The eye of the beholder

Our very wise guide, Bernard of India, told us many interesting things yesterday.

When speaking about the impact of the British on India, he said that Indians had the British to thank for their history. Their past had never been recorded prior to the British researching and documenting this land they had conquered. So much was saved because they identified and cataloged artifacts and records. Yes, so much was also plundered, but the plundering alone taught the Indians a very important lesson.

If you do not value your things, but suddenly see that someone else wants them, it occurs to you that they have a value. “If he wants this, it must be worth something.” Suddenly, items from the past that were just a part of the landscape began to mean more to the Indians as their culture began to have a place in world art and in world knowledge.

We spent some time today wandering through the Pantheon complex, which houses the six buildings and various galleries of the Government Museum.

The architectural centerpiece is the National Art Gallery, which is closed for renovation.

We spent some time in the Contemporary Art Gallery, which seems to have suffered from the lack of an architect. (It is such a benighted box of crumbling concrete that I forgot to take a picture of it.) It did have its high points, however.

The first floor was a mishmash of artifacts, but that could be spillover from another pavilion which is closed.

The most surprising section was a gallery on the second floor which seems to be where all the leftover portraits of former British Governors ended up. Perhaps a larger group of stuffed shirts was never assembled, my personal favorite being the last. Or maybe it’s a display of post-modern irony.

Not sure what these guys were doing in the Contemporary Arts Building, but they did amuse. Of more interest was some of the more recent works, extending back to the late 19th century. Some European influences are clear, but overall this was an enjoyable gallery, despite impossible lighting.

We passed by the old theater, and into the archaeological building, which is a very shabby edifice indeed. This poor museum would need massive funds to clean and repair its crumbling structure, and to hire a curator to display what relics they have in a more informative and attractive way. (Think back to the V&A in the 70’s, and add lots of decaying concrete.)

We walked further to what is considered an important collection of bronzes from the 7th century to modern times. Some very beautiful things, if only we were more knowledgeable about the gods that were portrayed.

Then, in a lightening switch of cultures aided by a tuk-tuk, we made our dizzying way to St. Andrew’s Kirk. Now this is the church inspired by St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. It was consecrated in 1821 and is built around a circular dome, colored blue with lapis lazuli. The colonial touches were the mahogany pews with hand-woven rattan seats and backs, and the frames supporting the fans and lights. Lovely, though the drum set seemed a bit out of place.

No food story today, but stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “The eye of the beholder

    1. Yes, we’re getting that idea. Guess that’s what’s given all the Western museums an excuse for whisking things out of the country to “protect” them.

  1. If this is Delhi then I missed lots of good stuff. Bernard seems like what everyone wishes for in a guide. thanks for keeping us updated.

    1. Sorry to not mention our location. We are still in Chennai, so lots to see before Delhi. When were you here and where did you go?

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