There is a lot we do not know about how things unfolded in the past. This past can be anything, ranging from how the Universe become what it is, how life started on Earth, how rulers and civilizations built their empires only to get wiped away by another ruler, etc. But because we as an individual do not know it, doesn’t mean that the knowledge is not available. It takes effort and interest to dive into history. It also matters how history is told. You may doze off or you may find yourself teleported to the era being discussed, depending on the style of storytelling. Owing to my insignificant knowledge about Indian history and of the people who have lived on this land before me, I went to the National Museum in New Delhi this weekend.
The minute I landed at the museum, I realized that for a person who neither has the knowledge nor a lot of interest in history, going to explore the museum solo was not a very wise decision. But whether you are alone or in a group, the architecture and the artifacts in the museum are definitely going to mesmerize you. There is a whole world to offer in this building. On the ground floor, one begins the tour by looking at the artifacts from different sites of the Harappan civilization. It follows with the Maurya period, and so on and so forth. The museum is like a bridge where the past meets the present. The combined efforts of the people in the past, who made these artifacts, and people in the present such as archaeologists and historians who excavated and interpreted these artifacts, provide us with a path to see the evolution of humans.
But as I said earlier, going alone and with no knowledge makes you go lost and bored on this path. And after walking blindly for half an hour, I asked a guard if there are any guides available. Luckily there was one, which was just starting, headed by a great volunteer guide Ms. Renu Sahu. With Ms. Sahu as the guide, the path into history now became an enjoyable ride. She not just explained maps, the significance of typical artifacts, but also shared stories associated with various times such as that of Ashoka, Buddha, Ramayan, etc. All this while speaking top-notch Hindi.
The tour of this double-storied museum took more than three hours. While on the ground floor were artifacts, the first floor displayed coins and paintings, and the second floor displayed things from tribal lifestyle, decorative arts, and textiles, musical instruments, etc.
The musical instruments section was very elaborate and much to my disbelief consisted of 207 musical instruments that were all donated by late Sharan Rani Backliwal, from her own personal collection. There was an instrument called “Raavanhatha” that according to Ms. Sahu could be played like a flute, or like a violin, or like a damru, and in many other forms.
It was indeed a remarkable experience. For the rich experience, the entry fee of Rs. 20 looks like peanuts. People who love history should not miss a chance to visit National Museum. People who have insignificant knowledge must also visit this great conglomeration of dynasties and lifestyles, only to appreciate that what journey India has traveled. Make sure you take a guided tour to know better. Live a good and an informed life.