by TEDIFFO on 27/06/07 at 4:01 am
The best place to preserve the history in its original form, particularly culture and heritage, is a museum.
“We are similar to a museum. My function is to present old masterpieces in modern frames.” Rudolf Bing, (Austrian musician).
Countries like Pakistan have got huge golden treasures of history and civilization that are already being displayed at different museums. The Mohenjodaro and Harrapa on the bank of the river Indus are considered world’s second oldest and largest rich civilizations after the great Egyptian civilization. These civilizations depict a history of verity of things from livings to households, from religions to architectures and many more and are remarkable for there uniqueness.
In addition to the mughal architecture that adorns the city of Lahore; there are a good number of buildings having the beautiful British architecture. These include, but are not limited to, Government College Lahore, General Post Office, Saint Anthony’s High School, and among these most prominent, The Lahore Museum.
The Lahore Central Museum
The Lahore Central Museum:
The best Museum in Pakistan, housed in an attractive artistic style, the Lahore Museum was established in 1894 in the historical city of Pakistan, Lahore. It has been regarded as the one of the major museums of South Asia. Lahore Museum, also known as Central Museum, gloriously stands on the famous Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, previously known as The Mall Road, opposite to 100-year old Allama Iqbal Campus of South Asia’s famous Punjab University.
Blended with the elements of old tradition of Mughal architecture, the Museum is conspicuous among all the structures build during the British period on Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam. It is in fact Pakistan’s largest museum and holds the country’s richest cultural and historical materials. The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert Victor, Prince of Wales, while the father of famous writer Rudyard Kipling, John Lockwood Kipling, was one of the famous curators of the museum and the novel Kim was set in the vicinity of the Lahore Museum.
The British during their reign compensated Lahore, by harmoniously combining Mughal, Gothic and Victorian styles of architecture. Victorian heritage is only next to Mughal monuments. The Lahore Museum was built on the same mughal-Gothic style. The lush green Shalimar-like gardens, neatly planted trees and flowers diffusing bright colors and fresh fragrance, a good strong and secure red-brick building, beautiful parabolic tombs depicting Islamic heritage with an artistic work of crafted and paved windows and doors, attracting castle-like balconies, with an enchanting white royal entrance and the historical cannons greetings, all cast a spell on the on goers to stand and see and forces the audience to come and look in side this great architecture piece.
The Main Hall Of Portraits:
On student tickets, I along with my four other friends, at last entered this beautiful building after having a security check. The first thing we saw were large collection of paintings dating back to Mughal, Sikh and British era. These were portraits of the great mughal kings, queens, knights, warriors, ministers and other VIPs at that time with there brief history written under their proud looking pictures.
All these portraits, probably more than hundred of them, were placed beautifully on the pavements on the right and left sides of the main hall of the museum. There was a little darkness in the main hall so these paintings were skilled fully lit, making them more beautiful and attractive. While we were already enchanted by the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal and Noor Jahan after seeing there pictures we suddenly heard a young man smiling and saying, “You are not the first person to whom these ladies have attracted young men like you all by the power of their beauty!” And later we came to know that he was the museum guide with quite a great knowledge about history.
The museum has 20 galleries with items dating from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Walking slowly and briefly explaining he told us how Noor Jahan discovered the secret of rosewater, what were the consequences that led to creation of Taj Mahal and when was this beautiful architecture regarded as The Wonder of the World, how the kings ruled the subcontinent while telling their stories of bravery and courage, what were the traditions at that time, what were the drawbacks that led to decline of the mughal emperors, and many other things that we really enjoyed listening.
The Arms & Artillery:
After listening keenly to the stories of these portraits our guide took us to another interesting section of this historical museum, The Arms and Artillery. Right after entering this war section our first sight rested on the great regal bronze sculpture of Queen Victoria wearing Honiton lace apron, sitting gracefully and watching her admirers. During our guide’s presentation on this section I came to know for the first time that the building in which the museum is presently housed was built in 1887 to commemorate Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, while as I wrote before, His Royal Highness Prince Victor in 1890 laid the foundation stone.
In 1893 the construction was completed, which was designed by Sardar Sahib Ram Singh. On the right and left sides of Her Majesty there rests the heads on a small pillar of the famous King George V and King Edward VII, made with the same regal bronze material and casting the same proud expressions. On the left side of this section of the museum there are varieties of war weapons and tools dating back to 19th and 20th centuries from small knives to huge swords, war clothes and shields. Different kinds of bows and arrows of different sizes and shapes and many other brutal weapons, though may not be as sharp as they were before but they still cast the same sharp effect on our minds. Whereas on the right side this section there are beautifully placed war weapons and tools of the World Wars with some of them used during the Indo-Pak wars.
Our guide had a pretty good knowledge of these weapons and tools. He then showed us the huge shells placed in a glass box which were fired in 1965 Indo-Pak war. At the end of this section there lies the famous Grumukh inscripted Artillery Gun of the Sikh period.
The Freedom Movement:
Our guide then took us to the place to which this Lahore museum is famous for, The Pakistan Freedom Movement. This huge section has varieties of things. The whole right wall is dedicated to a great warrior and king, Tipu Sultan, with lot of pictures from his childhood to his death and the place where his body was found. Behind the wall there is another huge painting of Tipu Sultan during his last fight with the British painted by the famous Shahbaz Khan. While the rest of this section is dedicated, in pictures, to the making of Pakistan.
These pictures include different pictures of Quaid-e-Azam during speeches, in conventions meeting with VIP personnel, different photos of Allam Iqbal while studying, thinking, having huqa, photos with the Quaid, and a lot of photos dedicated to many of those who took active part in the struggle for freedom. Our Guide presented us with good information of these pictures in such a good fashion that for some time we thought we were watching a real freedom movement film! The corner of this room has personal things used by the great Quaid. These include a smoke pipe, a typewriter and glasses, beautifully preserved in a glass case. Another side of this section has a huge collection of stamps (approx. 1216), depicting the story of Pakistan. In 1973 the Pakistan Movement gallery and Pakistan postage stamps gallery were set up.
These stamps are of different shapes and sizes and are dedicated to almost every field of life, from freedom movement to politics, wars, peace, sports, education and different achievements.
Just beside the wall of stamps there is another wall in the memories of the Martyrs of Pakistan, who sacrificed themselves to save this nation during the Indo-Pak wars. All of these great men have been rewarded the highest military award of Pakistan, Nishan-e-Haider. At the exit of this section there stands another huge portrait of Quaid-e-Azam with Lord Mount Batten having a speech by the same famous painter, Shahbaz Khan.
The Ancient Civilization:
This museum is also famous for preserving, in various galleries, objects from Harrappa, Mohen-jodaro and other parts of the world. The Hindu collection, which consists of carved stone sculptures of Krishna, Radha and other deities, portray the artistic skill of the craftsmen. Burmese, Tibetan and Nepalese collections are also found in the Hindu, Buddha and Jain gallery. Buddhist sculptures are unique. Some are present in sequence such as the life story of Buddha from his previous incarnations, birth, youth, enlightenment, preaching of the law and death at the center of the Buddha gallery, friezes and other pieces of a reconstructed stupa from Sikri are displayed.
Other displays are metal and stone objects, pottery and terracotta figures, and other belongings. The most prominent among the sculptures was that of the Fasting Siddhartha. I have to admit I was startled by the Fasting Buddha’s ribs and didn’t want to spend too long looking at him! We were also attracted by those four Asoka-Lions that were quite beautifully lit. Sikh gallery was also quite beautiful, especially the model of Golden Temple. Our Guide knew a lot about the Sikh era. We were amused by the history of all these Gods and Goddesses told by our historian guide.
This museum has vast collection of sculptures of these various Gods and Goddesses. Since we were science students it was difficult to predict what these statues were telling but our guide told very skilledfully almost every expression they were showing and we were amazed at the works of these craftsmen.
Buddha Head Julian
The Fasting Siddhartha
The Ethnological, Arts & Crafts, Coins & Medals, Islamic & Paintings Gallery:
In the next hour we, along with our guide, visited the section of Ethnological gallery, Arts and Crafts, Coins and Medals, The Islamic Section and Paintings gallery. In the first gallery he showed us huge beautiful glass cases. These cases were presenting different cultures and tradition of different parts of the country, like all the provinces, the deserted areas and the Northern areas, including a huge skilled painting showing all four provinces. He told us that historical Jain Temple and Ethnological galleries were added in the late 1960s.
Entering in to the Arts and Crafts area we saw quite a beautiful wooden model of the Kapurtha Mosque which was made by a French architect. This section of the museum has usually wooden models of famous buildings, Buddha and various real-looking wild creatures starring wildly at its onlookers. Our guide also knew the makers of these beautifully-made models. A rich collection of nearly 50,000 coins in gold, silver, copper bullion and other metals are also displayed in the Coins and Medals area. The periods which they represent include Greek Bactrian, Indus Greek, Scythian, Krishna, Romans, Parthian, Sassanian, Hun, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal, Durrani, Sikh, British, etc.
The Islamic collection consists of miniature paintings, calligraphy, manuscripts and various kinds of crafts including arms, carpets, shawls, ceramics, jewelery, paper mache’, notable manuscripts of the 10th century’s Holy Quran in Kufi script, Safavid sword, wooden door and many other rare artifacts. In the contemporary paintings gallery collection the specimen of Ustad Allah Bakhsh, Abdur Rehman Chughtai, Guljee, Ali Imam, Anna Molka Ahmad, Zain-ul Abidin and other eminent artists are displayed. At the end of our tour of history the thing we should have seen right after entering the main hall of the museum we saw at the end.
In the miniature paintings gallery, as one lifts his head up one can observe the mural painted on the ceiling by our great artist, Sadequain. Once again it was difficult to understand this painting because of our science mind, so our guide explained that it is based on poet Iqbal’s verses evoking the spirit of man to triumph over odds. It depicts man’s search for knowledge and ultimate triumph. According to our guide, Sadequain painted the ceiling in 1973, living and working in the building for six months. Sadly, while working on his second ceiling at the Freer Hall in Karachi, the painter took ill and died leaving the work incomplete.
Sadequain’s Ceiling Art
The Mystic World Of Museum:
A visit to the Lahore Museum is an experience in itself and offers to the visitor a plethora of knowledge of our culture and history. After having this unforgettable tour it now seems as if we know everything about history. It is indeed this mystical effect of the museum that we cannot forget our history.
Everything here has a hidden meaning behind it whether it’s the enchanting architecture of the museum or its spell casting look, whether it’s those attractive portraits or the grace and proud on the kings, whether its those ancient weapons or their modern counterparts, whether it’s the courage of Tipu Sultan or the intelligence of Quaid-e-Azam, whether its the poetic spell of Allama Iqbal or its effect on the Martyrs, whether it’s the highly skilled works of our craftsmen or thought provoking paintings by eminent painters, whether it’s the magical effect of religions or the mysterious myth telling stones, each and everything here has a story to tell. And that story is preserved in the small but a big building of the museum until the end of the history itself.