Patna's must visit destination

Patna's must visit destination

Bihar Museum is considered world class and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very much impressed with it during his recent visit to Patna. "Faith inspires viewing. The exhibition encourages curiosity. Best place to experience history and culture's heritage. Congratulations," Modi wrote in Gujarati when he made an unscheduled visit to the newly-inaugurated Bihar Museum. Enamoured  with the grandeur of the museum, the Prime Minister, who was in Patna to attend the centenary celebrations of Patna University, expressed his desire to visit the museum.

With Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as the 'gracious guide', Modi spent around 30 minutes at the museum, which was inaugurated on October 2. After experiencing the history and cultural heritage, Modi praised it by writing in his mother tongue in the museum's digital visitor's book. The museum director JPN Singh eventually took the help of a Gujarati historian to get it translated into English.

Spread across 13.3 acres with a built-up area of 2.5 lakh sq feet, the museum has been constructed on Bailey Road at a cost of whopping Rs 517 crore.

The brainchild of Nitish, the museum has seven galleries -– orientation, children's, history, visible storage, historical art, regional art, Bihar diaspora-- to take visitors through the journey across time. "With luminous interiors, galleries showcasing Bihar's heritage and its contribution to the world civilisation, artefacts, figurines and statuettes of Buddha and Mahavira, besides Nalanda University, the new museum is billed as an essential stop for tourists,"   Dr Ranbeer Singh Rajput, Curator, Bihar Museum, told DH.

"The best of global experts were hired before the construction work for Bihar Museum started in 2013. While Canada-based Lord Cultural Resources was the master consultant, the Japanese firm Maki and Associates was its main architectural consultant," Museum Director JPN Singh said.

Each of the galleries gives the visitor easy access to state's rich history. For example, in the historical art gallery, the 'Didarganj Yakshi' - considered to be a unique and outstanding piece of Indian art - is a prime attraction. The Yakshi was made some 2,000 years ago, most probably during Emperor Ashoka's reign. It is carved out of single piece of bluff-coloured sand stone. This highly polished life-size sculpture was discovered by Maulvi Ghulam Rasool at Didarganj near Patna in 1917, exactly 100 years ago.

At the Bihari Diaspora gallery, one can see pictures on how the first wave of Bihari migration occurred in the 19th century after the abolition of slavery in England in 1834. In the 19th century, extreme deprivation and repressive colonial governance in Indian villages had forced many people to migrate to port cities like Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai). "This gallery explores the contribution of migrants from Bihar in the history and culture of lands where they settled, such as Mauritius, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago," explained the official.

Bihar Museum is in addition to the Patna Museum, which  was established in 1917. "Patna Museum has a large number of exhibits and artefacts but it was facing shortage of space to even display them.They were just stored there. We saw 50 statues were kept in one room. People would come and see without even knowing about them," lamented Nitish.

 "It was then that a decision was taken to construct a new museum where artefacts could be kept safe and with proper display and lighting, which was not possible at Patna Museum," said Nitish.

But that does not mean Patna Museum, which is celebrating its centenary year, will be closed down. "Patna Museum is the third oldest museum in the country after Calcutta and Chennai. It will be refurbished, modernised and beautified. The exhibits will be showcased in a proper manner. Those who want to know the history of Bihar and India will have to visit both the museum," said Nitish, clearing the air that the old museum won't face closure.

Patna Museum is, in fact, one of the best museums in the country and provides an insight into history, culture and art tradition of the land. The museum has thousands of exhibits of varied nature, including pre-and-proto objects, stone sculpture, bronze items, terracotta, miniature paintings, Thanka paintings, coins and other miscellaneous art objects.

Now with the establishment of Bihar Museum, some of the antiques  were shifted from Patna Museum to Bihar Museum. Historians are, however, not very happy  with the move. "When you uproot a rich museum like Patna Museum, you uproot history. Some people talk about lack of space and improper display and lighting of artefacts at Patna Museum but they should know that the museum was started in 1917 when there was no clear concept of arranging, displaying, lighting of artefacts. The concept of exhibiting historical and pre-historical objects started in the 1940s when museology became a separate discipline,"  said noted historian, OP Jaiswal, a former member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

The retired professor, however, added that "Bihar Museum is a positive development. It's a well-crafted museum and will soon become an global institute of repute. But at the same time, Patna Museum too should be preserved and its dignity saved."


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