tapeworm’s eggs as well as the brain of a person who died in a road accident, and those of a rat, duck, fish and lizard, to name a few. Initially, you may feel strange, but the tour can be very informative, especially when guided by Dr Shankar. You get a quick idea about the way a brain functions, and controls emotions and memory," says Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings.
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