Exhibition is collaborative effort of British Museum, London, National Museum, New Delhi, and CSMVS, Mumbai
A wide swath of the millennia-old Indian civilization came alive through a cluster of artefacts of astonishing brilliance as the National Museum opened a nearly two-month transcontinental exhibition that takes the viewers on an intriguing and exhilarating trip through the country’s spectacular past and its links with the outside world since antiquity.
“India and The World: A History in Nine Stories”, the first of its kind event in India, marks an unprecedented collaboration in museum exhibition with the British Museum, London; National Museum, New Delhi; Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai; and some 20 private collections pooling in their resources for the phenomenal show.
Planned as part of the commemoration of 70 years of India’s independence and a year of major cultural exchange between India and the UK (UK/India 2017), the nearly two-month-long watershed show at National Museum, this got underway on May 5. It was travelled to the national capital from Mumbai where it drew an enthusiastic response from critics and public alike at CSMVS.
The exhibition is spread over nine sections, each representing a pivotal moment in history: Shared Beginnings (1,700,000 years ago to 2000 BC), First Cities (3000-1000 BC), Empire (600 BC-AD 200), State and Faith (AD 100-750), Picturing the Divine (AD 200-1500), Indian Ocean Traders (AD 200-1650), Court Cultures (AD 1500-1800), Quest for Freedom (1800-Present), and Time Unbound.
A unique line-up of around 200 ancient and modern exhibits which offer a chronological and thematic depiction of the evolution of India with multiple expressions of art and artefacts, stories and aesthetics was unveiled by IGNCA President Ram Bahadur Rai.
Some of the eye-popping objects on display include the oldest known hand-axe in the world (1.7-1.07 million years) from Attirampakkam, Tamil Nadu; a replica of the Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro (2500 BC); a gold-horned Harappan humped bull (1800 BC); a Mughal miniature-inspired work by Rembrandt; an Ashokan Edict (250 BC); and an imprint of the Constitution of India featuring more than 50 paintings supervised by the renowned artist Nandalal Bose.
Beginning with the Indus Valley Civilisation and coming down to the present, the artefacts range from stone sculptures, terracotta, coins, tools, inscriptions and manuscripts to textiles, jewellery, Mughal miniatures and contemporary paintings. They demonstrate the common threads of human history.
A striking feature of the show is not only it’s linear and chronological depiction of Indian civilization, but also its exploration of ideas across time periods, and a profound insight into the confluence of the ancient and the modern. Essentially, it highlights the strong connections India has shared historically with the rest of the world, impacting each other through a gamut of activities that helped evolve a global culture.
The nine gallery exhibition is staggering in several respects: the number of rare objects that it brings together, the time period and styles that it covers, the exquisiteness of each object and the rich stories that it tells us about ancestors. Overall, there are 104 important works of art from the Indian subcontinent in dialogue with 124 iconic pieces from the British Museum.
It is also a celebration of cultural exchanges and a moment to remember that our civilization has existed for millions of years and what it has given to the world in terms of culture, science and spirituality.
Dr Hartwig Fischer, Director, British Museum said India and the World represented a new approach and new model of a museum exhibition that sets one culture in a global context of shared histories and common ground, looking at similarities and differences and combining the strength of their collections and expertise.
“This is a phenomenal exhibition for the sheer number of artefacts, the profoundness of concept and the unprecedented extensive collaboration of Indian museums and private collections with the British Museum, London. It truly offers a brilliant exposition on the splendid Indian civilization and its impact on the global civilizations of yore,” says National Museum Director General, Dr BR Mani.
Conceived over a period of two years of intense planning and curatorial brainstorming, ‘India and the World’ has been jointly curated by a team in the UK and India. Curators Jeremy David Hill and Beatriz Cifuentes Feliciano, from the British Museum, joined efforts with Naman P Ahuja, Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and his curatorial assistant, Avani Sood to develop this unique exhibition.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General, CSMVS, said, “The exhibition is a first of its kind experiment outside the US, the UK and European borders, and attempts to provide a model for the museum to share their collections with people across the world, some of whom may otherwise never have access to them. The objects from the British Museum and from Indian museums and private collectors, together in conversation, unlock fascinating stories and histories, and help us understand how we relate to the wider world.”
The exhibition, which is supported by the Tata Trusts, the Getty Foundation and the Newton Bhabha Fund, will run till June 30 from 10 am to 6 pm, except on Mondays and public holidays.
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