As you walk down the Gateway of India towards Flora Fountain, you'll be greeted by the unmistakable hustle and bustle of Bombay.  You'll also see an imposing dome-shaped structure.  The Prince of Wales Museum.  Spend a few hours inside the portals of the structure and you'll witness centuries of art and architecture unfolds its magic in a kaleidoscopic display of colours and images.
This solid structure of basalt stone, with a big dome, surrounded by beautifully laid gardens is built on a spot of land known as the 'crescent site', because of its shape.  Situated near the University Building to its West and the Gateway of India to its South, the museum is visited by more than a million people every year.  The history of the museum goes back to 1901, when Mr. Henry Cousens succeeded in persuading the government to shift its military offices from the Town Hall and assemble there the collection of antiquities gathered by him. Various institutes like the Bombay Natural History Society, the Anthropological Society, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the J. J. J. School of Art also exhibited their collections.
The museum movement received a fillip in 1905 when the people of Bombay decided to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales by setting up a museum.
The process of collection of objects in a museum is a gradual one.  However, the Prince of Wales Museum was particularly lucky in its earlier stages.  The acquisition in 1915 of the collections of Sir Purushottam Mavji, the munificent gift in 1921 by Sir Ratan Tata, and in 1933 by Sir Dorab Tata of their valuable art collection form the nucleus of the museum's art section.  The transfer of sculptures and coins of the defunct Poona Museum, the collections of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society consisting of valuable sculptures and epigrams, and the co-operation between the Board of Trustee and the Bombay Natural History Society, helped in setting up the archaeological and natural history sections.
The emphasis has been primarily on the development of Indian paintings, sculpture and decorative art, and this includes some of the finest examples of ivory carving, woodwork, metal work and textiles.  The architecture of the Prince of Wales Museum can be broadly described as a British interpretation of the Mughal period.  The structure forms a long rectangle of three storeys, raised in the centre to accommodate the entrance porch.  Above the central arched entrance rises a huge dome, tiled in white and blue flecks, supported on a lotus - petal base.  Around the dome is an array of pinnacles, each topped by a miniature dome.  Indian motifs like the brackets and protruding caves are combined with so-called Islamic arches and tiny domes.  The whole museum complex is situated in a garden of palm trees and formal flower beds.
The museum's collection of Indian miniature paintings represent all the facets of painting from illustrated palm leaf manuscripts of the 11th / 12th centuries to the early 19th century 'pahari' paintings. The main schools of Indian paintings viz. Mughal, Rajasthani, Pahari and Deccani are well represented.  The collection is specially rich in the paintings of the Sultanate period.  The collections of sculptures, though modest, are some of the finest of the Chalukyan period.  The terracotta figures from Mirpurkhas is Sind of the early 5th century show the classical face of Gupta art, and the sculptures of the Rashtrakuta period from Elephanta are replete with strength and noble modeling unknown elsewhere.
Similarly, the ivories of the Gupta period are unique. The minuteness of the details and nobility of the figures are typical of the Gupta period.
Amongst its decorative are sections are textiles, ivories, Mughal jades, silver, gold and artistic metalware.  There is also a rich collection of European paintings, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, ivory and jade artefacts.
To facilitate the study of art, history and archaeology, the museum has started a research institute affiliated to the University of Bombay.
The museum's natural history section is a well-maintained showcase of Indian wildlife.  The use of habitat group cases and dioramas have added a charm to the systematic presentation.  Diagrams and charts make the presentation instructional.  Of particular interest are the cases of flamingo colonies, Indian hornbill, Indian bison, and the tiger.  The Prince of Wales Museum has always aimed at being a centre of education and not merely a showplace.  Its various projects amply demonstrate its intention to serve the people.  The museum is a vital link between the past and the present and an important centre of culture and education.

This Article is Posted on 23 Apr 2015 in Travel Section and Places