Indian Museum to observe its 205th anniversary

Specimens of Bharhut sculpture at Indian Museum, Kolkata. Photo by Indian Museum

The Indian Museum in Kolkata will observe its 205th anniversary on February 2 with a special focus on 2300-year-old artifacts belonging to the 2nd Century BC.

Elaborate discussions and a lecture on the sculptures by eminent art historian R N Misra will be held. Indian Museum was established on February 2, 1814. An exhibition will also be held on the occasion.

The Bharhut sculptures belonging to the 2nd Century BC which were discovered in 1860s from Satna in Madhya Pradesh by a British government official Sir Alexander Cunnigham and were brought to the Indian Museum. The sculptures are etched on stone panels which were parts of a railing of an ancient Buddhist stupa in Satna.

“There are five parts of the Bharhut collections majority of which are with the Indian museum. However, a crucial part was lost in the Indian Ocean due to shipwreck when it was being taken to London for an exhibition,” Rajesh Purohit, Director of the Indian Museum told DH.

He also said that a small part of the collection is at Allahabad Museum, another one is at Bharat Kala Bhavan under Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi and a few sculptures are in Satna.

The Bharhut sculptures mainly belong to the Shunga period of 2nd Century BC, which succeeded the Mauryan era. The last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty was defeated by a general called Pushyamitra Shunga who later became a King.

One of the Bharhut sculptures on display at the Museum depicts a composite human-animal image resembling an Egyptian sphinx. It also displays features similar to Greek sculpture.

“ A similar statue of an animal with a human face is also on display at the Egyptian Gallery of the Indian Museum. It is almost 4000 years old,” said Dr Purohit.

Among other specimens, there are stone panels on which the stories of Gautam Buddha from his earlier births are etched.

One of the stories etched on the panel depicts the life of Buddha when he was born as golden dear, a leader of his herd. The herd lived in a royal park which belonged to King.

“ In a bid to save his herd Buddha used to sent one of the members every day for the King to hunt. But one day it was turn for a pregnant doe. Buddha offered himself to save the doe. The sculpture shows human emotions such as kindness depicted through animals,” said Purohit.

 

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