The National Museum of India was established on August 15, 1949, in the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. Subsequently, a new building was constructed suited to the purpose, and the by now sizeable collection was tranferred to the new address, where the works of art were thrown open to the public on December 18, 1960.
Today, the Museum houses more than 2, 00, 000 wonderful works of art, Indian and international, spanning more than five thousand years of our cultural heritage. Apart from collections of pre-history, archaeology, jewellery, paintings, decorative arts, manuscripts, Central Asian antiquities, anthropology, pre-Columbian and Western art, arms, armour, numismatics and epigraphy, the Museum also houses a well-equipped Conservation Laboratory that not only provides restoration to all the artefacts but also training facilities to students and deserving professionals.
A major attraction here is the gallery on Buddhist art. 84 select exhibits are displayed here which include the highly revered sacred relics of Buddha (5th century BC) excavated from Piprawaha, Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, Thankas, Kapardina Buddha from Ahicchhatra, Buddha's foot-prints from Nagarjunakonda and scenes from his life from Sarnath. Other exquisite sculptures, terracotta figures, ritualistic items, representing the three principal Buddhist sects - Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana - which line the walls, span Nepal, Tibet, Central Asia, Burma, Java and Cambodia, apart from India.
Tantra Art: 135 magnificent products of Tantric art from various parts of the country, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet including the famous Shri Ajit Mokerjee collection are on display. The objects cover a huge period from the 10th century to the early 20th century.
Another gallery houses large-sized glass transparencies depicting the story of the evolution of Indian scripts and coins. The gallery of decorative arts has on display 104 exhibits, including some of the finest ivory and jade carving, meena work, metal inlay, silver and filigree work, from the Mughal era onwards. The cream of the collection is the ivory screen nicknamed Wonder Screen, containing 76 brilliantly carved panels with intricate geometric patterns and designs.
Paintings from Tanjore and Mysore: This gallery showcases the two great schools of painting of South India - Tanjore and Mysore. Besides depicting mythology, epics, several goddesses, Vishnu and Shiva, the displayed paintings represent a wonderful blend of the traditional and the spiritual in Indian art.
Tribal lifestyle of North-East India: More than 327 traditional exhibits of dresses, ornaments, basketry, wood carving and personal adornments of the innumerable tribal groups which people the 'Land of Seven Sisters' are on display.
Jewellery: This specially designed gallery is the first of its kind in India, displaying 423 jewellery items from 3rd millenium B.C. to the 20th century A.D. in chronological sequence. The cream of the collection include Indus jewellery, Taxila jewellery, intriguing items like Serpech, Navaratna necklace, Rudraksha Mala, Jhoomar, Ananta crown, Gita Chariot, and a Royal Chair.
Indian Textiles: This gallery showcases the ace workmanship and sheer brilliance of the Indian weavers down the ages. An astounding variety of textiles, cotton, silk and woollen spanning the entire length and breadth of the country reinforces the magic of the wonder that is India.
A special Anthropology Gallery depicting the lifestyles of various ethnic groups .
Training opportunities to the museum personnel, permission to photograph the objects for reproduction and publication and access to the reserve collection and library are provided to museum professionals, scholars and general public. Photographs of the objets d'art are also made available to the public on payment. Advice on identification of art objects owned by individual and institutions is offered by experts via prior appointment. Free guided tours to the galleries and film shows in the auditorium are arranged on a daily basis. Gallery talks are held on every Wednesday on specific topics in respective galleries at 11.00 a.m.