The Kachchh Museum at Bhuj initially formed
part of the School of Art established by Maharao Khangarji III on July 1,
1877. It is the oldest Museum of Gujarat. The Museum is situated ideally
almost on the banks of the beautiful Hamirsar Lake and just opposite the
Nazar Baugh garden.
The museum is mainly regional in content and therefore, of immense interest to tourists who want to know about Kachchh before going into the interior. The museum, with 11 sections, serves as a guide to this district.
The museum is unique in having the largest collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, for its gold and silver ornaments, textiles, armoury and other exhibits.
At the time of Rao Khengarji's marriage in February 1884, an exhibition of arts and crafts of Kachchh was organized in which 5,897 items were exhibited. Of these exhibits, items then worth Rs 3300 were given to the museum at the termination of exhibition. These exhibits necessitated the construction of a new building.
To accommodate the additions to the already existing collection of artifacts, it was decided to build a new building. On November 14, 1884 the foundation stone for the present museum building was laid by the then Governor of Bombay, Sir James Fergusson. The two-storeyed building was designed by the state engineer, Mc Lelland and was constructed at a cost of Rs 32,000.
The Maharao named the Museum after Sir Fergusson. Till independence, the Museum remained a preserve of the Maharao who showed it only to his personal guests. The Museum was open to the public only on important religious occasions.
After independence, the Museum was thrown open to the public and through usage came to be known as the Kachchh Museum.
ARTIFACTS ON DISPLAY
On the ground floor in the central room is displayed Airavat a seven trunked snow white elephant of Indra. Each of the trunks is crowned by a temple. This 18th century wooden masterpiece from Mandvi shows Indra going to worship Tirthankar.
The body of the elephant is painted in the local kamagiri style with flowers and creepers. Govt. of India issued a postal stamp showing this Airavat to commemorate the Museum centenary in 1978.
The section on inscriptions has a dozen inscriptions. Most of them are 'Kshatrapa' inscriptions. The oldest 'Kshatrapa' inscription is dated 'Saka' eleven (89 AD). Found at Andhau, this is the most important 'Saka' inscription. It mentions the name of the founder of the Saka dynasty, Chastan. Since its year of erection is closest to the beginning of the era, it also suggests that the founder of Saka era could be Chastan. Moreover it takes back the Kshatrapa rule by 40 years, as earlier it was believed that their rule started from Saka 52 based on inscriptions found earlier.
Yet another inscription is of Adbir ruler Ishwardev (332 AD). This is the only Abhir inscription of Gujarat. According to late Dr. V.V. Mirashi, this inscription is of Saka year Six (84 AD).
The archaeological section has two Indus seals; one from Khirsara and a square one showing a unicorn from the famed Indus site of Dholavira. There are also other finds such as cylindrical beads, bangles made from conch shells and perforated pottery found from various sites in Kachchh.
The two seals from Kateshwar cave depicting Lord Buddha in Bhumi Sparsha Mudra are fascinating. Such seals were found in large numbers from Kateshwar, which means that Buddhism prevailed in Kachchh at least till the 9th century AD, the date of these seals.
There are various types of stone tablets. The oldest is dated 1332 V.S. of Waghela ruler, Sarangdev. Another interesting tablet of land grant shows the figures of a cow and boar which was meant to inhibit encroachment by either a Hindu or a Muslim as the killing of these animals is a taboo in their respective religions. The encroachment would tantamount to eating beef or pork as suggested by these figures.
There are three tombstones of the Jews collected from a now extinct Jewish cemetery. The epitaphs on these stones are written in three languages - Herbrew, English and Marathi, these being respective languages of the region.
Paintings showing the different vocations of Kachchh drawn a hundred years ago are on display. A 60ft long scroll showing Muhurram procession and another 51ft. long scroll showing Nag Pancham Swari are also noteworthy. Both these festivals were representative of the secular traditions of Kachchh.
The paintings on the wooden doors of a Jain temple of Mandvi show the chowkidars painted in Kamagiri style of painting. In a room on the first floor are on display ornaments of gold and silver done during the late 19th and early 20th century in Bhuj. The gold crown of lord Vishnu acquired from Narayan Sarovar is indeed a very fine creation studded with semi precious stones.
Kachchh state had its own currency. A small section shows gold silver and copper coins of various denominations. The section has a ten 'Kori' as also some 'Kori' currency notes, which never became legal tender due to some obscure reason. One can see mint machinery as also coins from almost every country of the world.
The shipping section shows the models of ships made in Mandvi. The section also has sexton and other equipments used by sailors as also permission documents to anchor at any port of the world. A map shows how the earliest sailors went out.
The section on musical instruments shows classical instruments like the 'veena', 'dilruba' as also a few folk musical instruments like the 'kani', 'nagfani', 'Morchang' etc.
For the Battlefield
The arms and ammunition section displays swords, shields, spears, guptis, daggers, pistols and bayonets. A cannon made in 1790s, with an Arabic inscription is a gift of Tipu Sultan to the army chief Jamadar Fateh Mohmad.
The section on Philately shows postal and court fee stamps of the native states as also of the post independent India arranged thematically. A board displays the stamps showing world personalities issued by various countries as also airmail labels used by them.
The Centenary Building
The Centenary building added in 1978 has a section on natural history. Lion, tiger, deer are all shown here for the benefit of the children. The fossilized conch shells and wood fossils found from various parts of Kachchh are also on display. But the main attractions of this section are a model of wild ass and flamingo as these are a peculiarity of this region. Other birds and mammals are also displayed. The crocodiles caught from Hamirsar Tank are displayed as also the first ever caught python and pangolin from Kachchh.