On the face of things, Indian history is well known around the world. Most people would recognise the names of the great Mughal emperors and the great heroes of Indian Independence. But the subcontinent has a far deeper and richer history than these relatively recent blips on the radar of time.
Taking centre stage at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai’s leading museum, the India and the World: A History in Nine Stories exhibition aims to educate the world about the leading role that India has taken in global events dating back as far as prehistory. Drawn from the collections of the CSMVS, the National Museum in New Delhi and the British Museum in London, as well as a string of private collections in India, the 228 objects on display tell the story of a string of civilisations and empires, both recent and ancient, putting Indian history into context with the other great civilisations of the time.
Carved animal effigies recall the Indus Valley civilisation, contemporary with the pyramid-builders of ancient Egypt, but far more widespread. Stones carved with Mauryan inscriptions reveal the personal edicts of the Emperor Ashoka, who spread Buddhism as far afield as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and ancient Greece. A simple wooden spinning wheel pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi, whose humility, determination and belief in non-violence inspired India to rise up and claim its independence from British rule.
With the focus on Indian internationalism, the exhibition includes objects from around the world, inspired by contact with India’s ancient empires, including a sketch of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir drawn by Rembrandt, who amassed a personal collection of Mughal miniature paintings in the 17th century.
The exhibition will be run Mumbai till 18 February, when the entire collection will move to Delhi’s national museum.