Modern art, ancient sculptures, regional handicrafts, the history of toilets–Delhi’s Museums have rounded them up and set them in neatly labelled displays, you’d be a fool not to take advantage. For a small fee or entirely free you can take your pick of the capital’s treasures ranging from historical to breath-taking to downright absurd.
The one stop shop: National Museum
Tracing India’s history over the past 5000 years, it’s practically crammed with artifacts. They have an interesting attitude of dividing their exhibits not by time but by theme, since they don’t see the story of Indian culture divided by linear time. Star exhibits include Gautama Buddha’s personal effects and a suit of armour crafted for an elephant.
The mind candy: National Gallery of Modern Art
The brain-child of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, this is the place to be to understand Indian art. At over 14,000 works, it’s one of the largest collections of modern works, both visual and plastic. Again, you can see the devlopment of a culture here as well, from landscapes by colonial bureaucrats and ‘Company Paintings’ done by Indian artists but to the tastes of their British paymasters to freestanding structures of giant stainless steel buckets pouring out a river of househld utensils. The collection includes big names like Rabindranath Tagore and Amrita Sher-Gill.
The full experience: Crafts Museum
Ditch the staid old buildings and explore this museum village instead. Keeping alive the old crafts of Mithila wall painting, khadi textile looms, ornate temple carvings and even an intricately decorated Gujarati haveli, this museum holds the promise of hands-on learning, dozens of photo opportunities and heavy shopping bags from the artisan’d courtyard in the back.
The worthy cause: Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
You didn’t think we had it in us, did you? The Sulabh Museum is run by the same organisation that promotes sanitation nationwide. Dividing the history of the WC into three stages it follows the story of the humble porcelain bowl through ornamental engravings, functional plastic and noxious effluent pits. Hanging out in other people’s toilets has never been this much fun!
The political affair: Nehru Memorial Museum
A dedication to the first Prime Minister of India in his erstwhile residence at Teen Murti Bhavan. Excerpts from his greatest speeches are literally carved into stone on the front lawn. Step into his rooms, preserved for decades and watch his personal life unfold in the backdrop of a complex, bloody and tension-fraught freedom struggle.
The journey through time: National Rail Museum
Back when the railways were the only mode of comfortable long-distance travel, it was all the rage for every minor royal to have a bogey of their own, decked out in full regal swag. This include’s the Viceregal’s Dining Car and the Majarajah of Mysore’s Rolling Saloon.Throw in some excellent railways memorabilia like the skull of an elephant that charged the UP mail in 1894 and you’ve got the playground of your dreams.
The old guard: National Police Museum
Tip your hat to these gallant men and women by celebrating their story. Through displays of weapons, evidence and visuals they tell a tale of devious detective methodology, forensic technology and tantalizing crimes through the years. Check out changing uniforms and protective gear and the development of the identity of our state force.