Monday, 21 August 2017

Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram - inspiring colonial heritage site

Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram. Astrolika.com
 Napier Museum, also known as the  Government  Art Museum  in Thiruvananthapuram city is one of the nicest places to visit if you are interested in arts, natural history and culture of Kerala.  J.A. Brown, then Director of the Trivandrum Observatory and General William Cullen, then British Resident were instrumental in establishing this museum in 1857. In 1855,  a society was formed in order to encourage people to take interest in natural history, arts, sculptures, etc., and it included  Sri Uthram Thirunal the Maharajah of Travancore as Patron, the British Resident General Cullen as President, the Elaya Raja as Vice-President and Mr. Brown as Secretary of the Society and Director of Museum. A new building came up in 1860 to house the museum during the reign of Sri Uthradom Thirunal, the ruler  of the erstwhile Travancore dynasty, and it was  inaugurated by Mr. John Napier, the Governor General of Madras Presidency. The building is now  a state-recognized heritage site. 
Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram Wikimapia
  
Years later after 1860, decision was taken to demolish the old museum building and in its place a new museum building would come up. On Lord Napier's recommendation famous architect  Robert Fellowes Chisholm, employee of the Government of Madras in 1872 came  to Travancore to design the museum building. After familiarizing with the local design, technique  and domestic art forms, Chisholm attempted to mix the local attributes with those of  European  architecture. The new building designed by Chisholm was constructed in 1880 and named after Lord Napier, then Governor of Madras  Presidency.  The museum has three big hall with a long corridor. The workmanship of this building is just breath-taking. Though it is a British building, the local Kerala  architectural influence can be seen in many places. The interior has beautifully designed wood-crafted beams, pillars, doors and windows. Balconies, corridors and sit outs have nice artistic features in wood. 
The museum has a large collection of metal idols and sculptures dating back to several centuries . Mention may be made of   metal sculptures of Chola, Chera, Vijayanagara and Naik periods - eighth to eighteenth Century AD.  Other items include  beautifully carved wooden  and  stone sculptures of various subjects  of South India.  Nicely carved ivory times, musical instruments, pre historic burial urns, (similar to those of  Harappan civilization)  and other items related to royalty.  Big wooden ornamental box, temple chariot, different types of ceremonial lamps  draw our attention There is a good collection of pictures drawn by Raja Ravi Verma, Thanjavur paintings, etc.  Napier Museum, has a wonderful  collection of S. India coins belonging to various periods -  ancient, medieval and modern South Indian Coins (Satvahana coins, Chera, Chola and Vijayanagara coins).  The collection includes countless foreign coins Roman, Danish, Persian, etc. The museum has  painfully carved wooden images as one would commonly find  in the Koothmbalams, particularly on the ceilings and rafters.The craftsmanship is worthy of emulation and appreciation
Tit-Bits:

01. The exhibits bring out some important facts  with respect to knowledge of Bronze idol making etc., way back in 8th century.

02.  Knowledge of iconography centuries ago as well as wooden art forms, taking inspiration from the Hindu Pantheon of gods and also the episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The religious faith forms the matrix in many wooden carvings and paintings.

03. Included in the museum are the  2nd century 'Gandhara' sculpture to 18th century Kerala sculptures.sculpture. 

04. Kumple wood was widely used in making wooden carvings.

05. There are  5480 coins coming under 9 major categories.

06. The museum has a nice garden and it has a spread of 55 acres. 
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Museum
 http://keralaculture.org/napier-museum-thiruvananthapuram/543