Have you been to the oldest museum in Mumbai yet?

Real museums are places where time is transformed into space. ~ Orhan Pamuk

I have always enjoyed trips to museums. My penchant for a visit to museums goes back to my school days when our teachers would take us for trips to museums and gardens. In most of the cities that I have visited, I have gone to see the city museum to get a hang of the history and heritage of the place. I find the museums to be treasure houses of wealth where one gets to see and know how generations have lived and progressed through the ages, understand their way of life, and appreciate their art and culture. Furthermore, the entry to most of the museums is either free or highly subsidised.

The oldest museum in Mumbai

Last weekend, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the oldest museum in Mumbai. Needless to say, I was more than happy at the suggestion. Off we went to see Mumbai’s city museum, which was first opened to the public in 1872 as Victoria and Albert Museum. The readers of this blog may recall that some time back I had written about my visit to the  Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur

So, we got to know the museum was renamed in 1975 in honour of Dr Bhau Daji Lad, the first Indian Sheriff of Mumbai, a philanthropist, historian, physician, surgeon, who had played a key role in establishing the museum.

Inside the BDL museum complex

The museum building is located inside Jijamata Udyan in Byculla East. It was the first colonial building to be built for the purpose of housing a museum, which makes it a historically significant building. A clock tower at the entrance of the complex serves as a landmark for the museum complex. The path to the museum is lined with trees and a small landscaped lawn.

ClockTower

A flight of steps lead to the museum door.

BDLMuseumEntrance

Just on entering the museum, we could see the ornate interiors of the museum hall, with galleries on either side. Richly coloured details, the intricate woodcarving, tiled floors, etched glass and gold gilding make it a unique example of Victorian architecture in India. Armed with my cell phone, I went on a clicking spree to capture the beauty that I was seeing in front of my eyes.

BDLMuseumHall

The museum has a rare collection of early art and design practices from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. The exhibits on display show how communities from countries such as Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, and different states in India had migrated over the centuries to settle in Mumbai and made it their home. Among the displays is a statue of Mumba Devi, the goddess in whose honour the city of Mumbai is named.

I noticed a crew of what seemed like a film unit shooting a documentary in the museum, with one of the TV personalities (Krushna Abhishek) as the anchor. Standing beside us was a girl from the curatorial team of the museum. She told us that they were shooting for The History Channel. She also told us about events that they organise at the museum including guided tours, photography festival, plays, free workshops, and family activities.

After seeing the exhibits in the display we went around the complex and headed to the curio shop, and then to the cafeteria. At the cafeteria, a film was showing on the TV screen on how the museum had turned into a dilapidated structure and was restored back to its present condition in 2007. The restoration began in 2003 and took four years to complete.

BDLMuseumCafeteria

We came to know that the BDL museum is managed by a public-private partnership, between the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). It is an appreciable initiative of the Municipal Corporation to encourage people to visit the museum and know about the history and culture of the city.

Outside the museum is the installation of the monolithic basalt elephant sculpture recovered from the sea, which originated from Elephanta Island (Gharapuri Island). The stone elephant was carved in the 6th century from a single piece of rock. On the other end of the sculpture is the entrance to the Mumbai Zoo.

Elephant,BDLMuseum

The history associated with the elephant sculpture is fascinating. In the 16th century, the Portuguese colonisers saw the Elephant sculpture at one of the entrances to the Gharpuri island. So impressed they were with it that they renamed the island as Elephanta Island. In the 19th century, the British attempted to carry the Elephant to England. When the sculpture was being lifted, the crane broke, shattering the Elephant into several pieces. The fragments were brought to Victoria Garden (Jijamata Udyan) and were reintegrated by the curator of the museum. Since then it stands in a fence outside the museum.

I sincerely suggest that every resident of Mumbai and visitors should add the BDL Museum in their To Visit list. You can visit their website (http://www.bdlmuseum.org/) and check out their events. I end this post with the quote:

It’s not a museum. It’s not a place of artifacts. It is a place of ideas.  ~ Jeanie Kahnke

 

 

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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there ! I am a management and leadership coach and a ‘çlinical blogger’. Well, that’s what my family & friends call me now ! Here, I tell stories of different brands, how people relate to the brands and the values, beliefs and emotions that they associate with the brands. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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34 thoughts on “Have you been to the oldest museum in Mumbai yet?

  • May 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm
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    It indeed is a place worth visiting. I was lucky to visit this place once. It left me spell bound.

    Reply
    • May 5, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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      This looks like a palace. I too was awed to see how well they have restored the interiors. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Reply
  • May 6, 2017 at 8:37 am
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    Will try to visit it on my next visit to Mumbai. Thanks Somali Ji for the information and sharing of your experience of visiting this place.

    Reply
  • May 6, 2017 at 12:43 pm
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    Somali, I often wonder why I don’t come across blogs on such places in Mumbai? I haven’t been able to answer that. Or may be i’m not following the right kind of bloggers who write about such interesting places. It’s an interesting read. Hope to read more such posts.

    Reply
    • May 6, 2017 at 6:36 pm
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      Arv, it is indeed very heartening for me to see that the information is of interest to people from the younger generations such as you as well. Thank you so much. 🙂

      Reply
      • May 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm
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        I’m sure a good blog post is always a great resource. ☺

        Reply
  • May 6, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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    Oh my, what a fantastic building Somali.. And so love museums .. And would seek them out in places around the world I have visited.. Such stunning architecture 🙂

    PS also loving your new blog lay out too Somali.. very impressive 🙂 <3 xxx

    Reply
    • May 6, 2017 at 6:52 pm
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      Hello Sue, Lovely to hear from you, and to know that you love going to museums.
      The architectural excellence makes the building more interesting. This reminds me that the first museum that I had visited in UK was the Brighton Museum. It was so beautiful and had a massive collection. I has first seen an Egyptian mummy there. At London, I lived in Russell Square for a year. I would spend a lot of time in the British museum, which was a 10 min walk from my residence.
      Happy to know that you like the new lay out, Thank you so much, Sue. Love & Regards. 🙂

      Reply
      • May 7, 2017 at 4:59 pm
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        Wonderful to know you once lived in London Somali.. 🙂 I have visited London only a couple of times..The museums there are brilliant.. I have Not been to Brighton. I found your post very interesting Somali..
        wishing you a lovely week my friend xx Hugs Sue xx

        Reply
  • May 7, 2017 at 3:32 am
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    Hi Somali,

    I too enjoy visiting museums but my hubby gets bored very easily and therefore couldn’t visit many! One museum that we really enjoyed visiting was Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York. It is dedicated to the art, history and science of glass.

    Your description, as always is so captivating! The grandeur and glory of the place can be seen in your pictures. Thanks for sharing so many details!
    I loved reading it and also love your new blog! 🙂

    Reply
    • May 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm
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      A museum dedicated to everything about glass sounds quite interesting.
      Am glad that you enjoyed reading about the BDL museum.
      It took me quite some time and rounds of trials and errors to merge both my blogs. It is nice to know that you like the new look of the blog.Thank you so much, Balroop. 🙂

      Reply
  • May 7, 2017 at 7:46 am
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    I’m happy to read how the museum wasn’t left to dilapidate and has been renovated. A country’s history is invaluable. Gorgeous photos and excellent descriptions. I hope you and your husband had a grand day!

    Reply
    • May 7, 2017 at 6:37 pm
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      So true, Rose. A country’s history is invaluable. Had the museum not been renovated, the building would have been in shambles, and the artifacts lost. Yes, we had a great day. Thank you dear Rose.

      Reply
  • May 7, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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    Beautiful Pictures and great essay. Brings back so many memories, visiting this place when I was a kid. The last time I have been there was in 1995 with my brother-in-law. Would love to show it to my daughter some day. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • May 7, 2017 at 6:45 pm
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      Thank you Piya. So much time has elapsed since 95 but still remember those days vividly, Do visit the museum with Mili when you are in Mumbai. 🙂

      Reply
  • May 8, 2017 at 12:15 am
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    I didn’t know about this museum. I also love visiting museums and have been to the Indian Museum in Kolkata a number of times. On my next visit to Mumbai, I’ll try to cover this.

    Reply
    • May 8, 2017 at 4:56 am
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      Indian museum in Kolkata – is that the Victoria Museum or another one? My daughter has seen more museums and places in kolkata than i have. You should try out this one in your next visit. 😊

      Reply
  • May 8, 2017 at 8:02 am
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    You talked about the beautiful architecture of the museum. It’ll be definitely in my list when I’ll be in Mumbai.

    Reply
  • May 16, 2017 at 2:07 am
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    Hi Somali, so well said, museums are a wonderful window to world we have left behind and though we see its glimpses through the documentaries and movies, we keep reading about our history, culture and how our forefathers and different generations across the world use to live. But getting a opportunity see and feel it, is indeed a fascinating experience and we do so only when we land in such museums and we are immediately transported into the history and when cherish such moments when see it through our own eyes. There are so much of our history lost and there are only that much we are able to preserve and pass the legacy from one generation to the next.

    Though I have not visited this museum, the way you have described and shared your experience I am tempted and will make it a point in my next visit to Mumbai, after all in Mumbai we have so much to do and to see, every time we go we miss out one thing or the other, and it keeps happening with me.
    😀

    Reply
    • May 16, 2017 at 5:34 pm
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      Well said Nihar. Museums have the environment that transport us back into time and through the exhibits we get to see and get a feel of the lives of the generations that had lived before us and their social activities.
      In your next visit to Mumbai maybe you can take out some time to visit the museum. 🙂

      Reply
      • May 17, 2017 at 2:44 am
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        Yes, Somali, it is always a good idea to find time and experience the change by going to such historical and cultural places, otherwise we have become so much disconnected by ironically getting excessively connected to the digital world, we have ceased to expand our horizon of thinking and looking at things from a totally different perspective…we are getting conditioned by the rules and games of the virtual world.
        In fact now many children who have never been and seen the village life are being taken to village to give them that experience and it is no less than taking them to a museum and showing them the past life…
        😀

        Reply
    • May 29, 2017 at 2:36 pm
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      Thank you Vishal. It seems that not many people do not know about this museum. However, it is a good place to visit. Just read your post on SoBo. Simply wonderful!

      Reply

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