Take A Trip Down Memory Lane By Visiting These Famous Museums Of Bengal

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Kolkata is a city rich in tradition, culture, and history. It has managed to preserve not just its own but the heritage of the country in the various museums located across the city. Travel back in time by exploring museums dedicated to famous personalities, ancient practices, tribal culture as well as rare collections of models, statues, paintings, antiques and memorabilia exhibited in these popular museums (some of which are not as popular but definitely worth a visit) of Bengal that tell stories of the past.

Victoria Memorial

If you want a snapshot of India’s past particularly during the British era, this is where you need to go. One of the city’s most iconic locations, Victoria Memorial is the first place every tourist to the city heads to. The sparkling white marble structure of the Victoria Memorial was commissioned by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, to commemorate the demise of Queen Victoria back in 1901 (although it wasn’t completed until 20 years after her death). Inside, there’s more to see than you would think. The main attraction is the soaring central chamber. The Calcutta Gallery is an excellent exhibition tracing the city’s colonial-era history. The museum also houses a number of Queen Victoria’s personal belongings.

Mother's Wax Museum

Touted as the first wax museum in India, the Mother's Wax Museum houses life-size wax figurines of famous people. Modelled on the famous Madame Tussauds museum, this place consists of wax statues of more than 19 eminent personalities from India. From Rabindranath Tagore to Kapil Dev, from Mithun Chakrabarty to Mahatma Gandhi and many others, are exhibited in picture-perfect settings. Did you know that the museum has been named after Mother Teresa? Well, now you do.

Netaji Bhawan

This old house opposite Forum Mall is now a storehouse of all things ‘Netaji’. The museum will give you a really interesting parallel understanding of the history of Indian independence. The biggest attraction is Netaji’s great escape route – it is printed on the floor and leads to the original car he used to escape in (the car has been remodelled recently). The museum also houses handwritten letters he sent to the British, and original newspapers that were published then.

Hazarduari Palace

Situated in Murshidabad, this palatial museum is now under the Archaeological Survey of India. What sets this museum apart from others is that out of the 1,000 doors, 900 doors are real while the remaining are fake ones, built to confuse the intruders. Spare an hour to admire the rich exhibits inside the museum - ranging from Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah's prized possessions, swords and weapons, oil paintings of the Dutch, French and Italian artists, rare marble, porcelain and stucco statues to rare books and manuscripts and palanquins owned by the Nawabs.

Rabindra Bharati Museum

A pilgrim spot for all Gurudeb-obsessed people, Jorasanko Thakurbari, the ancestral home of the Tagores (which is an absolutely stunning piece of architecture) is also a storehouse of memoirs of Rabindranath Tagore. Everything from original paintings, photographs, personal items (including handwritten letters and books), and more, there’s a lot of valuable belongings of Tagore that you can marvel at.

Nehru Children's Museum

If you haven’t visited this museum as a child, now would be a great time to head here. The museum spans four floors and has an incredible collection of dolls. Although a tad motheaten, these dolls are very unlike the creepy Annabelle or Chucky (thankfully!). There are dolls from over 88 countries as well as from different periods in Indian history. The huge glass enclosure at the center of the room showcases the different states and their attire, through mini dolls. The Ramayana and Mahabharata in miniature models create a wonderful mythical world for your children where they can learn about the epics through visual stimulation.

Indian Museum

The Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Be prepared to get enthralled by over 100,000 rare exhibits comprising antiques, armour, ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and paintings. From remnants of the Harappan civilisation to Buddha’s ashes to Shah Jahan’s emerald goblet, there are rich histories waiting to be discovered as you walk about the museum. Other than being a storehouse of valuable information, the museum also conducts educational seminars and training programmes.

Alipore Jail Museum

Originally a prison where political prisoners were kept under British Rule, the Alipore Central Jail is a 116-year-old historic landmark located in the heart of Kolkata. It has recently been converted into a museum displaying paintings, photographs, maps of India during various periods of history, installations, and statues of the freedom fighters depicting India’s struggle during British rule. It also houses letters, documents, artifacts related to the freedom struggle.

Boat Museum

The City of Joy is home to the only Indian museum dedicated to the boating history and heritage of Bengal. Located inside Ambedkar Bhavan in Kankurgachi, the museum does not require you to pay an entry fee to view the stunning replicas of the heritage boats of Bengal. It houses an interesting and unique exhibit of 46 scaled-down models of different kinds of indigenous boats ranging from fishing and cargo boats to racing, passenger, and luxury boats that once plied along the rivers of Bengal. Also, learn about the style, structure, and use of heritage boats like Bajra, Saptadinga, Mayurpankhi, and more.

The RBI Museum

The RBI Museum offers a one-of-a-kind experience wherein they use fun and interactive ways to explain money, its impact on the economy, and the role of the citizens in it. Check out the Yap Stone, an exhibit on gold mining, learn how money has evolved over time, the genesis of RBI, why gold has a significant hold in our society, and more at the museum. Stop by the souvenir shop and buy stuff made of currency shreds and coins bearing the museum logo.

Marble Palace

Marvel at an eclectic collection of art and antiques from Europe at this museum located inside a jaw-dropping mansion in Jorasanko. The Marble Palace is home to a unique collection of medieval chandeliers, clocks, urns, Belgian glass mirrors, sculptures from across the globe, Victorian furniture, and about 70 artworks from different Indian and western artists like Ruben, Raja Ravi Verma, Titian, and Murillo, among others.

Tram Museum

The Tram Museum has to make it to this list because Kolkata is the only city in India where trams still run on the roads. The city is synonymous with trams and this museum is housed inside a refurbished tram itself. Located adjacent to the CTC Terminus, the Tram Museum is home to artifacts like conductor caps and uniforms, old tram tickets, coin exchange machines, wooden benches, and walls adorned with pictures and poetry by Rabindranath Tagore. Tickets to the museum are also designed to look like a tram ticket.

Birla Industrial And Technological Museum

This one is for all tech geeks out there! Popularly known as the Birla Museum, this place is home to exhibits divided into different categories like Physics, Transportation, Motive Power, Metals, Electronics, Electricity, Biotechnology, Life Sciences, and more. Do check out their library comprising an impressive collection of journals, CDs, publications, and books related to science. The museum also hosts various events like science seminars, hobby camps, film festivals, annual science quiz, engineering and science fair, and more.

Fanattic Sports Museum

This is one museum that sports fanatics must check out. Located inside Ecospace Business Park in Rajarhat, Fanattic Sports Museum was created out of an abandoned food court and houses over 100 exhibits, 60 graphic boards, an indoor stage, and a theatre. Shadow play with bats used by cricketing legends including Sir Donald Bradman. Check out jerseys and sweaters worn by greats like PV Sindhu as well as memorabilia linked to sportspersons like Deepa Malik, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Usain Bolt, Pele, and Roger Federer, among others.

Kolkata Police Museum

Kolkata Police Museum pays tribute to the rich history and tradition of the police forces in the city. It is home to several arms and weapons (walking stick guns, book bombs, and pen pistols) seized during India’s freedom struggle. Tucked inside the former home of social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy, the Kolkata Police Museum collects, preserves, and interprets objects related to the Kolkata Police.

Kantha Museum

If you’re interested in knowing about the history of stitchwork and embroidery crafts that have been practiced in Bengal for centuries, Kantha Museum is just the right place for you. Located inside Ambedkar Bhavan, this museum houses a stunning collection of 19th-century Nakshi Kanthas or embroidered quilts. It was a household art form practiced by the women of Banga (the region of present-day Bangladesh and West Bengal) during their leisure time. Motifs include images of flowers, birds, animals, fishes, kitchen, and personal care items.

Ethnographic Museum

The Ethnographic Museum celebrates the tribal culture of Bengal. The collection includes tribal attires and costumes, artifacts, photographs, and tape records of folk music. Admire tribal objects and artifacts like wood carvings, dokra, terracotta crafts, hunting tools, fishing gear, musical instruments, paintings, ornaments, furniture, spinning and weaving aids, and stuff related to art, religion, and magic. Also, check out the masks belonging to different tribes like Santhal, Bhutia, Lepcha, Munda, Toto, and others.

Maulana Azad Museum

Indian Independence activist Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s home (where he stayed during his final years) has been refurbished and turned into the Maulana Azad Museum that houses memorabilia like photographs, awards, gifts, items of personal use as well as a collection of papers and library sources depicting the life and work of Azad during the freedom struggle.

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