Rajasthan the land of massive forts, sprawling palaces intricately carved temples of colourful tribes and brave warriors of unrivalled form of arts and crafts, unique dance and music traditions is changing at a rapid pace. Its vast network of museums in large and small towns, archaeological sites and the recently opened museums and art galleries in the palaces of erstwhile rulers of old states help to preserve this great heritage for posterity.
Ajmer (Government Museum)
Situated in the heart of the old city and close to the railway station the museum is housed in the beautiful fort and palace built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1570. The Museum was started in 1908 by the Government of India with the object of collecting and preserving many unique objects of antiquarian interest which were lying unattended for and scattered all over Rajasthan.
Alwar (Government Museum)
Housed in the old City Palace, it has a unique collection of arms, bidri work, lacquered and ivory work, musical instruments, stuffed animals, beautiful brass and pottery works from Jaipur, Multan, Bengal and Ceylon, miniature paintings and Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts. The museum is divided into three major sections, each housed in a big hall. The first section contains various archaeological finds chiefly sculptures and inscriptions from the region. Items presented by the ruler of the former Alwar state include mounted skins of wild animals like tiger, leopard and lion shot by them during their local and foreign excursions.
The second section is the most important one as it contains various manuscripts in Persian including Gulistan of Sadias as well as marvellous paintings of Mughal and Rajput schools. The paintings have been further divided into sub-styles. The third section of the museum contains the armoury of state rulers. Various kind of shields, swords, pistols, rifles, daggers and other items are on display.
Jaipur (Archaeological Museum)
Located in the Dil-e-Aaram gardens, of Amer, the ancient capital of Jaipur, established in 1949. Prior to this, the excavated material from Rairh, Bairat, Sambhar, Nagar and the sculptures and epigraphs collected from various sites in the erstwhile Jaipur State were housed at Vidyahar Gardens in Purana Ghat. In July 1949 the entire collection was transferred to Dil-e-Aaram garden, part of the old palace at Amer. An Art Gallery was inaugurated in 1992 in this complex. The museum is divided into three sections:-
(1) Archaeological section, which contains material recovered from excavations at Rairh, Bairat, Sambhar, Nagar, Pamvar, Bansi and Virat Nagar.
(2) Sculpture section.
(3) Epigraphy section.
Bikaner (Fort Museum, Junagarh fort)
Ganga Mahal, the imposing halls added by Maharaja Ganga Singh, now houses the Fort Museum. It contains a fine collection of antique rajput weaponry, jade handle daggers, camel hide dhals (shields) and inlaid handguns and camel guns. Other important objects include a pair of drums belonging to Jambhoji - the saint who predicted the foundation of the dynasty by Rao Bika for 450 years. Photographs and items of personal use by Maharaja Ganga Singh and miniatures are also on view.
Chittaugarh (Fateh Prakash Palace Museum)
It has a great collection of sculptures. The section devoted to weapons, daggers, armoury consists of old shields, helmets, axes, farsa, knives and soldier’s uniforms. The clay models of local tribes with their traditional outfits have also been displayed in a room. The entire palatial museum has been divided in various sections like archaeology, coins, art gallery, wood crafts of Bassi village, weapons and tribal life.
Jaipur (Government Central Museum)
Located in the center of the sprawling Ram Niwas Bagh, this is the oldest museum in the state. The building was designed by Colonel Sir Swinton Jacob. It was built in 1876 when king Edward VII visited India as the Prince of Wales. It was opened to public in 1886. The various sections represented in the museum are -- art and industry (metal, wood and pottery), armoury, textiles, carpets, paintings, geology, zoology, botany and toys & dolls. There is a Persian garden carpet of a fabulous cost obtained by Mirza Raja Jai Singh I from Shah Abbas of Persia. It contains various sketches of a Persian garden with running water streams. There are miniature paintings of various sub-schools of Rajasthan. A glimpse of the land and the people of Rajasthan is presented through well planned dioramas.
From 1959 onwards the various galleries along the ground floor of the museum were completely reorganized and renovated. The central gallery is devoted to Rajasthani music and dance. Original musical instruments, both classical and folk, are displayed in their functional positions. Specimens include typical folk instruments like Masak, Kamayacha, Dadh, Madal, Khanjari, Sitari, Bankia, Pungi, Algoja, Iktara etc.
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh (II) Museum
Located within the City Palace complex and nestled amidst old buildings, temples and the palaces quarters, this museum was founded in 1959 by Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. The exhibits consist of the ancestral collections built up by the successive rulers of Amer and Jaipur, and is presently run by a public charitable trust. However, the collection remained exclusive and was shown only to selective visitors and dignitaries with the special permission of the Maharaja. In 1959, this private museum consisting of the Pothikhana Silehkhana was thrown open to public and a new textile and costume gallery was added to it.
The Art Gallery is housed in the Diwan-i-Aam constructed for holding important state functions. A variety of objects - miniature paintings, illustrated manuscripts, decorated book covers, palm-leaf, old printed books, gigantic mughal carpets, gold and silver Takhi-e-Rawan (moveable throne), palanquins and carriages with rich embroidered velvet coverings are displayed in this gallery. The museum has a splendid collection of miniature paintings including two unique and priceless manuscripts of the Persian translation of the two Hindu epics, of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Jaisalmer (Folkore Museum)
For anyone interested in seeing the culture of Jaisalmer on display through the ages, the Lok Sanskritik, Sangrahalaya or the Museum of Folk Culture situated on the bank of Gadsisar lake in Mehar Bagh garden is a must. This museum was established in 1984 by N.K.Sharma, a local connoisseur. This well organised museum is divided into six sections and has a rich collections of paintings, photographs, costumes, hairstyles and jewellery, utility articles of rural life, camel and horse decorations, fossils, ornamental arches, as well as articles connected with folk and cultural lifestyles.
Jodhpur (Government Museum)
Located in the Umaid gardens on high court road, it has a large and fairly interesting collection. There are many stuffed animals, including a number of desert birds in two glass cases, each with a thorn bush. The military section includes cumbersome wooden biplane, models and an extraordinary brass battleship.
Kota (Government Museum)
Originally located in the Hawa Mahal just above the entrance of the fort, it has now been shifted to the Brij Vilas Palace and has a new display and decor. The museum possesses several hundred sculptures from different cultural centers of the region. Generally, the sculptures belong to the period from the 8th to the 12th century. Sculptures worth mentioning are Shesh Sayi Vishnu form Badoli (Chittaurgarh), Jain image of Vardhaman from Baran and a dancing pair from Ramgarh. A few inscriptions are displayed in the museum. Yupa pillars from Badwa are very important specimens of 3rd century AD showing the popularity of Vedic rites. Coins discovered from various sites of Kota region are preserved and displayed in the numismatic section. Most of the coins belong to the Mughal period and a few of them to the Rajput. Several miniature paintings of Bundi, Kota, Nathdwara and Jaipur schools are preserved in the museum. Paintings of Shrimad Bhagawata of the early 17th century are most attractive from the point of view of workmanships. This section contains a number of manuscripts in Sanskrit. They include Vedic, Astronomical and Astrological works. Some Hindi manuscripts are also persevered.
Udaipur (City Palace Museum)
The huge City Palace, towering over the Pichola Lake, is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Construction of this palace was started by Maharana Udai Singh, the city's founder. The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum with a large and varied collection. It was established in 1890 and is one of the earliest museums of the state. The museum includes the Mor Chowk with its beautiful peacocks in mosaics, the favourite Rajasthani bird. The Manka (Ruby) Mahal has glass and porcelain figures while Krishna Vilas has a remarkable collection of miniatures. In the Bari Mahal, there is a fine central garden. More paintings can be seen in the Zanana Mahal. The Moti Mahal has beautiful mirror work and the Chini Mahal is covered in ornamental tiles. This museum has the armour of Maharana Pratap and drums and bugles of the ruler of Mewar, Rana Sanga.
The Government Museum Of Udaipur was originally located in Gulab Bagh and was called Victoria Hall Museum. It has now been shifted to Karan Vilas Mahal within the precincts of the City Palace. This museum highlights the culture and heritage of Rajasthan through its extensive collection of excavated item inscriptions, sculptures, paintings and handicrafts. The sculpture gallery, spread over a big hall, contains some unique and valuable specimens - Indriya Matrika from Jagat (5th-6th century A.D.); Kumari-Matrika from Kumbhalgarh; Shiva head from Kalyanpur; Jain Kuber from Bansi (8th Century A.D.). The most remarkable collection is that of more than nine thousand miniature paintings of Mewar school from the period of Maharaja Jagat Singh (1628-1652 A.D.) to Maharaja Swaroop Singh (1842-1861 AD).It has a natural history section called the Children Gallery which has models of animals like tiger, deer, etc. The museum also has a collection of colourful Mewari turbans.
It is located on Fateh Sagar, 6 kms from the City Palace. A village has been created with 26 replica huts. This museum has a wide collection of folk art and it also gives a glimpse of the tribal life of Rajasthan.