Sometimes known as Gwalior Fort Museum, the Gujari Mahal State Archaeological Museum displays a number of artifacts that have been discovered in the Gwalior region.
Located in a former Palace below Gwalior fort at the foot of the western approach to the hilltop, this should not be confused with the (in my opinion) superior ASI run Archaeological Museum that is right next to the Man Singh Palace.
The Gujari Mahal was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar for his Gujar wife,
Mrignayani. The story goes that she demanded a separate palace for herself with a reliable water supply provided by an aqueduct from the nearby Rai River.
The museum artifacts (mostly sculptures) are exhibited within a spacious courtyard surrounded by small rooms that contain further artifacts. You can click on any of the images to view a larger version of the photographs.
Unfortunately, even as a freelance archaeologist I didn’t find this museum very inspiring.
The reason for my lack of enthusiasm is down to two factors. Firstly, although the artifacts outdoors are quite nicely presented within the courtyard, those residing in the side rooms are poorly presented. This is especially true of the larger items such as pillar capitals, where there isn’t even room to sufficiently stand back and admire them.
Aside from some simple labeling (item, find location, date), there is nothing else in the museum to add any further information or context to the artifacts. It many respects I felt as though absolutely nothing had changed in this museum for at least a couple of decades.
My second criticism is with the senior staff. One of my reasons for visiting was by request of Wikipedia, who were interested to get any photographs of the reputed fragment of the Heliodorus pillar capital that was rumoured to be in the museum collection. This rumour stems from the book : “Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi Hill and Archaeologies of Religious and Social Change, c. Third Century BC to Fifth Century AD” by Julia Shaw. You can read the specific section on the Heliodorus pillar and the reputed fragment here.
I spoke to (I think) the man in charge of the museum, explained everything and how I wanted to verify the rumour (or not), but his attitude was one of disinterest and utter inconvenience. I felt very much unwelcomed, even though i presume we shared a mutual common interest in history and archaeology.
Shortly after visiting the Gujari Mahal State Archaeological Museum I went to see the ASI run Archaeological museum up at the fort (a blog on that to follow shortly). You could not get a more contrasting experience, with all the artifacts wonderfully presented, lots of additional information, and smiling staff that were keen to help in any way possible.
I think the State museum charge foreigners 250 rupees for entry, the superior ASI counterpart charges just 5 rupees.
The museum does of course have some hugely impressive items on display, as you can see in some of these photographs. But I’m sure any visitor would be keen to learn more not just about the artifacts, but also the palace itself. They have a great collection and an amazing building to house them in, but nothing is being realised anywhere near to its full potential.
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