The Indian Museum looms imperiously over the corner of Chowringhee and peers slightly scathingly down at the backpacker hangout, Sudder St. Haberdashers, book shops, chai stalls and leather workers line the footpath outside. Saris swirl with blinding colours. Smiles are all around, (though sometimes a tad scary and reddish with the paan-chewing)
A row of extremely well patronised Dhabas with canvas and plastic roofs and bench seats that overlook bubbling pots of delicious lightly curried Bengali street food sit alongside rickshaws and yellow cabs, bustling pedestrians and businessmen , students and priests, tourists and all sorts, everyone and everything seeming to move quickly but languorously at the same time. That peculiarly wonderful Bengali rhythm.
Moving to this compulsive beat you acend into museological heaven.
Housed in a magnificent white building it is the oldest and largest museum in India and one of the oldest museums in the world.
It guards an amazing collection of fossils, mummies, textiles, ornaments, antiques, armour, skeletons and Mughal paintings. It was built in 1814 and originally home to The Asiatic Society of Bengal.
It’s taxidermied animals are ancient, extensive (314), fascinating, though understandably sometimes just a smidge moth-eaten. They were set up by the Zoological Survey in 1878. It is extraordinary that the museum was able to preserve these exhibits so well considering the climate and the amount of time in their care (some are more than 100 years old).
We met a charming group from Kerala (despite their stern expressions) who insisted we sit with them.
Bill tried lunch at the canteen – 50 rupees ($1) for Fish, Dahl, rice and veg with a cup of sweet masala chai (it goes without saying.)
The Indian Museum is immense and we only managed to cover half. We can’t wait to explore further on our next much anticipated visit to that Queen of cities, Kolkata.