Antique jewellery museum at Delhi's National Museum to reopen
New Delhi: Jewels spanning from the Indus Valley civilisation to the 20th century are showcased at ‘Alamkara' the permanent jewellery gallery at the National Musuem, which is set to reopen after a decade here. Featuring a total of 255 jewels housed in 25 glass cases, the gallery aims to give visitors a peek into ornaments that bear the stamp of regal splendour as well as the ones used in common households.
Jewellery historian Usha Balakrishnan has curated the collection, which comprises necklaces, bracelets, pendants, bangles, earplugs, needles and girdles among others. The National Museum founded in 1949 had a jewellery section, which had a decade ago closed and the objects moved to a vault inaccessible to the public.
Museum director general Venu V said the comeback of the gallery was due to a long standing demand of heritage lovers. “History should ideally portray the life of people across social strata. The ornaments at Alamkara are suggestive of the sense of beauty of the regal classes to common folk over the years,” he said.
Museum officials said the number of objects have now increased and “have also become better in quality.” A catalogue of spectacular objects includes hair ornaments, plaques, marriage pendants, armbands and belts. Ornaments used in average households are also featured. “In India, we have very little details about jewellery in public domain. It is more so with non-royal families, as the general tendency is to hide them in vaults,” says Balakrishnan.
The Mumbai-based curator said to be the country's only jewellery historian has also designed the galley's layout in a month-long exercise of curation.
The layout of the gallery follows themes of varying nature.
“It follows chronology. The first glass case has objects of Harappa and Mohenjodaro and features the oldest artefact as of now dating back to 2,900 BCE. It is followed by a segment on Taxila jewels from the 1st century CE,” the curator said. “The attempt is to bring to light some of the ornaments that have survived the times in different parts of the country, some of which are beautiful jewels carved on sculptures in ancient temples,” she said. Alamkara would display ornaments worn by men as well as children.
“You have turban ornaments, Maharajah's jewels and earrings of the Rajasthani male, besides jewels for children at large,” she said.
Expressing optimism that the jewellery gallery would prompt other museums in the country to follow suit she said, “Jewels have a lot of stories to tell. It is one section that merits stronger collection and better display in India. I hope Alamkara would lead other museums to emulate.” Exhibits showing flora and fauna used in ornamentation, as well as a separate section on amulets are also featured.
“One segment particularly interesting is that which depicts the Western influences in Indian jewellery in the 19th century. Plus, there is one that shows the manufacturing techniques of some of them,” said the curator.