New Delhi, India
December 30, 2006
We entered at the gate of the Sanskriti Kendra (literally, the 'Culture Centre’) and made our way to the reception area, where Supriya told us a bit about the layout of the museums. She then left us to do our own thing, and we wandered off to the Museum of Indian Terracotta. The museum spreads out across a series of interconnected rooms daubed with mud to look like rural houses- very quaint.
Terracotta has been an important part of life in India for thousands of years; in fact, in some places, patterns used today resemble the pottery made by the people of the Indus Valley civilisation 3,000 years ago. There are many variations of terracotta, with red or black ware being made in different regions. Icons, especially of Hindu deities, are common, as are depictions of birds and animals. The museum houses examples of these, arranged in order of state or region. There are statues, large urns, jars, pitchers, platters, and even mud walls painted with traditional art used to decorate terracotta. Not a large display by any means, but pleasant enough. Outside the museum, a group of traditional potters were at work, from whom we bought a lovely little birdbath for Rs 300.
From the Museum of Indian Terracotta, we walked on, to the Museum of Everyday Art, a large hall that Supriya got unlocked for us. This museum is enough reason to visit the Sanskriti Kendra. It offers an interesting insight into the traditional art forms that used to permeate (and still do, to a sadly decreasing extent) daily life in India. From carefully carved wooden toys to huqqa bases, from little idols of deities to pots and pans - houses in India have used the work of skilled artisans in items that would have otherwise been pretty mundane. Bidri ware (gunmetal inlaid with silver); copper, brass, bronze, carved wood, ivory, silver: it’s all here, in a rich variety of forms from across India.
The exhibits are arranged in a series of glass cases, all well labelled and very user-friendly. Items are grouped in order of usage: toys and items to be used by children; items used in smoking; writing instruments, pen cases and inkpots; kitchen utensils; items that were part of a woman’s beauty kit; religious items; and so on. Among the most imposing is a large hundred-year old accountant’s ledger, covered in beautifully stamped leather, all of 700-odd pages thick.
Very impressive. Like the museum itself. Both museums are open from 10am to 5pm daily, except Mondays.
From journal The Museums of Delhi