Government Museum
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Wandering through the Bronze Galleries at Chennai's Government Museum
The Government Museum in Chennai is a repository of cultural marvels: oil paintings by the Travancore artist Raja Ravi Varma, mammoth-sized portraits of Governors during the British Raj, but most notably, Bronze sculptures dating back to 8-11 A.D. One web site touts the gallery has holding the largest global collection of metal sculptures under one sun-beaten roof (1,500 in total; mostly Hindu gods/goddesses, a few Buddhist/Jain sculptures). The entrance to the Bronze Gallery is tucked away at the back of a rather dilapidated but gorgeous crimson brick British Raj building built in 1851: the second oldest museum in India after the one in Calcutta. I loved the portraits of Indian women by Raja Ravi Varma that sensitively magnified upper crust life; these reside on the second floor of an Indo-Saracenic style building (a British style influenced by both Indo-Islamic and native Indian architecture). The bronze sculptures would delight any art lover for hours, and the museum was not crowded when I visited on a Saturday afternoon (a striking contrast to say, The Museum of Modern Art, where I would have elbowed my way to see anything). They are organized into two broad categories of Vaishnavite (Vishnu) or Shaivite (Siva) devotee pieces. A frameless float glass showcase spotlights the famed "Nataraja" sculpture (dating back to the Chola Dynasty) with its almost psychedelic, cosmos-swirl background: the icing on the cake of this stupendous gallery.
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