Upcoming Exhibitions

Unknown Masterpieces of Himachal Folk Art

Venue: Special exhibition hall, National Museum
Date of Inauguration: 7th June 2019 at 5.00 PM
Duration:7th June 2019 to 31st July, 2019.


The 5000 years old tradition of Indian art has persisted in an unbroken chain of continuity. The entire credit for it goes to folk arts and rural artists. In the course of these five millennia, numerous royal dynasties rose to power for a few centuries and vanished, leaving glaring gaps in our knowledge of historical events and art historical development, but the folk art traditions - add to that the tribal artifacts created by the forest dwellers also continued in an uninterrupted sequence like an endless river flowing on and on till the present times. Therein lies the tremendous significance of folk arts, that were nurtured by the rural folks in each and every state of our vast subcontinent of India. The natives of each state created a mind-boggling variety of artifacts for utilitarian as well as ritualistic purpose, adding to them the distinctive touch and colours of their own soil, yet not deviating from the larger framework of the mainstream of Indian culture. This is all the more true of the state of Himachal, ensconced as it is in the lusciously verdant vales lying between the great towering ranges of the Himalayas and the north Indian plains.

Prior to being carved out as an independent state, Himachal Pradesh was known as the Punjab Hill States, the term coined by the British administrators.  The arts and crafts of this state give us some idea of what must have existed in the plains of Punjab, the province that had to bear the brunt of perennial invasions and warfare from the north-western frontiers of India. Even the natives of Punjab had to seek shelter in the safe havens, peaceful hills and dales of Himachal from time to time from the 8th century CE onwards. 

Like other parts of India, in Himachal Pradesh also, two stylistic streams of art and culture - classical or courtly (the Great Tradition) and folk (the Little Tradition) - were nurtured by the natives from the earliest times. Although no examples of art or craft objects are extant prior to the 3rd century BCE, the figures of Hindu deities engraved on the coins issued by the  chieftains of the janapadas (republics) such as the Kunindas, the Malavas, the Audumbaras, etc. attest to the fact that the iconographic precepts governing the deities such as Shiva, six-headed Karttikeya or Kumara, Gaja-Lakshmi,  Krittika, Rishi Vishvamitra, etc. were fully evolved by the 3rd century BCE ;  that contemporaneously, the sculptors must have shaped identical images in the round in wood, stone and metal. Evidently, the tradition of sculpting images of the deities and rishis (seers) – to the latter are dedicated numerous wood and stone shrines erected on the sites where they had meditated dotting the entire length and breadth of this state – was in existence and continued in subsequent centuries. The stone statues of Vishnu and numerous  reliefs carved in the Sarnath style and discovered from the Ambika Mata and Parashurama temples in Nirmand in Outer Saraj in Kulu district, popularly known as the Kashi of the Himalayan region, dated to the 4th-5th centuries CE testify to this phenomenon. So do the free standing wood statues of Surya (the cult image) and one of his attendants Dandi and Pingala, and four door frames featuring elegant, flowing forms of Hindu goddesses executed in Gupta and post-Gupta style, i.e. late 6th-early 7th centuries CE. These were enshrined in the wooden temple of Surya that has been reconstructed and dedicated to Docha-Mocha (a village deity) in Gajan hamlet in Kulu valley. 

No examples of art objects or artifacts from Himachal Pradesh executed in folk style datable to very ancient times are extant now. Wood and fabric are perishable materials.  Objects made of stone and metal  too are not available - one of the reasons being the melting of damaged and discarded metal icons, mohras (plaques) and craft objects; this practice was common  -  as everywhere else in India - on account  of the belief that such objects brought bad luck to the inmates. At times, they were thrown into the local rivers or ponds also. The stone temples have not survived due to destruction by natural calamities such as boulders rolling down the mountain slopes - a frequent phenomenon in this area.

The present exhibition aims to highlight the Folk art tradition of Himachal Pradesh and being jointly organised by the National Museum, New Delhi and Home of Folk Art (Museum of Tribal, Folk and Neglected Art), Gurugram in which more than 240 artefacts are will be on display, out of which 230 objects belongs to the Personal lifetime collection of Late K.C. Aryan, Home of Folk Art Gurugram supplemented few selected objects from the collection of National Museum. The exhibition is Curated by Mr. B.N. Aryan, Director, Home of Folk Art, Gurugram and assisted by Ms Abira Bhattacharya from National Museum side under the direction of Dr B.R Mani, Director General National Museum. The exhibition will be inaugurated on 7th June 2019 at 5.00 PM and will remain open for public up to 31st July, 2019.

Unknown Masterpieces of Himachal Folk Art

Venue: Special exhibition hall, National Museum
Date of Inauguration: 4th June 2019, 05:00 P.M.
(The exhibition will be opened for public after inauguration at 5.00 pm on 04-06-2019 onward)
Duration: 4th June, 2019 to 31st July, 2019
Timing: 10.00 AM to 6 .00 PM (Tuesday to Friday)
              10.00 am to 8.00 PM (Saturday & Sunday)
              (Closed on Mondays and National holidays)