Established in the year 1917, the Patna Museum is one of a few best museums in India. With its presentation, Patna museum is committed to impart a scientific vision to understand the evolution of history, culture and art tradition of the land. As a repository of ancient glory, Patna Museum is, however, truly the cultural pride of Bihar.
Patna Museum has thousands of exhibits of varied nature in its possession, which includes Pre & Proto – historic objects, stone sculptures, bronzes, terracottas, paintings – miniature and thanka paintings, coins, miscellaneous art-objects and so on. Besides, there are numerous very rare collections in the museum and one can not appreciate the Indian art history and cultural heritage of the land without going through the collections. Patna Museum has pride previlege of preserving the holy relic casket of Lord Buddha containing his ashes and other associated materials discovered during excavation of a stupa belonging to 6th Century B.C. at Vaishali. Built in the Indo-Sarcenic style, the Patna Museum building was constructed in the year 1928 within its own land measuring 700x500 ft.
The Patna Museum is a multipurpose museum. The collections of varied nature can be classified into several sections. Presently, there are altogether eleven classified sections.
The pre-historic objects include palaeoliths, microliths and neoliths from differenet parts of Bihar and from foreign countries as well. The Paleolithic tools from Bariar (M.P.) and Lalitpur (U.P.) and also chellean and acheulean implements from Attirampakkam (Tamilnadu) are very important. Besides, there are some very fine neoliths from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh kept in the museum.
The Patna Museum possesses the biggest collection of copper hoards discovered from different parts of Jharkhand and Bihar, viz.: Palamu, Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Munger, Dhanbad and Santhal-Pargana. They represent the casting technique and the high skill in the metallurgy of the period. The anthropomorphic copper object found from Dhanbad district is unique and very important. The museum has the honour to preserve a few of the important finds from the classical Harappan sites which include terracotta figurines, potteries, copper and bronze objects, seals-sealings and weights.
Amongst the stone sculptures a special mention must be made about the famous female ‘chawar Dharani figure of the Mauryan period, i.e. 3rd Cent B.C. Discovered at Didarganj (Patna), the magnificent statue is popularly known as Didarganj Yakshi. It is made of pink chunar sand stone and bears the typical Mauryan polish. With a ‘Chawar’ in her right and slight forward inclined posture, the charming figure demonstrates a modest apparance and also reflects her humble submission toward the spectators. The highly lustured stone torso of a jain Tirthankar from Lohanipur (Patna) is the earliest example of Jaina art. The lion head from Masarh (Bhojpur) and the bull capital from Hajipur of Mauryan period are also worth to mention.
A bi-facial Shalabhanjika, carved on stone slab on high relief, is a finer specimen of craftsmanship of late Mauryan-early Sunga period. The figure is in her full youthfull posture, twisting the branch of tree with one of her hands.
The museum has a fairly good number of sculptures of the Gandhara and the Mathura art which is chronologically synchronized with the age of Kushans. The Gandhar specimens also known as ‘Graeco-Buddhist Art’ are made of blue-schist of Swat valley and the collection includes figures of Buddha, Bodhisattavas and narrative panels as well.
The panel depicting the birth scene of Siddhartha is undoubtedly important one among the narrative panels. There are also a few specimens of stucco figures. The sculptures of Mathura School depict Buddha, Bodhisattavas, Hariti, Jatak, scenes and so on. Amongst Kushana sculptures from Bihar, special reference may be made of the famous trio from Devangarh in the Nawada district. Having obvious regional variation, the trio consists of the figures of Ekanamsa, Balarama and Vasudeva. Unlike conventional one, images of Patna Museum trio are separately sculptured.
A female figure in stone from Sakarigalighat, Rajmahal is a fine example of classical Gupta art skill. Tilted as “shuka kridarat nari” the figure is shown feeding a bird. The sculpture depicts a sensuous and delicate beauty of womanhood. It virtually portrays a happy janapada life of the period. Among other stone images of the Gupta and the late Gupta period, the figures of Karitikeya, Agni, Ganesha from Mundeshwari (Kaimur) are worth mentioning. The bi-facial dancing figure of Kartikeya, belonging to post-Gupta period from Mahrawan (Nawadah), is unique as it is one of a few sculptres discovered so far from North-India which represent the dancing figures on the both sides of a wheel.
The Museum preserves a good number of sculptures of the Pal-Sena school of art dated in between 8th & 12th century A.D. These sculptures in general, are made of black basalt stone. The sculptures in this group are varied in nature and comprise Brahmnical, Buddhist, Jaina and several miscellaneous sculptures. Particular mention may be made of a group of three images of Avalokitesvra, Maitreya and Buddha in bhumisparsh posture discovered from Vishnupur (Gaya). One fine example of the Pal craftsmanship may be seen in a spout ending gargoyle (makara mukha-pranal). Some beautiful door frames with the figures of Ganga and Yamuna are worth watching There are also several other interesting sculptures discovered from different regions.
The Museum possesses the best collection of bronze, better known as astadhatu, images in India. These bronzes were discovered from Chausa (Buxar), Kurkihar (Gaya), Nalanda, Belwa (Saran), Aluara (Dhanbad), Sonepur (Orissa) and Nagapattam (Tamilnadu).
The eighteen jain bronzes from Chausa are one of the most important collections of this Museum. These consist of Dharmachakra, Kalpavriksha and sixteen images of Jain Tirthankaras. These are the earliest known Jain bronzes in India and first known bronze hoard from Gangetic valley.
Patna Museum preserves a good number of bronzes from Nalanda. These depict the deities of all major religions; i.e. Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism prevalent at that period. The figures are dated from post Gupta to Pal period. The bronzes from Kurkihar numbering 163 are regarded as the best collection of bronzes from any part of India. The Kurkihar collection includes some of the very marvelous bronzes in India, such as figures of Buddha, Bodhisattavas, Tara, balarama and so on. These art pieces represent the high quality of the metal art that flourished during the Pal period. A few of these images are plated with gold.
For the study of Jaina iconography, besides bronzes from Chausa, metal images from Aluara belonging to 11th-12th cent. A.D. are very important. Out of twenty nine, one depicts the Jain Ambika and rest the Jaina Tirthankaras.
The Museum also acquires a good number of bronzes discovered from Sonepur, (Orissa), Negapattam (Tamilnadu) and Nellore (Andhra Pradesh).
The terra-cotta collection of the Museum is superb and famous world wide. Majority of these terracottas are from different parts of Bihar, such as Patna, Vaishali, Belwa, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Chausa and so on. A good number of terracottas are brought from Mathura, Varanasi and Pahadpur (Bangladesh) as well.
The terra-cotta figurines from Patna, mostly of the Maurya age, are of great importance. The three dancing damsels, the laughing boy and the smiling girl from the ancient city of Pataliputra are very rare and technically superb. Besides, there are numerous terracotta specimens which represent the artistic excellence of the period. Female terracotta heads from Buxar, belonging the Mauryan period, are highly elaborate in their head dress and coiffure. Terracottas from Vaishali, Bodh Gaya, Mathura are examples of local craftsmanship. The museum has some very good collection of Gupta terracottas from Kusambi. A beautiful plaque depicting Ramayan scene from Chausa is an example of excellent classical Gupta art. The large size plaques from Paharpur (Bangladesh) depict the technical skill of the Pal period. There is a good collection of terracotta seals and sealings from Vaishali, Nalanda and Dharawat. The Patna Museum in its art repository has miniature paintings, thankas and numerous decorative and miscellaneous art objects. The collection consists of painting on paper of different schools; such as – the Rajastahni, Mughal,Pahari, Delhi School and Patna Qalam,. These paintings range in date from the beginning of the 16th to the end of the 19th century A.D. The classical miniature paintings are varied in theme and they cover a broad spectrum of content. Mention may be made of the paintings related to the divine love of Radha & Krishna scenes of Ramayana, asthanayika bheda, barahmasa, rag-ragini themes. Three illustrated manuscripts of Jain Uttaradhayayan Sutra on paper are also very important. The paintings of Delhi School are both on paper and ivory.
The Patna Museum has in its possession a fairly good number of Patna School or Patna Qalam paintings which flourished in the city of Patna itself for about two centuries right from 1760 A.D. to the early decades of 20th century. The paintings are painted on paper, mica and ivory. The Museum has pride privilege of having the collection of Tibetan scroll paintings on silk which were presented by Rahul Sankrityayan. These Thankas are dated from 17th to 19th century A.D. The Tibetan scroll paintings mainly depict Buddh, Bodhisattva, Dalai Lamas, different Tantrayani deities, Chakrasamvar and so on.
The Patna Museum has got a very good collection of coins which are quite representative of different periods and dynasties ranging from earliest punch marked coins to modern commemorative coins. There are a good number of gold coins of the Kushanas, Guptas and Mughal rulers in the coin cabinet of Patna Museum. The museum also displays the gifts of late Dr. rajendra Prasad, the first President of Indian Republic, which he had received during the tenure of his Preseidency. Besides the above and so many undescribed ones, there are a few very rare collections housed in the museum. Two small gold repousse of caparisoned couchant Humped bulls from Vaishali are important for the study of metal art. A male standing figure with a turban on the head and holding a chamar, discovered from Vaishali excavations, is an example of fine craftsmanship. A gold repousse from Sultanganj displays a female figure within an oval plaque. This piece of art can be dated to Gupta period. In the category of rare collection mention may also be made of a group of 23 stone discs from Murtaziganj (Patna). The intricacy of ivory engraving and exquisite finish of jewellery making technique represent the high aesthetic taste of the people of the Maurya-Sunga period.
Besides the historical and archaeological objects, Patna Museum has some other interesting exhibits : such as a 53 feet long fossilized tree of Pine family discovered near Asansol in 1927. The old-arms like swords, daggers, shields, bagnakha, guns belonging to medieval period and cannon of First and Second World Wars create special interest in every visitor. Some stuffed wild life specimens, in which some are extinct, attract children and elders alike.
With the private collection of a Zamindar of Madhubani, the state Government established a museum in the year 1957 at Darbhanga naming it Chandradhari Museum after the name of its donor. This museum has numerous artifacts and art-objects of different periods including terra-cottas, coins and paintings of artistic excellence. Besides art-objects made of metal, wood clay and ivory; the museum possesses different kinds of beads, old arms and furnitures, specimens of precious stone, gold objects, jewellary, costumes and dresses, musical instruments and so on. The entire collection of the museum has been housed in its own building.
The private collection belonging to Late Shri Baldeo Prasad of Gaya was taken over and declared as Gaya Museum by the Directorate of Archaeology & Museums., Govt. of Bihar in the year 1970. Presently, the museum is housed in the premises of the Gaya District Board. It is likely to be shifted to its own building very soon as the construction of the museum building is under progress. In its new building, the museum is proposed to be developed as the Gaya Museum-cum-Magadh Cultural Centre with the view to collect, display and make available all the relevant information regarding living cultural heritage of the Magadh region under one roof. The Gaya museum has the privilege to have a very good collection of some very important art specimens of bygone days in its art repository. The museum preserves more than 3000 antiquities, art-pieces and objects of public interest. The rich collection of stone sculptures especially of Pal period is very important and it consists of some rare examples of artistic excellence of the period. In its possession, Gaya museum has also a good collection of coins of different period (from punch marked to medieval coins), manuscripts, terracotta figurines ranging right from Mauryan (3rd Cent B.C.) to Gupta period (4th – 5th Cent A.D.), Pal bronzes and other art-objects.
In the year 1974, with the initiative of the then District Magistrate of newly created district of Nawada Shri N. P. Singh, I.A.S. the Nardah Museum was established. Almost all the exhibits were collected and made over to the Deptt. of Art, Culture & Youth, Govt. of Bihar by Shri Singh himself. Nardah Museum is a multi-purpose museum and the mention-worthy artifacts and art-objects include Pal stone sculptures, coins and manuscripts. Besides, contemporary painting, metal and stone art-pieces have also been preserved in the museum. The entire collection is housed in a magnificent building of its own.
There is one more museum in the city of Darbhanga named Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh Museum. The main collection of the museum comprises the donation made over to the Govt. of Bihar by the family of Darbhanga Raj in the year 1979. In the same premises, just beside the Chandradhari Museum, the collection of Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh Museum is housed in its own building. The museum has got such priceless art-objects which can not be found in any other museums. The art-pieces made of ivory are very important so far the artistic excellence of carving on ivory is concerned.
To collect and display the artifacts and art objects belonging to the region of Bhagalpur, a state museum was started in the year 1976. Recently, the collection of museum has been shifted to its own building. There is a very good collection of stone sculptures of Pal period (8th–12th A.D.) The State Govt. has the proposal to develop this museum as Bhagalpur Museum-cum-Anga Cultural Centre at Bhagalpur and the work is in progress.
In the year 1983, a museum at Jamui was taken over by the State Govt. to preserve the antiquities of the region. It was renamed as Chandra Shekhar Singh Museum after the name of late Shri Chandra Shekhar Singh the ex-Chief Minister of Bihar in the year 1986. This museum is known for its rich collection of stone sculptures of transitional phase between Gupta and Pal period.
The Biharsharif Museum was created in the year 1979. The museum has recently been shifted to its own building named ‘Virasat Bhawan’ at Biharsharif, the district headquarter of Nalanda. The stone sculptures housed in this museum mostly belong to Magadhan School of Indian Art, i.e., Pal period. A few good examples of stone sculptures, medieval coins and stone inscription are the pride collection of the museum.
In the year 1979, Buxar Museum was established with a few good stone sculptures and coins. Hundreds of very good Terracottas collected by a local resident late Shri Sita Ram Upadhyaya was donated to the Buxar Museum and in the year 1993, the Govt. of Bihar, on request, renamed it as the Sita Ram Upadhyaya Museum after the name of the donor. The museum is famous for magnificent terracotta collections, especially the terracotta figurines belonging to the Mauryan and Shungan period (3rd–2nd Cent B.C.). Besides, there are a few stone sculptures and coins preserved in this museum as well.
Ram Chandra Shahi Museum at Muzaffarpur was established in the year 1979. It has got its own building in the campus of Jubba Sahni Park. The museum possesses a very good collection including artifacts and numerous art-objects of varied nature. The museum is famous for its rich collection of rare postage stamps.
With the artifacts and art-objects collected within and the adjoining area of Begusarai district, a museum named as Begusarai Museum was established in the year 1981. The main collection of this museum consists of some very good specimens of Pal period stone sculptures and coins.
The Chapra museum was established in the district headquarter of Saran. The exhibits collected from the region have been displayed in the Chapra Museum. Recently, with the transfer of antiquities unearthed during the excavations of famous archaeological site of Chirand (Saran), the regional museum has been shifted its own building named ‘Dhai Aakhar Bhawan’. The Chirand materials include a very rare Mauryan teracotta mask, bone tools and artifacts of Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. Amongst stone sculptures, a few excellent Pal stone sculptures are also kept in the museum.
The Govt. of Bihar has declared the official residence of ex-Chief Minister of Bihar late Shri Karpoori Thakur as the memorial museum in the year 1990 to commemorate the life, achievements and philosophy of late Shri Thakur. Since the Jana-nayak Karpoori Thakur Smriti Sangrahalaya is a personalia museum, it displays and preserves the articles of daily-use, dresses, documents, letters, diaries, writings and several other things belonged to late Shri Karpoori Thakur.
There is a very good library having a very good collection of Hindi, English, Bangla and a few Urdu books on various subjects and topics which had been collected and preserved by the late-CM.
The Govt. has a plan to develop this museum as research institute on social issues. A village-complex depicting the life, customs, environment and ecology of rural Bihar, has also been proposed in the campus of the Smriti Sangrahalaya.
In the year 1972, the Govt. of Bihar declared the paternal residence of Babu Kunwar Singh as the Babu Kunwar Singh Smriti Sangrahalaya at Jagdishpur (Bhojpur) with the view to commemorate the first war of independence of 1857. Under the financial assistance of the 11th Finance Commission, the plan to develop this museum as a martyrium of freedom struggle is in progress.
This year, a small museum named Baba Karu Khirhar Museum has been opened in the campus of famous Matsya Gandha tank at Saharsa. There are stone sculptures of Pal period, different types of coins and many other popular articles of public interest displayed in this museum.
Besides the aforesaid museums, there are Betia Museum, Betia; Lakhisarai Museum, Lakhisarai; Deep Narayan Singh Museum, Hajipur; Gandhi Smriti Sangrahalaya, Bhitiharwa (West Champaran) and Mithila Lalit Sangrahalaya, Saurath (Madhubani) which display and preserve the rich heritage of the respective regions. Attempts are being made by the State Government to enrich these regional museums.
Apart from the museums governed by the Deptt. of Art, Culture & Youth, there are also a few other museums of different disciplines controlled by the other departments of Govt. of Bihar.
Under the Department of Industries Govt. of Bihar established a Small Scale Industrial Museum with the view of displaying the different objects collected and prepared as representatives of Small Scale Industries and thereby promoting the interest of the concerned industry among the concerned artisans.
The Police Museum is located by the northern side of the Jawaharlal Nehru Marg (old Bailey Road) near the Golf Club, Patna. Efforts have been made to equip the museum with the maximum possible old arms and ammunitions, dresses and other concerned objects handled and used by the contemporary Police officials.
Bihar became the first state in India to have separate web page for every city and village in the state on its website www.brandbihar.com (Now www.brandbharat.com)
See the record in Limca Book of Records 2012 on Page No. 217