Those of us who have grown up in Delhi may remember the summer holiday cultural excursions. Whether conducted as a part of holiday homework research or simply as a form of distraction to keep us kids busy, I have numerous memories of visiting all the cultural spots in Delhi during the long summer vacations. Some places were popular as school excursions, especially those that imparted some form of knowledge. The Nehru Planetarium was one such.
There were many reasons why this particular place in the heart of central Delhi was popular – it was futuristic, kept up with the times (the 80s and 90s were big on space stuff!) and had an international vibe. To be honest, I wasn’t much of a space buff unlike many of my classmates, yet I do distinctly remember visiting the planetarium and watching the show on the solar system.
What I don’t have any memory of, however, is visiting the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML), which was right next door. Located in Teen Murti Bhawan, this was the residence of the first Prime Minister of India, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, for the sixteen years that he served our nation. It was converted to a memorial museum and library in his name after his death. Apart from the memorial aspect, the library served as a great place for research and is used by scholars and researchers to this day.
Last April, this strong reminder of our country’s first few years as an independent nation, was transformed. Now this iconic building is known as the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya. Apart from the NMML, a new building called the Toshakhana was added to the premises which became a museum dedicated to all 15 prime ministers over the last 75 years.
Unaware of these changes, I decided to take my 7-year-old son for a visit to the Nehru Planetarium one weekday afternoon this summer vacation. While we were there, we also browsed through the other buildings. So, if you too are planning a visit to this place, here is everything you need to know about the Nehru Planetarium and Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya. My review will follow at the end.
The Nehru Planetarium, Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya and NMML are all located in the Teen Murti campus south of Rashtrapati Bhawan. A beautiful view of the Teen Murti statue is visible when one stands in front of the building. Its massive size and impressively large grounds are nothing less than a royal palace. In fact, there is a lot of walking involved in getting from one point to another, so look out for the few buggies roaming around. Alternatively, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and carry your bottle of water.
This building was designed by English architect Robert Tor Russel as part of the ambitious Lutyens’ Delhi plan in 1929-30. It was the residence of the commander-in-chief of India.
WHAT’S ON OFFER:
As mentioned above, the offerings are divided over a number of buildings. The main purpose of our visit was the space show at the Nehru Planetarium, so we began there. There is a separate entrance for this globe-shaped building and auditorium. 3D and 2D shows in English and Hindi are on offer at different timings. There is also a museum dedicated to space exploration in this building.
The main NMML building has an entry fee that allows access to the new Toshakhana as well. Here one sees the political history of India on the ground floor, and on the first floor, one can visit Nehru’s living quarters which have been preserved as they were when he died. This part of the museum is really fascinating, as one can see amazing bric-a-brac from the 1950s and 60s. There is also a signed photograph of Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation! A room with a separate entrance on the ground floor houses a book collection with works written on every single Indian Prime Minister.
Another room houses gifts given to our Prime Ministers over the years from international dignitaries, and India’s political history continues on this floor as well. All the new exhibits are digitised. Audio guides are provided, and attempts have been made to make it as interactive as possible. A sound and light show also takes place every day in Hindi and English. The library for research is also located in this building.
The Toshakhana is the new museum located in a building behind the NMML and it focusses on the lives of all 15 Prime Ministers including our present one. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding the buildings.
Tickets for both the Nehru Planetarium and the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya can be purchased on site. However, for the planetarium, I would recommend purchasing them beforehand as they tend to sell out fast. One can buy them on BookMyShow.
The 2D show price is Rs 100 for an adult and Rs 70 for a child.
The 3D show price is Rs 200 for an adult and Rs 150 for a child.
Entry tickets to the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya cost Rs 50 for an adult and Rs 40 for a child.
The Nehru Planetarium and Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya are open every day except Mondays, from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
For the space show:
English 2D – 11:00 am and 3:00 pm
English 3D – 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Hindi 2D – 5:00 pm
Hindi 3D – 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm
For the sound and light show:
English show – 8:15 pm to 8:45 pm
Hindi show – 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm
MY REVIEW OF NEHRU PLANETARIUM AND PRADHANMANTRI SANGRAHALAYA:
Now that you have all the information you may need to plan a visit to the Nehru Planetarium and Prandhanmantri Sangrahalaya, here are my thoughts on this place.
The show we saw in the planetarium was called ‘Robotic Explorations in Space’. It spoke about all the man-made satellites that various countries have sent into space to understand what’s out there and review if life can exist outside Earth. It was a detailed 20-minute-long film that shared a lot of scientific facts. Yet, I felt it was too advanced in nature for a young audience. I wish they had shown the basic one which I remember seeing all those years ago – about the solar system and what we know of space – or at least they could have dumbed this one down a bit. My 7-year-old is keen on facts and scientific knowledge and therefore he enjoyed it, but other children around us were clearly very bored and were quite vocal about it!
The visuals are beautiful, but the 3D show turned out to be a bad idea because of the spherical shape on which the movie is projected. There was something about the angles that gave us a headache when we had our 3D glasses on. When we took them off, the headache went away but the visual was skewed! In hindsight, I realised that it would have been better to choose the 2D show (and cheaper too!).
Though it’s sold as a 40-minute show, only 20 minutes are given to the space show and for about 5 minutes they play a random 3D video of visuals from around the world. The remaining 10 minutes are presumably divided into 5 minutes to assemble and 5 minutes to disperse. It’s important to note that you cannot walk into the show after it begins, so be on time! We reached just on time for the show to start and so we couldn’t browse through the space-themed museum exhibit outside. But when we tried to see it afterwards, we were prevented from doing so because the next show’s people were coming in. This made absolutely no sense to me, especially since every person’s ticket was being individually checked. Did they think we would try to sneak again?!! India’s bureaucracy is just too much sometimes!
Having said that, we still enjoyed the planetarium show. Next, we visited the Prime Minister’s book room – it would’ve been nice if I had the time to browse through the books, but I simply couldn’t with a young child in tow. In fact, that was the major problem with the entire Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya – it is not geared towards young children at all! The information is all in text, and even the visuals are only boring ones of politicians. There is no way that a child would be interested in any of this.
Ironically, the only nice and interactive exhibit in this very fancy new museum is the old one of Nehru’s living quarters. As it is preserved with relics, children can engage with the past in an easy and meaningful way. It made me wonder what the point of spending all that money was? All they did was take away from the original museum’s spirit and put a boring (and very expensive) one in its place. It can be argued that the audience they are aiming to attract is an older one – perhaps college-going students doing research. But to that I say – it is now more important than ever before to foster an interest and curiosity in our country’s vibrant history and culture, and that is best done from a young age. I wish the government had consulted a young and dynamic crew while planning this museum.
Anyway, long story short – if you are keen to add the Nehru Planetarium and Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya to your list of places to visit in Delhi with kids, I would recommend doing only the space show (reach early so you can browse through the museum before), and Pandit Nehru’s living quarters on the first floor. If you are interested in political history and are planning to go without children, you may enjoy seeing the rest of the museum too.
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