The Indian Museum which is located in the heart of Central Kolkata, West Bengal, holds a unique and prominent role in India’s cultural and scientific heritage. Established in 1814 with the support of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, it not only holds the distinction of being oldest museum of India but also proudly stands as the largest museum of India. This article offers an extensive exploration into the rich history, diverse collections and the profound importance of the Indian museum.
History of India’s Largest Museum, Indian Museum
The origins of the Indian Museum can be traced back to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded by Sir William Jones in 1784. The idea of creating a museum emerged in 1796 as a place to house, displayed various natural and man-made objects. It was not until 1814, however, that the museum officially came into existence under the leadership of Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich. Over the years, the museum received support from the government and underwent several expansions and relocations.
In 1867, the foundation of the present Indian Museum building was laid on Chowringee Road (now Jawaharlal Nehru Road), designed by W.L. Granville in consultation with Sir Thomas Holland. The museum has played a significant role in preserving India’s cultural and scientific heritage.
Collections of Indian Museum
The Indian Museum, largest museum in India, boasts an extensive and diverse collection that spans six sections and comprises thirty-five galleries:
- Indian Art: The museum houses a large collection of ancient and medieval Indian artifacts, including sculptures, railings and gateways from Buddhist stupas like Bharhut and Amaravati. It also preserves Buddha’s relics and a copy of the Lion Capital of Ashoka.
- Archaeology: The archaeological section holds a wide array of artifacts from different periods, especially from Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
- Anthropology: This section showcases exhibits related to human societies, including ethnographic materials and cultural artifacts.
- Geology: The geological section focuses on mineral resources and houses an impressive collection of geological specimens.
- Zoology: The zoology section has galleries dedicated to mammals, birds, insects and botanical exhibits. It even features the skeleton of a dinosaur.
- Economic Botany: This section explores plant-related artifacts and materials of economic importance.
The museum’s collections also include rare antiques, meteorites and prehistoric artifacts. Notably, it houses a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.
Significance of Largest Museum in India, Indian Museum
The Indian Museum holds a unique position as the harbinger of socio-cultural and scientific achievements in India. It is considered the beginning of modernity and the end of the medieval era in the country’s cultural landscape. The museum has contributed significantly to the preservation and promotion of India’s rich heritage.
Administration of Indian Museum
The Indian Museum operates as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. It is currently under the directorship of Shri Arjit Dutta Choudhary. The museum has various service units, including preservation, publication and photography, contributing to its multidisciplinary activities.