Situated in Byculla, the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is not only the city’s oldest museum and a treasure trove of information about the city’s socio-cultural evolution, but also a fine specimen of public architecture of the late 19th century. It owes its origins to the enterprising citizens of mercantile Mumbai who came together and raised funds for its establishment back in 1872.
The Museum building employs a Palladian style of architecture for its exteriors, giving its two level structure a rather regal appearance. On the other hand, the interiors are furnished in a High Victorian style, and after an award-winning restoration project undertaken in the last decade, continue to bedazzle visitors even today.
The Museum’s main hall is a linear double-height volume that is flanked by galleries on either side. Corinthian columns with richly decorated capitals, arches with filigree work, wrought iron railings and cornices with floral ornamentation are the chief decorative features here. Look closely and you’d also notice the gold-leafing works that highlight many of these details.
A statue of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria overlooks this central hall, and is flanked by statues of the Greek goddesses for Science and the Arts – both of which were considered crucial for progress during the era of industrial revolution. Also present is a bust of David Sassoon, one of the key philanthropists who contributed to the museum.
The Museum’s Industrial Arts Gallery showcases a collection of decorative Indian arts and crafts that were popular in Europe during the time that the Museum was set up. These are in a variety of materials and forms, that include silverware, sandalwood carvings, brass figurines, ivory works and more.
On the upper level, the Kamalnayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery has a fascinating collection of dioramas and models that represent the many communities, trades and occupations that were found in Mumbai.
Text And Photos By Kunal Bhatia