Flanked by an imposing sculpture of a temple chariot right at the gateway, National Museum redefines your sense of history and art with every step you take.
Exquisite and intricate sculptures breezed past us as we found our way to the newly renovated decorative art gallery inaugurated today after seven long years by the Union Minister of Culture, Chandresh Kumari Katoch.
And lo and behold, we were transported into another era by the magnificence of the king of Benaras’ jewel studded chair, Buddha’s life scenes carved on an elephant tusk, Emporer Jahangir’s ‘huqqa’, and a lot more.
Elaborating on the artefacts in the gallery, the curator Anamika Pathak says, ‘We have 160 new pieces of art in this gallery. You would get to see artworks made using jade, ceramic and even ivory- the material that is now banned to be used in India- from 17th to 20th century.’
It also hosts Chinese artworks made out of jade that were Indiansed over a period of time.
With a fascinating set of historical objects crafted for daily, ceremonial and religious practices, the gallery plays upon two major themes: leisure or ancient games and the ‘throne story’. These have been developed with the help of artefacts made of various materials, besides the main three categories.
Some of the country’s finest examples of leisure and ancient-games traditions are depicted in the form of dancers, musicians, rattles, yo-yo, gamesmen of chess and gyan chaupar besides tops made of ivory, bone, jade, glass beads, wood and metal.
Gyan Chaupar is the old era snakes and ladder with lessons on morality, religious faith and belief.
Such quirky facts about the advent of indoor games in India enticed us into reading each and every anecdote about the sculptures.
As for ‘throne story’, it indicates the evolution of the seat of power. From the low and flat seats of antiquity to the modern armed chair, the journey of the throne makes for a fascinating account.
For instance, the section features a huge yet intricately-carved home shrine and some metal pitikas (small seats for keeping idols for home shrines ).
Some outstanding pieces have been displayed against the four pillars — such as ‘The Meditating Buddha’ inside a lattice case and Dashavatar shrine depicting ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu made of ivory. Then, there is the cloth-painted gyan chaupar, a silver tray depicting Kaurava’s court scene, five-foot elephant tusk carved with life scenes of Lord Buddha, a jade surahi, armrest, chauri and the huqqa inscribed with the name of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and the white-blue ceramic ware.
‘All these artefacts help us understand the artistic taste of patrons and craftsmanship of artisans prevalent during those times. Every time I come to the gallery, it adds to my knowledge of our history,’ said Chandresh Kumari Katoch, while urging youngsters to make a visit to this cultural and artistic heritage of India.