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Gujarat's oldest museum started as an art school

However, until independence, visitors had access to the museum only during the special events

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Gargi Raval

Updated: May 18, 2018, 05:50 AM IST

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Kutch Museum, the state's oldest museum, will feed your mind with the delightful nostalgic flavour of the historic Maharaja of Kutch Khengarji III. Just 141-year-old, the Kutch Museum has a unique tale to unfold. Opened on July 1, 1877, by the then Maharaja, the place used to be a trove of precious gifts which he received during his marriage.

"The kings used to make decorative things for royal weddings. They used to receive precious gift as well. It was not any different when the Maharaja of Cutch, Khengarji III, got married," said Shefalika Awasthi, curator of Kutch Museum.

"An exhibition, based on the land's rich arts and craft was organised, during his wedding and 5897 items were put on display," added the curator. The things have been put on display since then, said Awasthi. However, until independence, visitors had access to the museum only during the special events.

"The museum worked as an art school until independence, where the Brit and the people from the royal dynasty learnt about the local Kutchi art and craft," the curator said. Later, a building was erected and a foundation stone was laid by James Ferguson, the then governor of Bombay. The museum was adversely affected during the 2001 massive earthquake.

The historic place has a daily footfall of around 80 to 90 people, and the number doubles during the winter. It has eleven sections. One of its sections deals with pieces of archaeology, including some amazing relics found during the excavation of the site. It is to be noted that the highest number of Indus Valley civilization site have been found from Kutch region.

Objects carved out from ivory — including paper-cutter, scissors, comb, spoon, hairpin and knife — make the place graceful. There is an Airavat from the 18th century. The wooden masterpiece has trunks, each crowned by a temple. The government of India, in 1978, issued a postal stamp showing this Airaval to commemorate it as the museum of the century.

Gauri Mehta, a visitor, said, "Kutch has a very rich culture. I just came to know about it from the tribes here and the vast collection of art and craft items. The relics of Kshtrapa period is also unique."

"One needs hours to complete visiting this place," she said.

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