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The National Museum in New Delhi, also known as the National Museum of India, is one of the largest museums in India. Established in 1949, it holds a variety of articles ranging from pre-historic era to modern works of art. It functions under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The museum is situated on the corner of Janpath and Maulana Azad Road.[1] The blue–print of the National Museum had been prepared by the Gwyer Committee set up by the Government of India in 1946. The museum has around 200,000 works of art, both of Indian and foreign origin, covering over 5,000 years.

National Museum, New Delhi
National Museum New Delhi.jpg
National Museum, New Delhi is located in Delhi
National Museum, New Delhi
Location within Delhi
Established15 August 1949
LocationJanpath, New Delhi, India.
Coordinates28°36′43″N 77°13′09″E / 28.611811°N 77.219262°E / 28.611811; 77.219262
Key holdings
Collection size206,000 objects
Public transit accessDelhi Metro: Udyog Bhawan

It also houses the National Museum Institute of History of Arts, Conservation and Museology on the first floor which was established in 1983 and now is a Deemed University since 1989, and runs Masters and Doctoral level courses in History of Art, Conservation and Museology.[2]


The roots of the National Museum begin with an exhibition of Indian art and artefacts at the Royal Academy in London in the winter of 1947-48.[3] At the end of the London exhibition, the exhibition curators had decided to display the same collection intact in India before returning the artefacts to their individual museums. The Indian exhibition was shown at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in 1949, and was so successful that it led to the decision to form a permanent National Museum. On 15 August 1949, the National Museum was formally inaugurated by the then Governor-General of India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. At that time, it was decided that until a permanent home could be found for the collection, it would continue to be housed at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.[citation needed]

The cornerstone of the present museum building was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, on 12 May 1955, and the building formally opened to the public on 18 December 1960.[citation needed]

Today, the museum is administered and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Tourism.[3]

Departments and collectionsEdit

Reception of Museum
The Entrance Corridor of the National Museum housing artefacts on both the sides

Presently, there are several departments in the National Museum.

  • Pre-History Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Manuscripts
  • Numismatics & Epigraphy
  • Paintings
  • Arms & Armour
  • Decorative Arts
  • Central Asian Antiquities
  • Pre-Columbian Art
  • Jewellery
  • Anthropology
  • Education
  • Public Relations
  • Publication
  • Conservation
  • Display

The collections of the National Museum covers nearly all the departments. It represents almost all disciplines of art: Archaeology (Sculptures in Stone, Bronze & Terracota), Arms, Armour,[4] Decorative Arts, Jewellery, Manuscripts, Miniatures and Tanjore Paintings, Textiles, Numismatics, Epigraphy, Central Asian Antiquities, Anthropology, Pre-Columbian American and Western Art Collections.[5]

The museum has in its possession over 200,000 works of art, of both Indian and foreign origin, covering more than 5,000 years of the rich cultural heritage of different parts of the world. Its rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines which represents a unity amidst diversity, an unmatched blend of the past with the present and strong perspective for the future, brings history to life.


National Museum, Building Plan Outlay

  The National Museum building has two floors. It has a rotunda around which the structure is based.


Harappan GalleryEdit

A view of the Harappan Gallery
A view of the pottery from the Harappan gallery

The museum has various artefacts from the Harappan Civilization also known as Indus Valley Civilization or Indo- Saraswati. The whole collection of this gallery represents the advanced technology and sophisticated lifestyle of the Harappan people.

Most of the objects on display are permanent loans from the Archaeological Survey of India. Most famous among the objects are the Priest Head, the Dancing Girl[6] made in Bronze and belongs to the early Harappan period, Skeleton excavated from Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Terracotta images of Mother Goddess and Clay Pottery. Apart from these the gallery has Sculptures in Bronzes & Terracotta, Bone Objects, Ivory, Steatite, Semi-Precious Stones, Painted Pottery and Jewellery items.[7][8] Many seals have been discovered during numerous excavations. These seals were probably used for trading purposes. These seals depict bulls, elephants, unicorns, tigers, crocodiles, unknown symbols. On one of the seal, there is the depiction of Pasupati (Proto-Shiva of present age) The gallery presents the vibrancy of human civilization in India at par with the contemporary civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and China.

Among the artefacts, the most significant is the Dancing Girl which is a 4.5 inch bronze statue. It was discovered from Mohenjodaro. The name Dancing Girl was coined by Sir John Marshall. It is made by the Lost Wax Method. The Chola bronzes and the Dhokra castings are still made this way.

Maurya, Shunga and Satvahana Arts GalleryEdit

Maurya, Shunga and Satvahana Arts Gallery Artefacts

The gallery has objects from the 4th century BCE to the 1st century BCE. It has objects spanning three major dynasties; The Mauryas, the Shungas and the Satvahanas. Objects in the gallery have Greek influence characterized by the mirror like finishing. The gallery also houses fragments of railings from various ancient Stupas that are carved on with episodes from Buddha's Life. A major object is the one showing Sage Asita's visit to baby Siddharta and the Bharhut railings that depicts the story related to the Relics associated with Buddha by the sage Drona. A typical feature of the period to which objects in the gallery belongs to is that the sculpture do not depict Buddha in the physical form. He is always shown using symbols like the Dharmachakra, the Bodhi tree, empty throne, footprints, etc.

Kushana GalleryEdit

Kushana Gallery Artefacts

This gallery has art objects from the Kushan period (1st - 3rd century CE). The major school of arts were the Gandhara School of Art and the Mathura School of Art. The Gandhara school had huge influence of Greek Iconography and the themes were mainly Buddhist. Most prominent among the objects is the Standing Buddha, made in Grey schist stone in Gandhara School of Arts and it belongs to the 2nd century CE. This period was the first time when Buddha was shown in physical form. The Mathura school of arts had primary themes of Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism while the Gandhara Arts were primarily of Buddhist themes. Other sculptures include the Kuber (Hindu god of Fortune), the Chattramukhi Shivlinga, the Bodhisattva, and the Jain votive plaques.

Gupta GalleryEdit

Gupta Gallery Artefacts

As the name suggests, this gallery exhibits artefacts from the Gupta Dynasty (4th-6th centuries CE). Mathura and Sarnath were the main centres of artistic activity. Under the patronage of Gupta rulers, sculptures attained a perfection of form that set the standard for artistic beauty for the coming centuries. Major developments in iconography took place during this period. The sculptures started depicting beautifully proportioned figures with clear features.

At the entrance, there are two statues made of terracotta. The statues are of Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna. Ganga stands on her vehicle, Makara, which is a hybrid creature having the body of a crocodile and the tail of a fish and she holds a full pot of water. On the other hand, Yamuna stands on her vehicle which is a turtle and she also holds a pot of water. They were placed at the entrance of temple symbolizing a dip in the sacred rivers for purification.

  • Sculptures depicting scenes from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata
  • Sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Medieval Arts GalleryEdit

The sculptures from the Medieval Period are divided into two categories: Early and Late. The artefacts from the respective periods are divided into two galleries.

Early Medieval ArtefactsEdit

Early Medieval artefacts

This gallery has sculptures ranging from the 7th to 10th centuries. After the fall of the Gupta empire, the Indian subcontinent was divided and it was controlled by different dynasties in different parts of India like

There was a general decline in the artistic quality because of the limited number of master craftsmen and the large number of temples being built.

Late Medieval ArtefactsEdit

Late Medieval Artefacts

This gallery has sculptures ranging from the 10th to 13th centuries. The country was further sub divided into a number of separate principalities during this period.

The main artefacts in this gallery are:

  • Sun God
  • Saraswati, the Goddess of Music, Learning and Intelligence. Carved in Marble, the statue from Pallu, Rajasthan is a highly sophisticated and delicate work.

Decorative Arts GalleryEdit

Decorative Arts refer to Arts concerned with the design and decoration of objects that are prized for their utility, rather than for their purely aesthetic qualities. Ceramics, Pottery, Furniture, Textiles, Glassware, Metalware and Jewellery are all included under Decorative Arts. The Decorative Arts section is also divided into 2 galleries.

Decorative Arts Gallery 1Edit

Decorative Arts gallery 1

This gallery gives a glimpses of three collections of the museum - Ivory, Jade and Ceramics. The Ivory group has several Hindu and Christian religious figures. The Jade section showcases the utilitarian objects, while the glazed tiles and blue-white pottery are in the Ceramic group. The Gallery also has two interesting themes – Thrones of India, and Games and Leisure in the Past. The theme of thrones shows the evolution of the seat of power. From the low flat seats of antiquity to the modern armed chair, the journey of the throne is a fascinating story. An intricately carved Home Shrine and some metal Hindu and Jain pitikas (small seats for keeping idols for home shrines) are also present. The Jewel studded throne of the King of Varanasi is one of the best examples to show Power. The Games section has Rattles, Yo-Yo, Gamesman of Chess and Chaupar. Tops made of different materials with different designs are also exhibited. These artifacts combine the aesthetic and artistic elements to everyday objects used for games. The Jade Collection of the museum has interesting objects from the Mughal period.

Decorative Arts Gallery 2Edit

Decorative Arts gallery 2

This gallery has artifacts from the proto-historic period to the present day. The variety, quality and media did increase with the taste and status of different generations and the process is on even today. This gallery exhibits Metalware, Jewellery and Wooden objects. Most notable among the wooden objects are the Vahana on display.

Miniature Paintings GalleryEdit

View of the Mughal Miniature paintings section

The museum has over 17,000 miniature paintings. The gallery is divided according to the places and time where the schools of arts flourished. The paintings show the rich heritage of Indian Miniature Paintings. These paintings belong to major styles such as Mughal, Deccani, Central India, Rajasthani, Pahari and many sub-styles relating to the period from 1000 CE to 1900 CE. It includes paintings on Palm leaf, Cloth, Wood, Leather, Painted Manuscripts, Covers on Wood and Hardboard & Thankas on Canvas. The major theme of these miniatures are Kalpasutra, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Durgasaptasati, Ragamala, Baramasa, Panchatantra, Vishnu Purana, Shahnama and Baburnama

Mughal Miniature PaintingsEdit

Miniature painting flourished during Mughal rule.[9] Emperor Jahangir and Shahjahan were great patrons of art. In their courts, the painters adopted themes ranging from portraitures to landses, durbar scenes and processions for their works. The Deccani style was a fusion of Islamic idiom with indigenous art styles and of local classical traditions with elements of Persian and European Renaissance.

Central India Miniature PaintingsEdit

A view of the Central India Paintings Sections

Paintings from Central India include

Rajasthan Miniature PaintingsEdit

A view of the Rajasthani Paintings Sections

Rajasthani Miniatures flourished mainly in Mewar, Bundi, Kota, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner.

Mewar Miniatures are illustrating Hindu mythological themes. Bundi and Kota Miniatures excel in composition compactness. Hunting scenes are Kota's speciality. Bikaner excels in Portraire. Kishangarh is known for its Bani Thani, which portrays the model of an idealised and elegant woman.

Pahari Miniature PaintingsEdit

Pahari schools flourished mainly at Basohli, Chamba, Guler and Kangra. Under the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Kangra became the most prominent centre for the Pahari style.

Buddhist Artefacts GalleryEdit

Buddha's relics in the Museum

The Buddhist Art Section is most known for the Sacred Relics of Buddha (5th-4th century BC) unearthed from Piprahwa, Distt. Sidharth Nagar in Uttar Pradesh.[5] Outstanding specimens of Buddhist Art is illustrated through exhibits in Stone, Bronze, Terracota, Stucco, Wooden Sculptures & Painted Scrolls or Thankas from Nepal, Tibet, Central Asia, Myanmar, Java and Cambodia which represents the three principal Buddhist forms - Hinayana, Mahayana & Vajrayana. These objects stimulate a sense of Devotion, Dedication and Love for Humanity.

Evolution of Indian Scripts & Coins GalleryEdit

In this gallery, there are many large sized well-lit transparencies on show which are narrating the wonderful story of the development of various Indian Scripts and Coins.

Bronze GalleryEdit

Manuscripts GalleryEdit

The collection of manuscripts are in various languages and scripts covering a large number of subjects. They are written on different types of materials such as parchment, birch bark, palm leaf, cloth, paper and metals. All the manuscripts represent various religions and sects of the Indian Subcontinent covering the period from the 7th to the 19th centuries. Dated manuscripts elaborate the Indian history with authoritative authenticity.

Coins GalleryEdit

Coins Gallery

The Coins Gallery of the National Museum, New Delhi has been set in an innovative manner. It starts from the Cowries and ends at the Credit Cards. The entire history of Indian coinage from about 6th century BCE to the beginning of the 21st century is exhibited. There are various dioramas depicting various techniques of coin production. These coins are rich and authentic source of information on various aspects of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Indian History.

Central Asian GalleryEdit

Artefacts in the Central Asian Gallery

The vast and varied collection of this gallery was excavated, explored and collected by Sir Aurel Stein, one of the major archaeological explorers of early 20th century. He collected these cultural materials from more than 100 Ancient Cities along the Silk Route during three major expeditions carried out by him in 1900-1901, 1906-1908 and 1913-1916. The collection consists of wall paintings, painted silk banners, sculptures in wood, stucco and terracotta, coins, porcelain and pottery objects, leather, grass and fiber, precious items of gold and silver, religious and secular documents.

Maritime Heritage GalleryEdit

Tanjore and Mysore Paintings GalleryEdit

Tanjore & Mysore paintings gallery

This gallery exhibits the paintings from the two famous schools of South India - Tanjore and Mysore. The themes are Indian Mythology, Stories from Epics, Various Gods and Goddesses. The technique for making a Tanjore painting is also displayed with the help of seven paintings.

Textiles GalleryEdit

The Textiles Gallery exhibits the collection of Indian traditional textiles of the Later Mughal period. Cotton, Silk and Woolen textiles which are woven, printed, dyed and embroidered are exhibited in the gallery.

  • Royal Chamber: It is the particular area which exhibits the use of Textiles in Royal Style. The chamber has embroidered Silk Carpet on the floor. A Cloth Ceiling and printed Wall Clothes cover most of the area. The cover of Pillows have very minute zari and zardozi work on them.

Pre-Columbian and Western Arts GalleryEdit

The collections of this gallery were donated mostly by Mrs. And Mr. Nasli Heeramaneck of New York, in 1966.[10] The objects are primarily from before Christopher Columbus's discovery of North and South America, including objects from Mexico, Peru, Maya, Inca, North-West coast of America, Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Tribal Lifestyle of North East India GalleryEdit

This gallery is dedicated to the states of North-East India. The Eight States of North East are Called Seven Sisters and One Brother (Sikkim) States]]. The Eight States have a wealth of Cultural Handicraft, Performing Arts and Unique Traditions. This gallery exhibits traditional artefacts such as dresses, apparels, headgears, ornaments, paintings, basketry, wood carvings, smoking pipes and articles of personal adornments of various tribal groups.

Sharan Rani Bakliwal Musical Instruments GalleryEdit

The collection on display in the Musical Instrument Gallery was donated to the museum by Padamshree (Late) Mrs. Sharan Rani Backliwal, India's Sarod Maestro. This gallery has a collection of musical instruments in tribal, folk and classical groups. There are also a few 19th-century Western instruments. The collection is divided into three parts such as Wind Instruments, String Instruments and Percussion Instruments. This gallery also has a sculpture made in bamboo of Goddess Saraswati playing the Veena.

Wood Carving GalleryEdit

A View of the Wood Carving Gallery

The Wood Carving Gallery of the museum not only exhibits artefacts from India, but also from Nepal, Central India and Tibet. This gallery gives glimpses of India's wood carving tradition mainly belonging from 17th to 19th centuries illustrating the different styles of wood carvings from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa and South India.

Arms and Armour GalleryEdit

A view of the Gallery

This gallery exhibits arms from the Stone Age up to the Modern Age. The collection comprises edged weapons, projectiles, smashing weapons, sacrificial and ritual weapons, fire arms, armour for men and animals, ornamental and war accessories. The collection is predominantly Mughal in addition to Maratha, Sikh, Rajput arms which are also well represented.

Tradition, Art and ContinuityEdit

A Gallery with over 200 objects ranging from a wide geographical and social spectrum, acquired from private collectors was added to the museum on 6 February 2014. Various objects on display are a palanquin from the Santhal community, scroll paintings from West Bengal, textiles such as Phulkaris from Punjab and bronze sculptures from Bastar, besides terracotta works and basketry. The gallery is a rich representation of art from various parts of India.[11][12]


Beside the galleries, the museum also has an auditorium with a seating capacity of 250 people. A brief film introducing the museum and its collections is screened in the auditorium regularly. Film shows on art, historical and heritage are also shown.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ About us
  2. ^ National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology, website
  3. ^ a b "History of the National Museum". Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  4. ^ Pant, GN; K.K. Sharma (2001). Indian Armours in the National Museum Collection - A catalogue. National Museum, New Delhi.
  5. ^ a b Collection
  6. ^ "Treasures of National Museum, India - Google Arts & Culture". Google Cultural Institute. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  7. ^ National Museum, New Delhi
  8. ^ National Museum, New Delhi
  9. ^ "Treasures of National Museum, India - Google Arts & Culture". Google Cultural Institute. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  10. ^ Glueck, Grace (3 December 1966). "Heeramaneck, Dealer-Collector, Gives Pre-Columbian Art to India". New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  11. ^ New gallery at National Museum |
  12. ^ New gallery at National Museum