Public Gardens Hyderabad or Bagh-e-aam, as the name suggests must have been built as a garden meant for the general public with rest houses built for the royalty to rest when they visit the gardens. The place is not very old by the Indian history standards. It is less than 100 years old.
Museums in Public Gardens Hyderabad
One of the main buildings now acts as the AP State museum and another huge hall acts as a health museum. Not too far from here is the state archeological museum, which is a fairly new building, bang opposite the famous Lepakshi showroom.
AP State Museum
AP State museum is named after YSR Reddy. I assume it may be a recent re-naming that the museum might have undergone. The building is beautiful but hardly maintained. The museum has some very interesting galleries like the Buddhist gallery that has the Buddha relics from Bavikonda displayed. And unlike the Patna museum, here the stone caskets are open. And the contents of it are kept in such a way that you can completely view them. The ample documentation around this room made to give a feel of being in a Stupa tells you all about Buddhism in the state. Like various sites and stupas that have been excavated, their locations, the excavated antiquities and its spread across the Godavari river.
Gallery on Buddhism
In another gallery on Buddhism, there are panels excavated from the famous Buddhist site of Amravati. I have read a bit about this earliest excavation from this site. And the discovery of panels that depict stories from Jatakas and Buddha’s life, most of which are not in India anymore. Here I could see some panels and the parts of the balustrade from the Amravati stupa. I was surprised to see the light grey color of the stone, which seems very permeable, but has survived well for thousands of years. The huge panels, especially the round ones give you an idea of how big the stupa may have been.
Mummy at AP State Museum
A big attraction of this museum is a Mummy that was brought here about 100 years back. Apparently bought for a paltry sum of 10,000 pounds and gifted to the then Nizam. And it is from the Nizam’s collection that it landed in this museum. It is a Mummy of a 16-year-old girl. You are not allowed to photograph this mummy. But you can see it pretty closely in the glass casket. It seems like made of mud and covered with those well-known ceremonial clothes. This is the first Mummy I have seen. The look and feel were not different from my perception but the body did not seem real, the eyes were painted for sure, you never know when and by whom.
The Bronze gallery has a good collection of south Indian Bronzes. An especially a couple of huge Nataraja figures, huge bells with intricate carvings on them and Veergals. The gallery is huge and reasonably well arranged but the lighting is pathetic. You cannot read whatever little documentation is available. A huge board in this gallery informs about important forts in Andhra Pradesh.
Decorative Arts Gallery
Decorative arts gallery showcases the terracotta, stuccowork, wooden carvings, ceramics, glassware, Bidri work, ivory work, metal craft and intricate work on textiles, jade, and marble along with calligraphy most of which have their origin in the medieval era. Wooden pieces seem to be taken from the temple carts, one of which is displayed in the courtyard of the museum.
Ajanta gallery has the replicas of famous Ajanta panels but unfortunately without any documentation that would leave an average visitor clueless about these paintings. The furniture also seems to belong to the same era and appears untouched since then. Another hall has paintings of Abdur Rahman Chugtai displayed, but very difficult to admire due to bad lighting. The outer walls have a Central Asian form of painting whose name I forgot to register.
The Jain gallery has some very finely carved, mostly life-size statues of Jain Teerthankars. Most of the statues are in black stone with an extremely fine polish.
Wooden Temple Ratha
Courtyard of the museum is quite interestingly laid out with various stone sculptures. A temple replicated on top of four temple pillars from Warangal, a wooden temple Ratha and an oval amphitheater-like formation with the temple door jambs from across the state. The Ganesha and the Gaja Lakshmi are the most common symbols found on these doorjambs. The intricate carvings would force you to think of the beauty of the temple whose entrance was so beautifully conceived.
I spoke to the director of the museum and he said a new gallery for numismatics is being made. The museum has one of the largest collections of Gold and Silver coins. He also assured me that there is work going on putting the documentation for the display. And I sincerely hope that the work finishes sometime soon and visitors would be able to understand what they see.
Another museum in the public gardens is Health museum that was set up in the huge hall before independence. It claims to be the only museum of its kind. The museum seems to be exactly as it was when it was set up in the early 1940s. There are sections that tell you about the various aspects of health like nutrition, hygiene, various infections, habits, and common diseases. For some strange reason, you are not allowed to click photographs inside the museum. As the basics of health do not change, the museum remains relevant. But I am not sure how many people actually visit it. They hand out a small booklet in healthy habits to all visitors. A good one-time visit for children I think.
3. AP Archaeological Museum
AP Archeological museum is located opposite the Lepakshi showroom in Gunfoundary not too far from Public Gardens. This is a fairly new museum by the state archaeology and museums department. Designed, as a circular building that you cannot see from the main road, though. This museum has everything excavated from the region and hence very important from the perspective of knowing the local history. At the entrance, a beautiful doorjamb welcomes you to the museum. At the ground floor, you get to see the small artifacts like terracotta figurines from various eras. Some of them are replicas but it has not been mentioned anywhere. The outer periphery of the museum has stone sculptures around it.
Antiquities from Pre-historic times
The upper story has antiquities from the pre-historic and historic times. There are large funeral boxes in terracotta and stone along with other items that were deposited with the dead. There are terracotta Jewelry and tablets that tell us about those times. And there was a small tablet in black stone with Lajja Gauri carved on it. Incidentally, all the artifacts are behind glass cases and you cannot take good pictures of them, for which you anyway need to take special permission from the Director of the museum.
A masterpiece of this museum is a huge doorjamb from a temple in Warangal. In black stone with extremely beautiful and intricate carvings placed right in the middle of the circular hall. It is massive and delicate at the same time.
I spent a complete day going around these three museums. But I did not see many people visiting the museum. All these museums can be better maintained and better documented. Then they might attract more visitors. If you can ignore these couple of irritants, the two museums have a good collection of historical artifacts. Outside the public gardens there is an old canteen called Anu, you get good local food at a very reasonable price here.
I enjoyed my visit to these museums in and around Public Gardens Hyderabad. Now, are there any other museums in Hyderabad, besides the famous Salarjung that I have already visited.
Recommend you read following travel blog posts on places to visit on Hyderabad.