Museums in Bihar and the cultural Identity

The state of Bihar has a fascinating history and our first president Dr. Rajendra Prasad has said “It is no exaggeration to say that for centuries the history of India was but the history of Bihar writ large.” (Message by the President in the book Bihar Through the Ages) The museums in the state very efficiently project how life of the people in the economic, social, literary, artistic, and aesthetic channels during approximately 3000 years of the uninterrupted history of the land.

Though commissioning of Public Library Museum Trust under the aegis of District Central Public Library at Gaya in the year 1855 and collection of antiquities by A.M. Broadley in 1871–1872 for Bihar Museum at Bihar Sharif marks the beginning of museum activities in Bihar, a museum came into existence with the establishment of Patna Museum in 1917, in both real and practical terms. This museum was opened in a wing of Patna High Court and was shifted to the present building in 1929. In the organization of Patna Museum, the Indian Museum, Calcutta was the model; it got its identity as a “Multipurpose Museum”. In 1961, a separate Directorate for Archaeology and Museums came into existence and the government museums, viz. Patna Museum, Patna and Chandradhari Museum, Darbhanga fall under its control. Thereafter, a museum movement in the state took off, leading to the commissioning of 21 more museums. Now, the museums under the direct control of the Government of Bihar through the Department of Art, Culture & Youth are as follows:

In addition to these, there are two memorial museums, one at Jagdishpur (Dist. Bhojpur) and the other at Bhitiharva (Dist. West Champaran), namely Babu Kunwar Singh Memorial Museum and Gandhi Ashram, respectively.

Furthermore, the museums ready to open are
1. Bihar Museum, Patna, which is being developed as a museum of international standard and this museum will be an experience to its visitors.
2. Buddha Samyak Darshan Museum-cum-Memorial Stupa, Vaishali to display the sacred relics of Lord Buddha, discovered from the excavation of Vaishali Stupa and to showcase the life and teachings of Buddha.

Of these, Patna Museum has received the status of “State Museum,” Karpoori Thakur Memorial Museum, Babu Suraj Narayan Singh Memorial Museum, and Braj Bihari Memorial Museum are “Personallia Museums,” Mithila Lalit Museum may be termed as “Museum for the local living art and tradition,” Buddha Smriti Park Museum displays dimensions of Buddha and the Buddhism, and the rest are of multipurpose type; in the organization of these museums, Patna Museum played the role of a model.

The other concern, the vital one, is that the museums in Bihar are still to come out of the garb of Jadughar or Ajayabghar. This is quite evident from the behavioral attitude of the visitors to the museums and more or less similar is the case with other museums of the country.

As previously described, Bihar has a great past and great traditions.

Majority of museums in the state have the potential to develop either as a “Regional Museum” or a “Local Museum” of national international importance. There are museums at Gaya (the heart of Magadh), Darbhanga (the epicenter of Maithili culture), and Bhagalpur (the nucleus of Angika culture). In the Bhojpur region, there is a museum at Buxar and the other at Jagdishpur, known as Babu Kunwar Singh Smriti Sangrahalaya, which is said to be a “Personallia Museum,” related to Babu Kunwar Singh, a warrior and martyr of the Revolt of 1857.

Recently, the Government of Bihar has proposed to commission Cultural Complexes, namely

1. Gaya Museum cum Magadh Cultural Center at Gaya.
2. Bhagalpur Museum cum Anga Cultural Center at Bhagalpur.
3. Chandradhari Museum cum Mithila Cultural center at Darbhanga.

Gaya Museum has a rich collection of stone sculptures, mostly belonging to 9th–11th centuries. Although it consists of CE, metal images, coins, specimens of decorative art, the USP of this museum is its collection of stone sculptures.

The museum at Buxar is special in its collection of terracotta figurines, the first of its kind in the country. Typologically, they range from the handmade variety to completely die-cast and their period ranges from the pre-historic times down to the Gupta and post-Gupta ages. Patna Museum too has a fairly good collection of Buxar terracotta. Terracottas from Buxar, especially the Maurya and Sunga ones, are known globally for their aesthetics and charm.

Chandradhari Museum, the museum other than Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh Museum at Darbhanga, houses quite a good number of specimens of ivory work, glasswork, jewelry, semi-precious stones, etc. The USP of this museum is its collection of medieval paintings, and that of the Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh Museum is the collection of ivory art works. The collection of ivory art work at Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh Museum is unparalleled, not only in India but also in the whole world.

In the vicinity of the internationally known Neolithic site Chirand lies Chhaprah Museum. Although a small museum, it has some beautiful stone sculptures and terracottas. Now, a large infrastructure is built for this museum.

Biharsharif, the district headquarter of Nalanda, was a prominent centerof Buddhism along withits art in ancient times and Sufism in medieval times. The museum in Biharsharif town has a collection of sculptures from the local area representing Brahminical as well as Buddhist pantheon.

Biharsharif, the district headquarter of Nalanda, was a prominent center of Buddhism along with its art in ancient times and Sufism in medieval times. The museum in Biharsharif town has a collection of sculptures from the local area representing Brahminical as well as Buddhist pantheon.

Deep Narayan Singh Museum, located at Hajipur (the district headquarter of Vaishali), is a small developing museum.

The Naradah Museum has a good collection of stone sculptures, paintings, coins, manuscripts and is a well-displayed museum; the almost same nature of collection is found in Ramchandra Shahi Museum, Muzaffarpur. However, the USP of the museum at Muzzafarpur is its collection of postage stamps. The museum located at Bettiah, the district headquarter of West Champaran, has a meager collection. However, the Gandhi Smarak Museum in the same district at Bhitiharwa is of international repute. During Champaram Movement, Gandhi ji along with Ba stayed at this place. The Government of Bihar is celebrating this year as the centenary year of “Champaran Movement,” and for the Gandhians this place has become a pilgrimage.

The above examples are just citations. Each and every museum of the state possesses some local potentiality. It is only needed to mark where the potentiality lies and then plan accordingly for organization or re-organization of museums in the state.