How The Bihar Govt. Is Destroying A 100-Year-Old Museum’s Legacy For Its Own Gain

Posted by Abhishek Singh in Art, Politics, Society
September 18, 2017

A museum is a place dedicated to collecting, displaying and preserving objects having scientific, historical and artistic values. But what if a museum turns out to be the graveyard of another one?

On the one hand, you (the government) make new museums with an aim to enhance the beauty of the city and to make people, especially children, aware of the glorious past. On the other, you literally destroy the past. Isn’t that paradoxical? But that’s exactly what’s happening in Patna, the capital of Bihar.

The Bihar government, in its hasty attempt of presenting the newly-constructed Bihar Museum as its success story on the auspicious occasion of October 2, 2017 (Gandhi’s birthday) is planning to shift 3,000 artifacts from the 100-year-old Patna Museum. This has led to a temporary closure of the museum from September 9 to September 25.

However, people associated with the museum feel that the temporary nature of the closure may well become permanent after October 2, 2017.  The reasoning behind this assumption was aptly expressed by the curator of Patna Museum, who said, “Who would come here and for what?”

Why Should It Matter?

Patna Museum is one of the richest and oldest museums in the country. It celebrated its centenary in April this year. The museum itself is a part of history now, let alone its possessions. It possesses historical paintings, Buddhist sculptures, valuables from the Mauryan Age like the famous Didargunj Yakshini and many other things of prominence.

The Patna Museum (Image source: Wikimedia commons)

Not only that, it also houses Thangka paintings, Buddhist manuscripts and documents brought from Tibet in the 20th century by the eminent Buddhist scholar, Rahul Sankrityayana. He donated them – and did not sell them to the museum. Therefore, his family should have been informed and consulted about the decisions regarding the shifting of the items. However, his daughter, Jaya Sankritayayana, claims that they weren’t even informed of this.

You want to fool the public by saying that we are restoring the ‘glorious past’, while it’s pretty evident that you are robbing an integral part of that past of its glory.

Whose Loss?

1. Students: The Patna College of Arts and Craft was set up near the museum so that the students could have a first-hand view of the art they wanted to practice. They could learn by directly observing the paintings and sculptures.

Now, since the artifacts are being moved to another place (far away from the college), which will be owned by a society, it may be impossible for the students to make regular visits (free of cost).

2. Society: The artifacts which are being transported might also get damaged (many of them being old and fragile), especially if they are transported together. As they may get deformed, they may lose their power to inspire people, which they have been doing for so long.

3. The workers and the museum: If the museum is closed down permanently, the workers (guards, curators, instructors) may lose their jobs and become unemployed. The mighty building, one of the few remnants of the British Raj, may also bear the brunt of this because the government’s coffers aren’t likely to be able to cover the expenses for maintaining its grandeur.

In June 2015, the Patna High Court, while hearing a plea, observed that the creation/construction of the so-called ‘world class’ Bihar Museum is ‘not in the public interest’. However, it refrained from stopping the construction as it was nearing its completion.

The question that needs to be asked is: were 17 acres of land (at a prime location) and nearly ₹500 crore of taxpayers’ money used to create one museum, so that another could be closed down? How the government could even justify it is beyond my reasoning. I leave it to the readers to find it for themselves.

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Featured image source: Wikimedia commons

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