Founded in the early
1900s, this Museum is one of the premier cultural institutions in the
country. On the 14th August 1905, a number of prominent people of Bombay
gathered at the Town Hall and resolved to erect a Memorial to the visit
of the Prince of Wales (later King George V) in the form of a public
Museum which, would be named after him. The meeting was attended by Sir
Pherozeshah Mehta, Justice Badrudin Tyabji, Narotamdas Gokuldas, Justice
Chandavarkar, Sasson J. David and many other dignitaries known for
their outstanding contribution in their respective fields and also in
the development of the island of Bombay. The Foundation Stone of the
Museum was laid by the Prince of Wales on 11th November 1905 and the
Museum was named Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. For a long
time people had also felt the need for a good museum in the city and
finally the museum was established by the public contribution aided by
the then Government of the Bombay Presidency.
This memorial in the
form of a museum was to be erected on the plot of land known as the
Crescent Site on the southern tip of the island.
The building was
completed in 1914 but it opened to the public much later on 10th
January, 1922. Till then it was used by the military as a hospital and
for the Children’s Welfare Exhibitions.
Many things have changed since then. Bombay is now known as Mumbai and
the name of the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India is changed to
the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Set against a
well-laid-out garden which retains its original plan even today, the
museum is an important Heritage building of the city.
The Mueum is situated on a Semi-Circular plot of land
known as the ‘Crescent Site’
Bromide photograph by Raja Deen Dayal
Construction in progress Museum Archives
The Museum building with the Garden in the foreground
Museum Archives, 1927
Museum Building and its History (Architect, style, conservation)
is a Grade I Heritage Building of the city and is set in a well laid
out garden which retains its original plan. It has been awarded first
place for Heritage Building Maintenance by the Indian Heritage Society.
Today, this museum houses about 50,000 artefacts and has an outstanding
collection comprising of sculptures, terracotta’s, bronzes, excavated
artefacts from the Harappan sites, Indian miniature paintings, European
paintings, porcelain and ivories from China and Japan, etc. Besides
these, the Museum has a separate Natural History section.
architect of the building, George Wittet, was selected after an open
competition in 1909. Wittet is known for the Indo-Saracenic style of
architecture of which this museum is one of the best examples. The
Indo-Saracenic style combines Hindu and Saracenic architectural forms,
at times incorporating some elements of Western architecture. The Indian
pillared hall, the arched pavilion, the dome rising above the huge
intersecting arches forming a beautiful geometrical pattern-all these
together make the Museum building a typical example of the
Indo-Saracenic style. Small jalis for light and wind add to the grandeur
of the building. George Wittet skilfully incorporated the original
wooden arched pavilion purchased from a royal house (wada) at Nasik in
Maharashtra, as a circular railing on the first floor of the building.
The dome of this building is designed after the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur
and the finial is copied from the Taj at Agra.
Sculpture ‘Brahmanical’ Gallery, Museum Archives, 1927