Explore Kolkata & West Bengal
At the corner of Chowringhee and Sudder streets, the stately Indian Museum is the oldest and largest museum in India, founded in 1814. Visitors come in their thousands, many of them villagers who call it the jadu ghar or “house of magic”. The main showpiece is a collection of sculptures obtained from sites all over India, which centres on a superb Mauryan polished-sandstone lion capital dating from the third century BC. One gallery houses the impressive remains of the second-century BC Buddhist stupa from Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh, partly reassembled to display the red-sandstone posts, capping stones, railings and gateways. Carvings depict human and animal figures, as well as scenes from the Jataka tales of the Buddha’s many incarnations. There is also a huge collection of Buddhist schist sculptures, dating from the first to the third centuries, from the Gandhara region. You’ll also see stone sculpture from Khajuraho and Pala bronzes, plus copper artefacts, Stone-Age tools and terracotta figures from other sites. Along with an excellent exhibit of Tibetan thangkas, the museum holds Kalighat pat and paintings by the Company School, a group of mid-nineteenth-century Indian artists who emulated Western themes and techniques for European patrons. Finally, there’s a spectacular array of fossils and stuffed animals, most of which look in dire need of a decent burial.