New Gallery of Buddhist Art opens at Mumbai Museum

A chance to see 45 artifacts including Ashoka's inscriptions from Saturday

New Gallery of Buddhist Art opens at Mumbai Museum

A permanent 'Buddhist Art Gallery' of a total of 45 ancient art and historical objects, including Emperor Ashoka's ninth inscription from the 3rd century BC, Gandhara style sculpture and architectural specimens from the 2nd century BC, is opening from Friday, July 28, at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum). It will open to the public from Saturday, July 29.

The museum has had a separate gallery of Tibetan (Hinayana) Buddhist art for many years, but artefacts from the Gandhara style and the era of Emperor Ashoka were scattered throughout the museum or preserved in Kadi Kolpa. All of them will now be seen together. Like other halls of the museum, there will be information boards in Marathi and English Caves with traces of Buddhism in Maharashtra that fascinate tourists due to their architectural beauty. However, this hall contains occasional sculptures or relics from the Buddhist period, some contemporary objects. The period of this hall is from the 3rd century BC to 16th century AD.

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An inscription from the time of Emperor Ashoka was found at Sopara near Mumbai - the then Shurparaka - in the Brahmi script of the time. This is an inscription suggesting that 'nothing special results from dharmakarya, but compared to this the fruits of virtue are good'. There are six such vials in this hall, three of which are made of crystal, specially crafted to preserve the remains of the Tathagata Buddha or important monks after their Nirvana. Two of these crystal flasks have been found in Pitalkhora in Marathwada. The nature of this museum in Mumbai is 'built by the people, run by the people'. So many artefacts gifted by many rich collectors including Dorab Tatas are here. This museum in Colaba (at Regal Cinema Chowk) is also open on Saturdays and Sundays for a fee.

Artefacts from abroad too

Buddhist artefacts not only from Maharashtra but also from abroad are included in this hall. A Buddhist handwritten pothi from Thailand, Dipankar Buddha statue from Nepal and other Eastern artefacts are present here, and the route of propagation of the Buddhist Dhamma can be seen from them. The 8th-9th century idol of Padmapani Bodhisattva is from Kashmir.

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