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Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum

Few museums are still found in India which boasts of the rich heritage and legacy of Rajasthan as well as the whole of India. Not only it gets difficult to establish such museums, but the collections in their original forms are also difficult to be found. From cultural and heritage point of view, Rajasthan has plenty of artefacts which needs suitable preservation. These are also required to be showcased among the people of the country, so that they are aware about the history of the region that revelled in the past glory. For many centuries, the North Western part of India was ruled by the Rajput kings belonging to different dynasties in Rajasthan. According to their rule, this region was divided into smaller divisions. As the region had many rulers since 11th century, it is possible that their collections would be many. To preserve their legacy been passed on from generation to generation till the 20th century, the museum in Bikaner was formed.

Genesis of the Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum

One of the artistic museums of repute in Rajasthan, which also is a major tourist attraction, is the Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum. During the year 1937, this museum was established. It was done in the memory of Sir Ganga Singh, who was the ruler of the princely state of Bikaner in Rajasthan, born in 1888 and died in 1943. In his Golden Jubilee celebration year, in 1937, Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum was constructed by the side of Lalgarh Fort or Palace in Bikaner. Due to his reformist policies, lots of development and modernised activities were taken up in Bikaner and he himself was very close to the British Government, taking part and contributing in many ways in the World War I. For his contributions, he was awarded with number of civilian and military awards along with the knighthood. Sir Ganga Singh Bahadur is also credited with various other feats in irrigation, agriculture, pension schemes, forts and palaces and few other amenities for the residents of his state. When this museum was inaugurated, lots of celebrations and musical shows marked the occasion with Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of British India, doing the honours.

Structures and Artefacts present in the Museum

Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum is also known as Ganga Government Museum and is presently managed by the Government of Rajasthan. From its earlier location near the Lalgarh Palace, the museum was shifted to a new building near the Civil Lines in 1954 and is well known for the vastness of the collections. It is known for the terracotta items, paintings from Bikaner and various coins, apart from different artefacts collected from various parts of the country, primarily from the Harappan excavations. Even, there are many paintings and excavated sculptures of the Kushan and Gupta era. There are so many things to be seen hence the museum has been divided into different sections, so that similar items according to hierarchy and historical importance are grouped together in these sections.

Two floors of exquisite findings adorn this museum with various sections and rooms in each. Some of the sections are Maharaja Ganga Singh Memorial, Local Arts and Crafts, history, Sculptures of bronze and terracotta, armoury, miniature paintings and folk arts, Dr L P Tessitori Memorial Section and Lithoprints of the British Interpretation of the war of Independence of 1857.

In the ground floor, there are two stuffed figures of a lion and a tiger which were hunted by Sir Ganga Singh and present just at the entry point into the museum. Upon further entry into the museum, a number of photographs in black and white have been adorned in the room which were friends and guests of Sir Ganga Singh. A few life size paintings done by famous painters of that era are found in another wall of this room. These are the pictures of Sir Ganga Singh and a few other dignitaries.

Art section is the second room on the ground floor which is adorned by a series of photographs and art works. These include the art pieces from wood, glasses, metals and gilded leaf paintings on the hide of camels. In the same room is a casket of carved teak wood, which shows the brilliance in art work of these artisans of Bikaner. Many glass works are also seen in this room which were produced from the glass factory functioning in those days, when these items were exported. But now, these items from that factory have been preserved in Ganga Golden Jubilee museum. Usta artisans of the Muslim community in Bikaner created the works of gilded lead on camel hides. These have been designed beautifully, making them the centre of attractions in this particular room of the museum.

Carpet works are also found in another adjacent room of this museum, which have the reflection of Persian rugs. The speciality of these rugs is that they were made by the prisoners in Bikaner Jail, a tradition which still has been prevalent.

Some other items of exhibit and found in collections of Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum are the terracotta art discovered during the 11th century. During the early part of the Gupta rule, various terracotta works were excavated by L P Tessitori, the excavator appointed by Sir Ganga Singh, to find out the historical remnants in the region of Bikaner. These items were connected to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and the river basin of the dried up Saraswati River. Some important sculptures found in the museum are those of Nartaki and Jain Saraswati from the era of 11th to 12th century. These were discovered from different locations in and near Bikaner. Plenty of lacquered work is also found in the region of Bikaner, as it is a craft specific to the artisans in this region. Lacquer work is done on wood, metal, glass, leather, stone and even ostrich egg shells. Lots of wood and teak works are found in this museum, which are quite exquisitely designed and date back to many years. There are carvings of chariots, caskets, palaces and other items, where the intricate designs are clearly marked till this date.

The Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum is open during the weekdays, except Friday, from 10 AM to 5 PM and closed on all gazetted government holidays. A visit to this museum during the open times in a tour of Rajasthan’s cities will give a detailed insight of the cultural heritage of India and the rich history of the kingdom of Bikaner and the surrounding areas.

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