|CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA
|(FORMERLY PRICE OF WALES MUSEUM OF WESTERN INDIA)
|As you walk down the Gateway of India towards Flora Fountain,
you'll be greeted by the unmistakable hustle and bustle of Bombay. You'll
also see an imposing dome-shaped structure. The Prince of Wales
Museum. Spend a few hours inside the portals of the structure and you'll
witness centuries of art and architecture unfolds its magic in a kaleidoscopic
display of colours and images.
|This solid structure of basalt stone, with a big
dome, surrounded by beautifully laid gardens is built on a spot of land known
as the 'crescent site', because of its shape. Situated near the
University Building to its West and the Gateway of India to its South, the
museum is visited by more than a million people every year. The history
of the museum goes back to 1901, when Mr. Henry Cousens succeeded in persuading
the government to shift its military offices from the Town Hall and assemble
there the collection of antiquities gathered by him. Various institutes like
the Bombay Natural History Society, the Anthropological Society, the Victoria
and Albert Museum and the J. J. J. School of Art also exhibited their
|The museum movement received a fillip in 1905 when
the people of Bombay decided to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales by
setting up a museum.
|The process of collection of objects in a museum is a
gradual one. However, the Prince of Wales Museum was particularly lucky
in its earlier stages. The acquisition in 1915 of the collections of Sir
Purushottam Mavji, the munificent gift in 1921 by Sir Ratan Tata, and in 1933
by Sir Dorab Tata of their valuable art collection form the nucleus of the
museum's art section. The transfer of sculptures and coins of the defunct
Poona Museum, the collections of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
consisting of valuable sculptures and epigrams, and the co-operation between
the Board of Trustee and the Bombay Natural History Society, helped in setting
up the archaeological and natural history sections.
|The emphasis has been primarily on the development of
Indian paintings, sculpture and decorative art, and this includes some of the
finest examples of ivory carving, woodwork, metal work and textiles. The
architecture of the Prince of Wales Museum can be broadly described as a
British interpretation of the Mughal period. The structure forms a long
rectangle of three storeys, raised in the centre to accommodate the entrance
porch. Above the central arched entrance rises a huge dome, tiled in
white and blue flecks, supported on a lotus - petal base. Around the dome
is an array of pinnacles, each topped by a miniature dome. Indian motifs
like the brackets and protruding caves are combined with so-called Islamic
arches and tiny domes. The whole museum complex is situated in a garden
of palm trees and formal flower beds.
|The museum's collection of Indian miniature paintings
represent all the facets of painting from illustrated palm leaf manuscripts of
the 11th / 12th centuries to the early 19th century 'pahari' paintings. The
main schools of Indian paintings viz. Mughal, Rajasthani, Pahari and Deccani
are well represented. The collection is specially rich in the paintings
of the Sultanate period. The collections of sculptures, though modest,
are some of the finest of the Chalukyan period. The terracotta figures
from Mirpurkhas is Sind of the early 5th century show the classical face of
Gupta art, and the sculptures of the Rashtrakuta period from Elephanta are
replete with strength and noble modeling unknown elsewhere.
|Similarly, the ivories of the Gupta period are
unique. The minuteness of the details and nobility of the figures are typical
of the Gupta period.
|Amongst its decorative are sections are textiles,
ivories, Mughal jades, silver, gold and artistic metalware. There is also
a rich collection of European paintings, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, ivory
and jade artefacts.
|To facilitate the study of art, history and
archaeology, the museum has started a research institute affiliated to the
University of Bombay.
|The museum's natural history section is a
well-maintained showcase of Indian wildlife. The use of habitat group
cases and dioramas have added a charm to the systematic presentation.
Diagrams and charts make the presentation instructional. Of particular
interest are the cases of flamingo colonies, Indian hornbill, Indian bison, and
the tiger. The Prince of Wales Museum has always aimed at being a centre
of education and not merely a showplace. Its various projects amply
demonstrate its intention to serve the people. The museum is a vital link
between the past and the present and an important centre of culture and