Mumbai, the glamorous metropolis of India, one of the costliest cities in the world and many more such title holder. Mumbai houses some of the richest people of India, Mumbai has all the high street brands across the world, the streets here are regularly strutted by the swankiest cars; move your eyes in a 360 degree and one can see the finest luxuries of the world here. But that doesn’t fancy my attention!
There’s so much more to Mumbai than just glitz and glamour. The museums in Mumbai are one such place which holds distinction in its showcase, its maintenance, its grandeur and appeal.
Somewhere I have read that a museum has multiple purposes – to curate and preserve, to research, and to reach out to the public. They challenge us and ask us to question our assumptions about the past or the world around us. This is what the museums in Mumbai does to you, challenges you to ask questions about the past, the history, culture and heritage of this amazing land called India, about arts and architectures, scriptures and sculptures. They boast you with knowledge and make you wonder how much this land has to offer to us only if we are ready to embrace it with open arms.
I have had the privilege to visit a few of them. And the experience enthralls me even now when I think of them. I am so much inclined to history and nature. My lust for the smell of relics and old books and the aroma of green is insatiable. No wonder I would choose a museum over a club any day.
CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA
The first one in my list was the Prince of Wales Museum which has been rechristened as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. It is within walk able distance from the Gateway of India.
The mere entry to the premises would leave you spellbound. Be it the well manicured greenness or the sleeping Buddha amidst the green, it’s a sight to behold. The three-storied rectangular building, capped by a dome speaks of architectural genius. Built in the Western Indian and Indo-Saracenic style, the building accommodates a central entrance porch, above which rises a dome, supported on a lotus – petal base. A cluster of pinnacles with miniature domes surround the central dome. The building incorporates features like Islamic dome inspired by Mughal palace architecture.
The museum which has 3 stories, houses approximately 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history as well as objects from foreign lands. They are categorized primarily into three sections: Art, Archaeology and Natural History.
From palm leaf manuscripts dating to the 11th-12th centuries to the 19th century pahari paintings as well as paintings from the Sultanate period, the museum also has decorative artifacts such as textiles, ivories, Mughal jades, silver, gold and artistic metal ware.
It also has a collection of European paintings, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, ivory and jade artifacts and sections dedicated to arms and armor including a finely decorated armour of Emperor Akbar.
A prints gallery, a Krishna Gallery holding artworks related to the Hindu god Krishna and a textile gallery illustrating techniques of textile manufacturing, regional collections and traditional Indian costumes are the latest additions to the Museum.
There’s also a documentary show about Mumbai and its ethereal journey from time ancient to present day, shown beautifully via a well documented AV. It’s a must watch if you are a history buff like me.
With so much to see, learn, write, capture and experience, it’s almost impossible to wind up the whole museum in a single day. I, myself went there twice to wrap as much as I can inside my little wings of wanderlust. How I wish my words could do even an inch of justice to actually elaborate the grandeur of the place.
While the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya will engulf you in its grandeur, the Mani Bhavan will soak you in its simplicity. The absence of any crowd inside the Bhavan which is free of any entry cost will startle you at first and then the mesmerizing smell of old books which were once read by Gandhi will lead you into another era.
The modest two storied building have a tale to tell to the world; of times when Gandhiji made it his abode.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Mani Bhavan was Gandhi’s Mumbai headquarter from 1917 to 1934. Gandhi initiated Satyagrah and Civil Disobedience movement from this very place in 1919 and 1932 respectively.
The mansion belonged to Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, Gandhi’s friend and host in Mumbai during that period.
As I already mentioned there’s no entry fee. It finds its location in a quaint little lane called Laburnum Road in a peaceful locality. As soon as we entered, a library filled with book that Gandhiji once read greeted us. The enchanting smell of old books drew me closer to them and I could see there’s provision for people to sit there and read books in company of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue. Ah! Only if time wasn’t a restraint to me.
Then a staircase showcasing Gandhi’s life via pictures right from his childhood innocence, his youth days in South Africa, his meetings with leaders and people from different spheres of life, his visits all over the country and the world and his works and movements leads visitors to the first floor.
The first floor houses a photo gallery with photographs from his childhood till his assassination.
The room that Gandhi used during his stay in Mani Bhavan is on the second floor. A glass partition allows people to peep through to the times when Gandhi used to sit there and engulf himself in his charkha for the love of khadi or read a book or two or lay down and initiate steps to regularize movements against British in the country. His spinning wheels, a book and his bed on the floor has been meticulously preserved there.
As one walks through the diligently preserved documents, books and archives of his pictures through his transformational political and spiritual journey, a wonderful feeling pervades the soul as if he is still there!
JEHANGIR ART GALLERY
While the simplicity and modesty of Mani Bhavan would be food for your seeking soul, the aesthetic display of modern and abstract art in the Jehangir art gallery would make you feel pleasant.
Situated at Kala Ghoda, behind the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya near the Gateway of India, the gallery has four exhibition halls.
The entry to the gallery is free but photography is restricted and is subjected to the permission of the Artists whose art works are in display.
It regularly holds art exhibitions and serves as the destination for both artists and art lovers. Many illustrated artists from across the globe have showcased and patronized this very place.
On the terrace there was a photo exhibition going on where a foreign artist had his captures in display. The pictures were all of raw, unadulterated smiles of people from different parts of India and world.
Art lovers can leisurely enjoy the paintings and also buy the one’s they like. This art gallery itself has a long history and has heritage value. Just outside on the wide foot paths, people can get their pencil sketch or coal paintings made by artists. I couldn’t resist the temptation and got myself sketched there.
Do you share the same love for museums and art pieces as I do. Do comment your experience below.
Or show some love through my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/kashyapeesays/
Read my latest post on Shillong diary at https://kashyapeesays.com/2017/12/16/shilong-in-a-day/