Museums in any country are a representation of that country’s history, culture and environment. India, with its vast history spanning several centuries no doubt has tons of artifacts that have managed to survive time. Most of these relics are housed in museums across the country close to the area in which they were found. With various invasions, many of them have been damaged but they continue to have a special aura which inspires the visitor to know more about this great country.
Here’s a list of some of the top museums in India which are definitely worth a visit.
1. National Museum, Delhi
Inarguably one of the largest museums in India, this museum dates back to 1946 when the Maurice Gwyer Committee decided to have an exhibition of Indian Art. The exhibition was so successful that those who participated in that exhibition were asked to donate or loan those artifacts for the National Museumthat was to be built later. The National Museum was thus inaugurated in 1955. Today, the museum has an enviable collection of over 2,00,000 artifacts depicting over 5,000 years of Indian heritage. The museum holds several exhibitions over time so watch out for them.
2. Indian Museum, Kolkata
Founded in 1814 by the Asiatic Society of Bengal this is one of the oldest museums in Asia-Pacific. Also called the Imperial Museum or Ajabghar or Jadughar, this museum has three main sections- archeology, anthropology, and Art. It has a Barhut Gallery, a bird gallery, a botanical gallery, a Bronze Gallery, a coin gallery, a decorative art gallery, an Egypt gallery, a Gandhara gallery, an insect gallery, an archeology gallery, a mammal gallery, a mask gallery, a paintings gallery, and a textile gallery. Watch out for the events and exhibitions held in the Indian Museum.
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3. Government Museum, Egmore, Chennai
This museum of human history and culture has its humble beginnings in 1812 when it was started in the first floor of the College of Fort St. George with 1100 specimens. It was shifted to its present building in 1905 when the number of relics increased. The museum is famous for its Tanjore armory, Amaravathi sculptures, Dowleshwaram hoard of gold coins, Bruce Foote Collection of prehistoric stone implements, Roman artifacts from Arikamedu, crystal reliquaries from the Bhattiprolu Stupa and the enormous skeleton of a whale found near the shore in Mangalore. The various galleries found in this museum are arms and armouries, ethnology, folk art, folk religions, Indus Valley Civilization, prehistory, physical anthropology, puppetry, Amaravathi Sculptures, inscriptions, Jain sculptures, Saivite Bronzes, Vaishnavite Bronzes, Buddhist Bronzes, wood carvings, British paintings, contemporary paintings, botany, children’s section, geology, numismatics, and zoology.
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4. Chattrapati Shivaji Vastu Museum, Mumbai
Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, this museum is housed in an important heritage Indo-Saracenic and western style of architecture building surrounded by gardens. It has over 20 galleries, the most unique being the Himalayan art, Chinese and Japanese art and the digital collections of the Mewar Ramayana and Google Arts and Culture. It also has learning, education and training programs, a kids club, adult learning, research programs,a museum on wheels as well as conservation and restoration programs.
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5. Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, Delhi
This museum is a collection of dolls by Mr. Shankar Pillai, a political cartoonist. Apart from over 6000 dolls collected from 85 countries, the museum has a separate section for Indian dolls in traditional wear from across the country. It also has its own doll-making department that creates dolls.
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6. Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad
Spread across 10 acres and 2 floors, the third largest museum in the country has collections from a single family of Mir Yousuf Ali Khan (Salar Jung III). With 43000 art objects, 9000 manuscripts and 47000 printed books, the museum has 38 galleries, an education wing, a conservation lab, display section, and a photo section. Some of the incredible collections here include the 19th Century British Musical Clock, an 1876 Veiled marble statue of Rebecca created by an Italian sculptor G B Benzoni, a rare Lilawati manuscript, a set of ivory chairs and Arabic and Persian manuscripts.
7. National Rail Museum, Delhi
This rare museum is dedicated to 160+ years of Indian railways with displays of rare steam, diesel and electric locos as well as artifacts. There is also an interactive section, a 3D visual simulator, a steam loco simulator, an indoor gallery, Miniature India exhibit and a toy train. The museum conducts special programs, exhibitions, summer camps, events and activities all through the year.
8. Calico Museum, Ahmedabad
This exclusive textile museum is a tribute to textile production and trade in the country. It offers guided tours into the various galleries: Textiles for the Mughal and Regional Courts, Export Textiles, Indian Costumes, Regional Embroideries, Textile Techniques, Tie-dye fabrics, Technical Gallery, Block-making and printing techniques Ritual Textiles of the Vallabha Sampradaya, and Jaina – Textiles, Manuscripts, Sculptures and Ceremonial Objects and Wood work.
9. Dr. Bhau Dadi Lal Museum, Mumbai
Formerly known as the Victoria and Albert Museum, this is the oldest museum in Mumbai having opened its doors in 1857 in a colonial building built specially for a museum. The main galleries in this museum are: Industrial Arts Gallery, Kamalnayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery, The Founder's Gallery, 19th Century Paintings Gallery, Origins Of Mumbai Gallery, and the Kamalnayan Bajaj Special Exhibitions Gallery. It also has guided tours, learning programs, a conservation room, Google Arts and Culture and offers diploma courses as well.
10. Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram
A 19th century building houses the Napier Museum and the Natural History Museum in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. It has over 500 exhibits comprising of metal sculptures, wooden sculptures and carvings, stone sculptures from South India, an ivory collection, ancient coins, bronze carvings and much more. The most popular artifact here is The Sword of Velu Thampi Dhalawa that was to the then King of Kilimanoor Palace, on his military expedition to Mannadi.
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11. Folk Culture Museum, Bhimtal (Nainital)
Also known as “Lok Sanskriti Sangrahalaya”, this museum houses rare archeological findings, rock art from Uttrakhand, ancient manuscripts, wooden artifacts and folk paintings.
12. Shivalik Fossil Park Museum, Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh
The largest fossil park in Asia with the biggest collection of prehistoric fossils and skeletons, this museum is a National Geo-heritage monument in Suketi village where most of these fossils were found. The main fossils found here are those of six extinct animals (large tusk elephant, huge land tortoise, saber-tooth cat, four horn giraffe and a hippopotamus).
13. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Delhi
A dream project of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Sociologist and Social Reformer and Founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement, this museum is dedicated to information on toilets from across the world starting from 2500 BC. It contains pictures, facts and objects relating to toilet-related customs in various countries, evolution of technology relating to toilets and display of toilet-related artifacts, all displayed in an interesting and informative manner.
Museum Safari: A Tour of Delhi's National, Art and Modern Art Museum
14. Naval Aviation Museum in Vasco de Gama, Goa
This is the only naval aviation museum in Asia dedicated to Indian Navy’s aircrafts. The museum’s interior is designed like the inside of a naval aircraft carrier INS Viraat and houses several galleries with naval equipment and pictures of important battles. The outdoor gallery has decommissioned naval vehicles and aircrafts, aircraft engines and parts on display. It also has a simulation room and an extensive plaque commemorating the lives of those who fought for the country.
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15. City Palace Museum, Udaipur
The City Palace Museum in Udaipur is indeed an ode to Rajasthani royalty. Located inside the city palace, this museum houses several artifacts, armory, sculptures, inscriptions, paintings and very unique collections such as the turban of Emperor Shah Jahan. The building has several pavilions with distinct themes.
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Some more famous museums in India are:
- City palace, Jaipur
- Jai Vilas Mahal, Gwalior
- HAL Aerospace Museum, Bangalore
- Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur
- Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, Kolkata
- Crafts Museum, Delhi
- Dakshinachitra Museum, Chennai
- Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
- Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamshala
- Patna Museum, Patna
- Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh
- Human Brain Museum Bangalore
- Black Magic and Witch craft Museum, Assam
- Sudha Cars Museum, Hyderabad
- Paldi Kite Museum, Ahmedabad