Around Town

Curiosity stop

Our guide to Mumbai's best museums

Hotelier Vithal Kamat set up this museum to showcase metal, wood and ivory artefacts from all over India. On display are coconut scrapers, children's rattles and combs made of ivory and ebony. It’s particularly interesting to see how our ancestors expressed love: through betel nut crackers in the shape of a man and woman (who kiss when you crack the betel nut) and foot scrubbers with bells that invite the husband to bed.
Don’t miss: Antique foot scrubbers or vajaris.

Aai Museum, The Orchid, Nehru Road, adjacent to Domestic Airport, Vile Parle (E). Call on +91 22 2616 4040 to make an appointment before visiting. Mon-Sun 10am-6pm.

This museum documents the history of a disease whose sufferers were social outcasts. The museum was funded by Japan’s Sasakar Foundation and has exhibits explaining the origins of the disease, the search for a cure and the stigma associated with leprosy. The displays include a wooden gate that once separated doctors and patients and a book of sketches of leprosyaffected limbs, which is a copy of a book by Indian Medical Services Officer HV Carter. He is the illustrator of the medical textbook Gray’s Anatomy.
Don’t miss: Models of deformed limbs.

The Acworth Leprosy Museum, Acworth Municipal Hospital for Leprosy, opposite Don Bosco Shelter, Wadala (W). Call on +91 22 2418 4263 before visiting the museum. Mon-Fri 9am-3pm.

Since 2005, the Committee for the Preservation and Promotion of the Historic Patrimony of the Church, an organisation set up by the Mumbai Archdiocese, has been collecting discarded artefacts from churches across Mumbai and restoring them. These historical exhibits – like a railing made from wrought-iron and teakwood (discarded because the laws of the church changed and people weren’t required to kneel to receive holy communion), an altar made from original vegetable dyes and a charred 400-year-old statue of Christ that caught fire on Good Friday – are all on display at the museum.
Don’t miss: A monstrance used to display the sacrament.

Archdiocesan Heritage Museum, St Pius X College, Aarey Road, Goregaon (E). Call Warner D’Souza on +91 98202 42151 before visiting.

You go expecting a history lesson on the transport system that keeps Mumbai going, but you come out also having learnt something about the men and women who keep the BEST well-oiled. The BEST Museum displays the stages through which the transport system has developed in Mumbai, from horse-pulled trams in 1874 to the present-day double-deckers. There’s also an ancient clock that belongs to BEST’s parent company.
Don’t miss: Models of BEST buses and trams.

BEST Museum, Third Floor, Anik Depot, VN Purao Marg, Sion (+91 98694 40117). Wed-Sun 9am-5pm.

The Bhau Daji Lad Museum was built in 1872 and originally named Victoria and Albert Museum. As its more famous counterpart did for the Empire, the museum was built to showcase Mumbai’s industrial skills and craftsmanship. The building was restored to its original Renaissance Revival splendour with intricate iron pillars, ornate chandeliers, exquisite gold railings and a dramatic painted ceiling. It won a UNESCO heritage award in 2005. Displays include models and maps of the city as it was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and vintage photographs that include rare images of the old Fort.
Don’t miss: This begging bowl, made from a coconut shell, has verses from the Koran carved on it.

Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan (Byculla Zoo), Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla (E) (+91 22 6556 0394). Thur-Tue. 10am-5.30pm. R10 for Indians and R5 for children between 5 and 15 years, R100 for foreigners and R50 for children between 5 and 15 years, R2 for students.

The city’s largest museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya was built in 1914, and originally called the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. The building is a fusion of British, Hindu and Mughal architecture – a style called Indo-Saracenic – pioneered by British architect George Wittet in the early 1900s. The museum has over 50,000 artefacts including bronze and stone sculptures, miniature paintings and Tibetan and Nepali art. Don’t skip the only Assyrian frieze in India, on display in the Pre and Proto History Gallery and take the 45-minute audio tour explaining 38 displays that the museum considers its masterpieces.
Don’t miss: A Gupta-era head of a serpent goddess from Madhya Pradesh in the Karl & Meherbai Khandalavala Gallery.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, MG Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba (+91 22 2284 4484).Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. R40 for Indians, R300 for foreigners, R20 for college students and R5 for children between 5 and 12 years.

Set up in 1954, the Framji Dadabhoy Alpaiwalla Museum is dedicated to Mumbai’s Parsi community. It started out as a showcase for the artefacts that Alpaiwalla, a Parsi, who worked at the Zoroastrian Bank, collected from around the world. This includes old Bombay post cards, Indian art and old coins. It also has artefacts like terracotta vases, a comb and a key excavated from the Tower of Silence in Yazd, Iran. It is belived that there was an epidemic and these articles were discarded because people thought they might be infected.
Don’t miss: A vase excavated from a Tower of Silence in Yazd in Iran.

FD Alpaiwalla Museum, Khareghat Memorial Hall, Khareghat Colony, NS Patkar Marg, Kemps Corner (+91 22 2361 6586). Mon-Fri 10.30am-1.30pm, 2.30-5.15pm.

In this stone-and-wood structure, Mahatma Gandhi planted the seed of Indian independence. Mani Bhavan was the home of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, from 1917 to 1934, and the base for his civil disobedience movement that helped topple the British Empire in India. It has since been converted into a museum dedicated to Gandhi. It houses over 50,000 books and his correspondence with other world figures including Leo Tolstoy and Adolf Hitler.
Don’t miss: Mahatma Gandhi undergoing an appendectomy by the light of a hurricane lamp.

19, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi (+91 22 2380 5864). Daily 9.30am-6pm.

It is the first museum in the city to showcase the culture of Mumbai’s East Indian inhabitants.The artefacts on display include a stone dattani used to grind rice, a percussion instrument called a ghumat and a mud tizal used to make sorpotel. There are also photographs of traditional East Indian jewellery, clothes and wedding rituals. The museum is currently being renovated and should be ready by October.
Don’t miss: A pot used to collect toddy.

Mobai Bhavan, Theresa Villa, Manori-Gorai Road, Manori, Malad (W). Call Alphi D’Souza on +91 98200 87771 before visiting. Take the 272 bus from Malad station to Marwe. Catch a ferry to Manori.

Did you know that the world’s smallest coins were panams from Kerala, with a diameter of less than one-sixteenth of an inch? If not, you need to update yourself at the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Museum, which offers a short, stimulating histotry of Indian money, from barter to credit cards. Crisp and informative text accompanies the displays and colourful infographs deconstruct complex concepts. It has an impressive collection of old Indian coins and a thorough guide to spotting counterfeit notes.
Don’t miss: Knife money used in China in the fourth-century BC.

RBI Monetary Museum, Amar Building, Pherozeshah Mehta Road, near RBI, Fort (+91 22 2261 4043, +91 22 2266 0502. Tue-Sun. 10.45am-4.30pm.

By Time Out on September 05 2012

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