As the capital of India, Delhi is a cultural hub. A plethora of art and culture related institutions are located here, as well as world-class museums like the National Museum, the Gandhi Smriti Museum, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and the Drishyakala Museum at the Red Fort, among others. In this post, I highlight one of my personal favourites in Delhi- the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum or the Crafts Museum, as it is better known. Read on to know why this place is a must-visit whether you live in Delhi, or are simply visiting.
- CONVENIENT LOCATION
The Crafts Museum is located in Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Marg, in the heart of Delhi. It is easily accessible by metro and other forms of public transportation. The entry fee is reasonably priced at INR 20 for Indian citizens, and INR 200 for foreign nationals.
The Crafts Museum is located near other historic sites of Delhi such as Purana Qila or Old Fort, the Delhi Zoo, and Khan Market, so you can put aside an entire day to visit these places. You can also glimpse the iconic buildings of the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court, as they are located across the road from here.
From L-R: A traditional village home recreated at the Crafts Museum; Chhau dance being performed at the Crafts Museum; a village hut
- WORLD-CLASS INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS
The quality of maintenance and exhibits of the museums located in Delhi, are usually far better than those of museums in other cities. Many of them, including the Crafts Museum are comparable to international museums. The Crafts Museum in particular, stands apart from others as it recreates different local villages and tribal settings, from around the country. You are transported to various parts of India, as you stroll through the various galleries and outdoor installations.
Houses and other dwellings have been painfully and accurately reconstructed for these installations. The different galleries also have gorgeous collections of art and craft pieces, with well-researched explanations attached.
Apart from the exhibits, one can enjoy live performances from artists, singers and dancers from different States of India. Every week, new artists are invited to perform for the visitors at the museum. It is indeed the most unique way of experiencing the rich culture and heritage of our country in one place. There is no separate fee charged for these performances, but I recommend giving a tip to support these communities.
Clockwise from L-R: The newly refurbished Textiles Gallery; designer Sunaina Suneja giving us a guided tour; silk sarees on display; ikat prints on display
- NEWLY REFURBISHED TEXTILES GALLERY
Though I have visited the Crafts Museum many times before, my most recent visit was to the newly-refurbished Textiles Gallery, where I was guided by Sunaina Suneja- a renowned designer and Indian textiles revivalist- on a conducted tour.
India has a rich tradition of handmade textiles, most of which remains undocumented, as textile making was the domain of women. Gandhiji is credited with re-popularising handwoven fabrics like khadi, by promoting use of the charkha. India also has a long history of using natural elements for the process of dyeing cloth.
This gallery is a one-stop shop for people interested in the beauty of Indian textiles as well as their astonishingly rich variety. You can see beautiful ikat weaves from Telangana, Orissa and Gujarati Patolas- each one different despite using the same method; rich brocades made with gold wire thread work; embellished jamdani and paithani saris from Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively; gorgeous kanjeevaram silk saris and lighter chanderi silks; tanchoi silks from Gujarat and mekhola chadors from Assam and the North-East; hand painted kalamkaris; Chamba rumaals; Rajasthani bandhanis; heavier outfits with zardozi and salma-sitaara embroideries; Punjabi phulkaris, Lucknowi chikankari work and Gujarati kanch embroidery, on display.
Artisans and craftsmen from different parts of India selling their wares and performing live at the Crafts Museum
- PREMIUM HANDICRAFT SHOPPING AT THROWAWAY PRICES
Even if you’re not too keen to spend your day browsing through museum exhibits, the Crafts Museum is worth visiting for its premium handicraft shopping stalls. An outdoor section is dedicated entirely to craftsmen from different parts of India, to display and sell their wares. Since the museum is a government-run body, the prices are regulated and you can buy genuinely handcrafted beautiful items at throwaway prices. The stalls change every few weeks, so you will find a variety of new items every time you visit.
You can pick from silver jewellery, unstitched Indian garments, stoles and shawls, decorative items for your home as well as general knick-knacks and souvenirs. Bargaining is allowed but I would advise against going too hard, since these poor people put in a lot of effort to make these articles!
A variety of regional dishes and filter coffee at Cafe Lota, located in the Crafts Museum
- A SUMPTUOUS AND HEALTHY SELECTION OF REGIONAL FOOD AT CAFÉ LOTA
All that browsing and shopping will certainly whet your appetite but you won’t have to go far for an authentic and delicious selection of regional Indian fare! Visit the in-house café at the Crafts Museum, known as Café Lota. The menu apparently changes often, but what remains constant is the high quality of the dishes and the focus on using healthy and alternative food grains, which are common across rural India.
The dishes are well-priced and offer both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian varieties. The café does not accept prior reservations, so you may have to wait for a table. It is a popular joint with people who skip the museum and come just for the café, but trust me it’s worth the wait!
These are the top five reasons I highly recommend a visit to the Crafts Museum in Delhi. However, there are many other reasons as well:
- It is off the beaten path, relatively uncrowded and quiet
- It is well-maintained and hygienic with clean toilets
- It is quaint and has its own charm- quite distinct from other museums of Delhi
- Most of the exhibits are indoors, so you can visit even during the hot summer months
- It gives you a glimpse of India’s vast and versatile culture under one roof
I do hope you will visit the lovely Crafts Museum on your next trip to Delhi, or if you are a Delhi resident, when you are looking for something fun to do with your family and friends.
Have you been to the Crafts Museum? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below. Please share this post with someone that would find it useful, or pin it to your Pinterest boards for some sightseeing inspiration!
The crew that attended the guided walk of the Textiles Gallery and then enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at Cafe Lota
Entry Fee: INR 20 for Indian citizens
INR 200 for foreign nationals
Days and timings: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. MONDAYS CLOSED
Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan Metro Station on the Blue Line
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