The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, with its carved doors, turnstiles, exquisite Palladian columns, gilded balustrades and richly painted ceiling and monuments — is a place for princesses and dreams.
Originally called the Victoria and Albert Museum, it is the oldest museum in Mumbai and the third oldest in the country. Situated in Byculla East, it was originally established in 1855 as a treasure house of the decorative and industrial arts, much of which was curated by Sir George Birdwood. The museum was patronised by Juggernath Sankershet and Dr Bhau Daji Lad and was later renamed in honour of Bhau Daji.
This museum houses a large number of archaeological finds, maps and historical photographs of Mumbai, clay models, silver and copper ware and costumes. Its significant collections include a 17th-century manuscript of Hatim Tai and outside the museum is the installation of the monolithic basalt elephant sculpture recovered from the sea, which originated from Elephanta Island (Gharapuri Island).
The kids are fascinated by the collection of knives and swords as well as the cannon placed there. This month the museum has a series of workshops for children and it is my excuse to go there — the kids get a guided tour of the museum as well as get to take part in a series of workshops including puppetry.
The staff takes us to the upper level of the museum where kids are shown the map of Mumbai before the Portugese gifted it to the British, after the islands are linked, and how it is now. The kids are then taken to see miniatures of people belonging to different communities, how they look, what they wear, their accessories and sometimes, what they carry.
The Museum Plaza plays host to many workshops all May. Pics courtesy/Dr Bhau Daji Museum
It is a lesson in history, sociology and anthropology all rolled in one. Then we are taken to the Museum Plaza, an open space with trees and squirrels, where an array of cane baskets are placed on a table and each basket holds an assortment of colour pencils, crayons, sharpened pencils, scissors, bamboo sticks, threads, glitter gel pens, paint brushes, bottles of paint, paper and innumerable, colourful stationery. We are also shown puppets that represent different communities of India, and instructions are given on how puppets are made. Paper is handed and we start. Yes, the parents too.
Where: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Veer Mata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan, Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla (E).
Bus stop: Most buses servicing South Mumbai, South Central Mumbai, Central Mumbai and North East Mumbai halt at Byculla railway station.
Train: All Central Railway slow and fast locals halt at Byculla. It is also close to Mumbai Central and Mahalaxmi (Western), and Dockyard and Reay Road stations (Harbour).
10 am to 6 pm, Wednesdays shut. The Museum conducts guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays.
No registration needed.
Charges Rs 10 (adults), Rs 5 (children), free for children below five years of age.
Food & drink The Museum has a cafeteria.
Restroom facilities Yes