This gallery was jointly set up by the Archaeological Survey of India and the National Museum. It has a rich collection of a large number of artifacts from the sites of Harappan Civilisation. The collection includes pottery, seals, tablets, weights and measures, jewellery, terracotta figurines, toys, etc. It also has copper tools from Harappan sites like axes, chisels, knives, etc. About 3,800 objects have been displayed in the modernised Harappan Gallery from the National Museum collection. This Gallery also has 1,025 excavated artifacts belonging to the Indian Harappan site of the Archaeological Survey of India collection.
A prestigious collection of approximately 800 sculptures have been displayed in the Archaeological Galleries on the ground floor, the rotundas on the ground, first and second floors and around the museum building.
The sculptures displayed are mostly in stone, bronze and terracotta, dating from the 3rd century B.C., through the 19th century A.D., representing all major regions, periods
An added attraction is the gallery on Buddhism: A spiritual journey, with the focus on the sacred relics of the Buddha (5th-4th century B.C.) unearthed from Piprehwa, Distt. Basti and outstanding specimens of Buddhist Art as a global movement, is illustrated through 84 exhibits in stone, bronze, terracotta, stucco, wooden sculptures and painted scrolls or Thankas from Nepal, Tibet, Central Asia, Myanmar, Java and Combodia, representing the three principal Buddhist forms - Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana. Of special importance are the images of Kapardin Buddha from Ahichchhatra, Buddha - pada (footprints) from Nagarjunakonda, Distt. Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and Buddha's life scenes from Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh as well as ritualistic objects from the trans-Himalayan reign. These objects stimulate a sense of devotion, dedication and love for humanity.
The Museum has in its possession the rich heritage of Indian Miniature paintings. These belong to major styles such as, Mughal, Deccani, Central Indian, Rajasthani, Pahari and many other sub-styles relating to the period from 1000 A.D. to 1900 A.D. It also includes paintings on palm leaf, cloth, wood, leather, painted manuscripts, covers on wood and hardboard and Thankus on canvas, etc. The major theme of these miniatures are Jain Kalpasutra, the epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagwatpurana, Durgasaptasati, Jaideva's Geetgobind, Ragamala, Baramasa, Panchatantra and Vishnu Purana. A few Indo-lslamic manuscripts such as Shahnama and Baburnama are also noteworthy. The portraits of medieval kings, rulers and saints are also part of this large heritage. The gallery displays selected 352 exhibits for public view.
In the gallery, 26 large-sized well-lit glass transparencies are on show narrating the wonderful story of the development of various Indian scripts from Brahmi and coins.
Amongst or Non-Indian collections, which adorn the National Museum, the Central Asian Arts Collection is the richest - both qualitatively and quantitatively. The collection consists of some of the most outstanding wall paintings, painted silk banners, sculptures in wood, stucco and terracotta, coins, porcelain and pottery objects, leather, grass and fibre, precious items of gold and silver, religious and secular documents. The vast and varied collection was excavated, explored and collected by Sir Aurel Stein, the foremost amongst the archaeological explorers of the early 20th century, during three major expeditions carried out by him in 1900-1901, 1906-1908 and 1913-1916. This gallery includes 600 choicest exhibits.
The gallery will display 1672 coins in a modernised format. The collection of coins in the National Museum is remarkable for its variety, rarity and antiquity. The entire history of Indian coinage, starting from about 6th century B.C. to the beginning of the 21 st century A.D., is well represented here along with the dioramas depicting various techniques of coin production. It has in it practically all Indian coins from the earliest bent bar, punch-marked coins to those of Indian States, British India and post-independence coins. A study of these currencies reveals how the Indian currency system developed from cowrie shells to credit card; These coins are a rich and authentic source of information on various aspects of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Indian history. A record of political and economic changes, its narrative and aesthetic impact reflect the cultural effervescence in different epochs in various regions of the country.
The textile gallery displays the fabulous and magnificent collection of Indian traditional textiles of the later Mughal period. One hundred and twenty-five choicest cotton, silk and woollen textiles, which are beautifully woven, printed, dyed and embroidered, have been displayed in the gallery. These have been arranged according to the technique of manufacturing and decoration. Among them special mention may be made of silk and zari woven sari pallu of the mid-17th century from Chanderi, printed and painted artistically designed cotton coverlet of the 17th century from Golconda and a reconstructed royal chamber illustrating various textiles in their respective use.
Pre-Columbian and Western Art collections were gifted mostly by Mrs. and Mr. Nasli Heeramaneck of U.S.A. These art objects covered mostly the pre-1492 A.D. period when Christopher Columbus unknowingly reached this part of the world in search of the new sea route to India and South-East Asia. In this gallery most of the objects belong to Mexico, Peru, Maya, Inca, North-West coast of America, Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Apart from these some objects of Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and some objects of Germany and France are also displayed in the gallery. About 252 exhibits are on display.
The tradition of carving wood in India for architecture, religious, utilitarian and decorative needs is well reflected in the gallery of wood carving. With the help of a hundred and twenty exhibits an attempt have been made to show various techniques and vivid subjects, which illustrates all the variety from architectural dwellings, doors, windows to cotlegs, boxes and mirrors. Intricately carved Mandapa of a Gujarat temple from the 16th 17th century A.D. is a very important piece of the gallery. Beautifully carved door and pillar from the Sun temple of Katarmal (dt Almora, Uttaranchal) dated 13th century A.D. are on display in the Late Medieval Gallery (ground floor) .This gallery includes 46 exhibits.
The Museum has a large collection of musical instruments, both folk and classical. The collection was donated to the Museum by Mrs. Saran Rani Backliwal in 1980 and 1987. Most of the Indian instruments belong to the period between the 17th-19th centuries There are also a few 19th century Western instruments. The objects have been divided into different categories like string instruments (veena, sitar, santur). Percussion instruments (tabla, dholak) and wind instruments (flute, trumpet, etc.). There are 125 musical instruments on display.
A total of 327 excellent traditional exhibits such as dresses, apparel, ornaments basketry, wood carvings and personal adornments, etc., of several tribal groups inhabiting the land of "seven sisters" are on view.
The Museum has one of the finest collections of Indian Arms and Armour comprising edged weapons, projectiles, smashing weapons, armour for men and animals, ornamental, sacrificial and ritual weapons, fire arms and war accessories. The collection is predominantly Mughal in addition to Maratha, Sikh, Rajput and Hindu arms which are also well represented. The Arms embellished with damascening, enamelling, filigree work or those inscribed or studded with semi-precious and precious stones are in the collection. This gallery has been modernised by displaying 500 exhibits.
The octagonal chariot is made of saal, sagvan wood has five tiers consisting of six wheels, beams around 425 carved panels, brackets, angles, etc. weighing approximately 2,200 kgs. This 18th-19th century chariot, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is from Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, South India. It illustrates various Saiva and Vaishnava themes, i.e. Vishnu, Laxshmi-Narayan (Lord Vishnu with his consort), Rama (one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu), Varaha (Boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Narsimha (Lion and human incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Venugopal (Krishna with flute), etc. It has been on view for the public since December 2003.
The National Museum keeps on setting up new Galleries and renovating the old Galleries according to the requirements.
An Added attraction to this museum is the renovated three Galleries, which are: Tribal Life style of North-East India, Musical instrument and Wood carving.