The city of Lakes also has a number of museums. When we heard of the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum at Bhopal, we were not all enthusiastic to visit the place. Museums are not actually our thing, though we are fond of history and heritage. We would rather visit the ancient ruins and grand buildings and look for stories in the stones and sculptures. But we were pleasantly surprised when we visited the MP Tribal Museum at Bhopal.
The place is not like any typical museum where the exhibits are displayed and some contextual information are given. Instead, the place is an ode to the region’s tribal art and culture. The lifestyle, folklore, social customs and rituals of the seven indigenous tribes of Madhya Pradesh – the Bhils, Gonds, Bharias, Korku, Sahariya, Baiga and Kol are displayed in the museum through a repository of traditional art and elegance. It celebrates the way of life of these seven major tribes of the state through their handlooms and craft. The concept is beautiful. The beliefs, farming practices, colourful rituals, mythological and spiritual narratives of the Adivasis are exhibited in a grand way as if you enter right in the heart of their lives and homes.
The MP Tribal Museum was inaugurated in 2013 and is designed by Revathi Kamath. The sprawling campus is divided into 6 colorful galleries showing the diversity of the seven tribes of the state. The first gallery that we entered was lighted in a warm glow of yellow and orange. It was the place for the traditional mud and brick houses of the tribes. You can enter the houses and have a look at the exhibits there. All of it felt so real. It seemed as if the lady of the house would just come out with her daily chores. The exterior of the houses had colourful murals and paintings. This gallery is a visual delight and provides a good insight into the tribal life, their way of living, the basic tools they use, how they cook and preserve the food grains.
Celebrating Cultural Diversity: MP Tribal Museum
As we moved to the next gallery, the visuals turned more colourful. This is the gallery celebrating cultural diversity – the Tribal Aesthetic Gallery. The exhibits here depict the rituals of the tribes depicting the circle of life – birth, marriage and death. The traditions attached to these festivals and sacred rituals are depicted here beautifully. Nature plays an important part in the tribal life and the sanctity attached to these natural forces has been brought to life in the paintings and artworks by the artists. A part of the gallery is full of bamboo and wooden figurines and forest have been recreated to tell the Gond folklore of ‘Basin Kanya’ – a mythical story about how bamboo originated.
We saw a model of a brass bangle having six-feet diameter having figurines of cattle and farmers. It is the enlarged version of a bangle that is gifted to a Bhil woman on her marriage. My interest piqued on seeing numerous drums tied to a tree. Then I saw the figurines of musicians depicting the stories of the origin of music among the local tribal communities. It was so impelling to see how ordinary objects and nature are such strong symbols of faith and expression in the local communities.
The Spiritual World Gallery: MP Tribal Museum
This gallery is perhaps the most stunning visually and fascinating as well. We entered into a magical land illuminated with blues and reds. This is the world where reality and mysticism merge. The exhibits symbolize the afterlife, the mystical and spiritual world of the tribes. There are memorial pillars, terracotta sculptures and figurines. The lighting too helps to accentuate the experience of the spiritual world. We come out of this gallery with a feeling of reverence.
The next gallery is dedicated to the neighbouring state of Chhatisgarh. Well, it was once a part of Madhya Pradesh. And finally, we come to the last gallery where different games have been exhibited. Traditional tug-of-war, Ghoda Badam Shahi, indigenous wrestling has been depicted here using sculpture of men and women. The daily recreational activated have been showcased here through painting and sculptures.
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So the MP Tribal Museum made us fascinated about the state and its people. Although sceptical at the beginning, the visit to the museum has been one of the best experiences. This exceptional museum captures the life tales of the tribal people and shares them in an imaginative way. While at Bhopal, do not miss this place. This is one of the most interesting places to visit in Bhopal.
Here are a few more photographs of the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum at Bhopal.
Some Facts about the MP Tribal Museum
How to reach the MP Tribal Museum:
The nearest city bus stop for Tribal Museum is Depot Chouraha near Shastri Nagar. The Museum is around 800 meters from here.
Address: Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum Shyamala Hills, Bhopal 462002, Madhya Pradesh, India. Phone: +91 755 2661948, 2661640
Timings: 12 PM to 8 PM. Museum remains closed on Mondays and all state holidays.
Indian Visitors: INR 10 per person.
Foreign Visitors: INR 100 per person
Photography: INR 50 (Camera without stand/tripod/flash)
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