New Delhi, India
June 13, 2004
By far the worst of the lot is the Kitchen Utensils Gallery. We were a bit surprised when the caretaker opened its bolted door with a flourish. I suppose we were expecting something interesting. What we saw instead was a large cupboard, with a few pots and pans of iron and clay.
The Museum, however, has two galleries that are a cut above the rest. The Miniature Paintings Galleryis one. Rajasthan has long been known for its exquisite miniatures, with a number of distinct schools of art flourishing all across the region. Although the paintings here have been executed by modern painters, the styles and subjects are traditional, and you’ll see some fine examples of art, including the famous Bani-Thani paintings of the Kishangarh school of art, the picchhwai paintings of Nathdwara, and more. The other room that’s good is the Rajasthani Living Style Gallery, which depicts a living room in a posh haveli- carpeted floors, bolsters, frescoes, and a hand-pulled fan dangling from the ceiling.
But before you start writing off the Museum as a dead loss, one word of caution: miss out on this place, and you may miss out on one of the finest examples of Shekhavati art anywhere. The haveli’s a riot of beautifully well-maintained frescoes, coverings vast stretches of walls. There are frescoes of kings playing pacheesi; of camel-mounted soldiers; of queens with ladies-in-waiting; of the Lord Krishna cavorting with his beloved gopis (cowgirls). And, with the quirky sense of humour that pervades much of Shekhavati art, there is also a fresco of a train (Anandilal Poddar, who built the haveli in 1902, actually sent the artist all the way to Bombay to see what a train looked like, as Shekhavati had no trains at the time). There is a painting of a motorcar, there are elegant pillars and fine arches, cool courtyards and gleaming brass doors. There is, despite the disappointing collection in the museum, ample reason to come visiting.
From journal Shekhavati: The Open Air Art Gallery