A Journey Through Mumbai’s Prince of Wales Museum
If you’re looking for a hidden gem in the bustling city of Mumbai, the Prince of Wales Museum is definitely worth a visit. Despite its prominent location opposite the Regal, Cafe Royal, Jehangir Art Gallery and other landmarks in Colaba, I had not noticed it on my last visit.
Founded in the early years of the 20th century by prominent citizens of Bombay, with the help of the government, to commemorate the visit of the then Prince of Wales, the museum is a perfect specimen of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The architect, George Wittet, modeled the dome on that of Golconda Fort and the inner vaulting arches on those at the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur.
The Source (French: La Source, meaning “spring”) is an oil painting on canvas by French neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The work was begun in Florence around 1820 and not completed until 1856, in Paris. When Ingres completed The Source, he was seventy-six years old,already famous, and president of the École des Beaux-Arts. The pose of the nude may be compared with that of another by Ingres, the Venus Anadyomene (1848), and is a reimagination of the Aphrodite of Cnidus or Venus Pudica. Two of Ingres’ students, painters Paul Balze and Alexandre Desgoffe, helped to create the background and water jar.
On entry, you’ll find yourself in a central hall where a beautiful white marble replica of La Source stands. However, beware of the guards, who may tell you that photography is not allowed even after paying 40 rupees for a mobile camera.
If you’re interested in learning more about the museum, you can purchase an audio guide. However, I found it to be a waste of money as the flyers provided more information. In the central hall, you’ll find some sculptures from Mirpur Khas. To the right, a veranda leads to a museum of natural history, where you’ll find a beautiful marble Mahishasura Mardini statue and a breathtaking Sheshayi Vishnu sculpture that is definitely worth a visit.
The museum of natural history is a collaborative effort with the BNHS, but there is no linking information to provide context. It’s important to feed the brain of the visitor with some information that can trigger curiosity. Otherwise, you might as well have a video played. The next hall leads to monkeys, gibbons, and apes, followed by civets and other mammals. The next room showcases fishes, snakes, frogs, geckos, monitor lizards, etc. The monitor lizard reminded me of the battle of Singhad.
As you make your way back, you’ll encounter rhinos, big cats, and white tigers, including the history of Manohar a Rewa, the white tiger who is the ancestor of all white tigers. The owls, eagles, and back to the central hall leads to the Gandhara section, which is absolutely breathtaking. Here, you’ll find various artifacts and sculptures, including Kushana Buddha and Ashokan edicta.
En route to the first floor, you’ll find the pre and proto history hall, where I experienced an excitement running down my body, seeing the Harappan culture come to life. The section on Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic cultures is excellent, complete with information, maps, explanations, proper markings, etc. The Assyrian plates were an added bonus.
The first floor and second floor have much to explore, and the terracotta art from Mirpur Khas in the central hall is something not to miss. The Prince of Wales Museum is truly a treasure trove of Indian art and history and is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Mumbai.