The ides of August is a time when people are struck by both happiness and nostalgia. While India celebrates its Independence Day on August 15, one is also reminded of the Great Divide, in which the subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947.
In order to revisit and understand this past, some people read books, while others listen to oral histories. In an attempt to memorialise the memories of those who were part of the partition and make it accessible to others, the Partition Museum was opened in Amritsar, Punjab. An idea that was incepted in 2015, and grew into a project in 2017, this is the world’s first museum on a the partition of India and Pakistan.
The museum, located in Town Hall in Amritsar is a space filled with memories and objects donated by partition families. That is, perhaps, why it wishes to be known as a People’s Museum, narrating the Independence movement and its aftermath via the experience of the people.
The exhibits has 14 galleries, which are divided by chronological themes—Why Amritsar?, Punjab, Resistance (1900-1929), The Rise (1930-1945), Differences, Prelude to Partition, Boundaries, Independence, Borders, Migration, Divisions, Hope, and lastly, Refuge.
The galleries display the possessions (now artifacts) that were carried by people across the border at the brink of partition. We see a trunk box, in which precious belongings were stowed while fleeing, antique coins, and a brass plate that was gifted by a migrant's family friend from in Pakistan. Besides these carefully saved personal items, the museum also showcases art that is influenced by the partition—works by Satish Gujral, Krishen Khanna, S.L. Parasher, Arpana Caur. The themes of anguish, confusion, a search for identity are common in these paintings.
Archives of documents such as photographs, notices, posters, newspaper clippings from the pre-Independence era and post-partition period are also framed for visitors to see. This allows one to know more about the history in text books through items like the newspaper reports on the day of Independence, video clips of migration between the two countries, the official proclamation for the Swadeshi movement and more. As it is a multi-media experience, visitors can also view video clips of oral histories narrated by over a 100 people, each speaking about their experience of the partition.
The Partition Museum has been built with an aim to be a resource for historians, and those interested in knowing more about the Partition. They invite people with stories and objects from the time to come forward, and make these memories accessible to many others.
Read more about the museum here.
Getting There: One can take a direct flight or train to Amritsar from Delhi and Mumbai.The museum is open from Tuesday—Sunday from 10pm to 6pm. It is shut on national holidays and Mondays.