Maharashtra has a robust museum tradition. In fact, the state is home to one of the oldest museums in India, the Central Museum in Nagpur, which was established in 1863. At present, there are 13 government museums in different parts of Maharashtra under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. They display the historical development of Maharashtra by exhibiting various artefacts and art objects in their respective collections which are primarily collected through excavations, explorations and donations.
On the occasion of International Museum Day 2021, here's a list of six lesser-known museums in the state that narrate its social and cultural history.
New Palace, Kolhapur
The erstwhile residence of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj depicts an amalgamation of British
and Hindu architecture. It exhibits a fine collection of descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharajji from costumes and weapons to games, jewellery, embroidery and interesting paraphernalia such as silver elephant saddles. One of Aurangzeb's swords is also displayed here. Another interesting feature is that every glass here exhibits paintings that describe Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja’s life events. It represents the diverse interests, accomplishments, relations and lifestyles of the royal family of Kolhapur. The palace is surrounded by a lush garden, a beautiful lake and a zoo.
Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune
Established by Dr. D. G. Kelkar, in 1962, it has a collection of 21,000 artefacts belonging to different parts of the world which were collected by Dr. D. G. Kelkar. He had built this museum as a tribute to his son, who died at the young age of seven. It displays an impressive collection of musical instruments, Mughal lamps, antiques, and paintings from mythological epic Ramayana, Ganpati's guns, a Persian set of cards, pottery collection, and statues of Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The museum's collection depicts the skills of the Indian artists of the time, including the prominent works of Pandit Abhijeet Joshi. One of the key attractions of the museum is the Mastani Mahal which displays luxurious décor, grand chandeliers and artistic paintings.
According to Sudhanva Ranade, Director of Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Dr Kelkar was an optician by profession and a poet by passion. He started collecting artefacts and objects of antique value out of his love for heritage and history. If one wants to know the culture and way of life of any country, museum is the best medium.
The museum now offers virtual tours for the art and history enthusiasts.
Central Museum, Nagpur
The Nagpur Central Museum, popularly known as Ajab Bangla, is one of the oldest museums in India. It hosts a vast array of sculptures, ancient inscriptions, paintings, Mughal and British weaponry, coins and pre-historic findings. The museum has an anthropological gallery with a dedicated section on birds, reptiles and mammals, which have been stuffed and preserved in their original shapes and sizes. One of the dinosaur's fossils is almost 67.5 million years old. There is also a tribal gallery, where one can find personal objects used by tribals like boomerangs, tobacco boxes, etc.
Thiba Palace Museum, Ratnagiri
The palace was built to house King Thibaw, the last king of Burma (now Myanmar) who was placed under house arrest by the British. The architecture bears a remarkable significance to the Burmese culture, with its semi-circular wooden windows, beautiful carvings, and a marble floored dancing hall. It is now a museum that houses artefacts belonging to the royal family.
Cavalry Tank Museum, Ahmednagar
It is the only museum of its kind in Asia and is home to an enormous collection of tanks used by various rulers over the ages. The museum is a testament to the evolution of tanks over the years - it displays around 50 armoured cars and light tanks from different countries like Pakistan, Germany and Japan. The Mark-I fitted with a tractor engine is from the World War I period and is a major attraction here. The oldest exhibit is the silver Ghost Rolls Royce Armoured Car.
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The RBI Monetary Museum in Fort, Mumbai
The museum’s collection of coins numbers over a thousand, starting from 500 B.C. to the present day. It showcases the evolution of money over the centuries, and how and why gold still holds an important place in our society and also about the genesis of RBI. The museum also features a 7 ft. ‘Yap’ Stone, an interactive exhibit on gold mining, a 12 ft. high sculpture, and more.