Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For Love of Krishna

An interesting museum on Lord Krishna in Kurukshetra, meant to spread his message from Bhagwad Gita.

The scriptures proclaim Lord Krishna as the world teacher in the Sanskrit shloka: Krishnam Vande Jagatgurum. Apart from this, the Krishna cult has given birth to regional guises of Krishna such as Jagannath cult in Orissa, Dakorji in Gujarat, Srinathji of the Pustimargis of Nathadvara, Balaji or Venketesvar of Tirupati, and the Guruvayur of Kerala. On Krishna Jayanti day, it is interesting to go on a visit to the only museum devoted to Krishna — the Krishna museum at Kurukshetra in Haryana.One devout bhakta of Lord Krishna, Gulzari Lal Nanda (who was twice the Prime Minister of India) conceived the idea of establishing a museum in Kurukshetra in 1987. For here, Lord Krishna delivered the message of Shrimadbhagwadgita and the Krishna Museum set up in this historical town serves as a platform to present and preserve the ideals of Lord Krishna.Initially, the Kurukshetra Development Board (KDB) had set up the Krishna museum in a small manner in a hall, which is now christened as the lecture hall. The museum was shifted to the present building in 1991 and in its present form was inaugurated on July 28, 1991, by the then President of India, Shri R Venkatraman and in 1995, a new block was added to it. During this period (1987-2008), the museum has accomplished some extraordinary landmarks such as the establishment of the two blocks of museum building having six different galleries.

The first gallery contains the major collections of the museum, pertaining to the Krishna theme, consisting of a variety of art objects such as wood carvings, metal castings and ivory carvings. The other important display of this gallery are the metal objects which include various exploits of Krishna such as Bal-Krishna, Navanita-Krishna, Venugopala, Krishna with gopis, Kaliyamardana etc The second gallery is chiefly devoted to the archeological objects devoted to places in India associated with Lord Krishna, including antiquities of Dwarka and exquisite stone sculptures ranging from 1st to 10th century. The third gallery contains some exquisite miniature paintings, palm leaf etchings and some illustrated manuscripts. The cynosure of all eyes is on the collection of Pahari and Rajasthani paintings and the murals on the octagonal parapet wall, depicting the episodes of the Mahabharata.The fourth gallery has in it nine tableaux depicting the episodes of the life and exploits of Krishna. The fifth gallery is devoted to the Mahabharatha as without highlighting the episodes of the Mahabharata the exhibition of Krishna museum would have been incomplete. In the ‘Mahabharata Utsav-2002’ festival, artists from all parts of India assembled at a single platform in the museum, to execute paintings on the episodes of Mahabharata in their regional style starting from the scene of Bhishma Pratigna or the terrible vow of Bhishma to the Babru Vahan witnessing the proceedings of the battle at Kurukshetra, on a long wall prepared for the exhibition. After the festival, the murals were shifted to the museum for their display and preservation In the sixth gallery is a fine collection of Madhubani paintings from Bihar and Patachitra paintings from Orissa on paper. The most important depiction in this gallery is the Abhimanyu-vadha tableau depicting the incomparable valour with which Abhimanyu fought alone with the seven powerful warriors of the Kauravas. The whole tableau is in Yakshagana style, a famous folk-theatre of Karnataka.But the main attraction of the museum is the centre, with a life-like panorama of the epic battle of Kurukshetra. Standing at the centre of a cylindrical hall, one can feel the towering 34-feet-high paintings of the episodes from the 18-day confrontation between the Pandavas and the Kauravas come alive before his eyes. The chanting of Gita and distant war cries mingled with lighting illusions create the perfect ambience.The science centre situated adjacent to the museum has an exhibition called ‘India: A heritage in science, technology and culture’ consisting of working and interactive exhibits on ancient Indian concept of properties of matter, structure of atom, geometry, arithmetical rules, astronomy medicine and surgery. The museum also specialises in producing one particular theme on Krishna every year. In 2007, it was on Lord Krishna as seen through the paintings of the famous painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906). The prints of some of his masterpieces like Draupadi Cheerharan (disrobing of Draupadi), Krishna Shisthai (Krishna as emissary of peace in the court of Dhritarastra) were displayed here. The museum also organises exhibitions outside Kurukshetra on Krishna themes. In 2002, the museum had organised a unique exhibition on the Mahabharatha, at Bangalore on the request of the ‘Mahabharata Samshodan Samsthan’, Bangalore. The museum is located in the heart of the city, juxtapositioned between the Brahma Sarovar and Sannehit Sarovar.