PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM – Mumbai
PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM – Mumbai
PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM
Amid the hustle and bustle of Mumbai stand some stately buildings, remnants of the British Raj. Among them is that of the Prince of Wales Museum, named after Prince George (Later George V) who visited India in 1905 and laid the foundation stone of the building. Not far from the museum, its architect George Wittet also built the famous Gateway of India on the seafront, nearthe Taj Mahal Hotel. Through the arch the Prince made his royal entrance to India as King George V for the Delhi Darbarin 1911.
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
Designed by George Wittet, the foundation stone was laid in 1905 by the
visiting Prince of Wales. The building was completed in 1914, converted to a military hospital durina World War I, and Finally opened in ] 923 by Lady Lloyd, the wife of Sir George Lloyd, the then governor.
The Exquisite Indo-Saracenic Architectural Style Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, the facing is done in yellow and blue stones quarried from the Mumbai region. The dome is modeled after the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka. It incorporates a variety of details from different Indian styles, small bulbous cupolas on towers, Saracenic arches with Muslim ‘Jalis’ as fillers, semi-open verandahs and Rajput ‘Jharokhas’.
The structure forms a long rectangle of three storeys, raised in the Centre to accommodate the entrance porch. Above the central arched entrance rises a huge dome, tiled in white and blue flecks, supported on a lotus- petal base. Around the dome is an array of pinnacles, each topped by a miniature dome. Indian motifs such as brackets and protruding eaves are combined with so-called Islamic archesand tiny domes.
The plan of the Museum is simple, with a central hall from which the staircase leads to the two upper floors with galleries branching out on the right and left. An extension on the right-hand side of the main building (as you stand facing its front entrance) houses the natural history section. The second floor houses the Indian miniature painting gallery, the pride of the museum, and next to it are the galleries of decorative art and, to the left of the central well of the staircase, the gallery of Tibetan and Nepali art. Above, on the second floor are the
EUROPEAN PAINTING, ARMOURY AND TEXTILE GALLERIES.
Galleries In the Museum There’s a lot to see in the Prince of Wales Museum and one will be doing oneself a disservice if one rushes to see it all in one go. To walk around the key gallery is like experiencing 5,000 years of Indian art in a capsule.
THE MINIATURE PAINTINGS
An excellent collection of Indian miniature paintings occupies much of the second floor, but they’re poorly presented apart from those displayed in helpful thematic groups. Display Of Nepalese & Tibetan Art
This floor also has fine examples of Nepalese and Tibetan art, including a beautiful 12th century Maitreya, with his head surrounded by a halo, slightly inclined. The gentle, sensuous curves of the torso are draped in garments and jewelled chains to suggest texture and movement. The Tata family, a large industrial house with interests in the sciences and the arts, donated the collection displayed in the Nepal and Tibet gallery. The Buddhist and Hindu images in metal are gilded, and studded with gems. Statuettes of Tara, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, Vajradhara, Lord of the Thunderbolt, and of Lakshmi Narayana are studded with turquoise, ruby and diamond. Most beautiful of all is tiny Avalokitesvara from Nepal, of the 17th centuries.
SHOWCASING INDIAN PRE-HISTORY
On the mezzanine level, there’s a small gallery devoted to Indian prehistory and protohistory. It consists largely of primitive tools and ornaments excavated by Sir John Marshall in Mohenjodaro in 1922.
THE GROUND FLOOR GALLERY
In the ground floor gallery are impressive local sculptures from Elephanta Island, Parel, Thane and Jogeshwari. The Elephonta sculptures include a composed four-headed Brahma, a dramatic portion of the Buffalo Demon being killed by Devi, and a fragment of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati accompanied by a splendid dwarf.
THE NATURAL HISTORY SECTION
The Natural History Section was added to the museum from the collection of the Bombay Natural History Society. This section on the ground floor has a large selection of Indian birds, a low-tech but educational exhibit on snakes, and stuffed examples of the usual suspects ranging from rhinos to monkeys and lions to deer. The highlight is definitely the freakish 20-foot-long Saw Fish that must have shocked fishermen when they hauled it up in their nets in the waters off Government House in 1938. All the exhibits are well labeled.
Timings: 10.15 am to 6.00 pm. Closed On: Mondays.
HOW TO GET THERE
Nearest station: Churchgate (Western Railway) Mumbai CST (Central Railway). Visitors can easily access the museum by buses run by BEST from both these rail terminals.
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