The Archaeological Museum of ASI, housed in the Red Fort, has several priceless exhibits. Alas, these lack detailed captions that would add to the visitors’ knowledge

The Archaeological Museum at Red Fort is one of the most visited museums in the Capital, and for several valid reasons.

Until the time I visited the Archaeological Museum of ASI, it was difficult to imagine a museum in Delhi even with a decent number of visitors, let alone being packed. So in the Capital city, the Archaeological Museum very well earns the distinction of being packed with people from morning till evening, day in, day out. Of course, it gets it footfall from the Red Fort as it is located within the Fort premises but it has something special for the visitor who enters exhausted after having walked around the massive complex. Being the second last stoppage, there might be a valid excuse to skip it, but so many visitors just don’t give up.

I am not one of those, unfortunately, but I didn’t skip the museum either. I only missed some other parts to concentrate on the museum. The museum maintained by ASI is located inside the building called Mumtaz Mahal, the structure which Shahjahan named after his favourite wife, Mumtaz. The structure was otherwise part of the royal harem. It is quite a small museum but you would still need an hour to see it. And had the exhibits been captioned in detail, then some more.

With so many people coming in, ASI has every reason to upgrade the museum which has such priceless objects on display.

What to see

Farmaans or royal orders issued by Mughal emperor Jahangir, seals of the imperial library of Aurangzeb, monolith stone vessel for purifying water for Aurangzeb and many more such rare items on display underscore the greatness of our heritage. The museum is divided into six galleries thematically — Indus Valley Civilisation, Akbar I, Bahadur Shah Zafar Gallery, a section dedicated to the 1857 War of Independence, a segment devoted to swords, textiles, hookas, etc.

In the Akbar I section, the 17th Century brass astrolabes and celestial spheres are big crowd pullers. For all the valid reasons. These scientific instruments which were once used for astronomical calculations are rare to find for so many of them are believed to be in private collections abroad. Their artistic execution makes them a visual delight too.

Other highlights

Don’t miss Bahadur Shah’s letters to Queen Victoria, the clothes of the last Mughal Emperor and that of his wife and other objects such as a rose sprinkler, inkpot, etc.

I also liked a few lithographs depicting Delhi before and after 1857, a painting of Jantar Mantar, Sher Afghan, the first husband of Noor Jahan, Persian scholar Abu Ali Dina, decorative Persian tiles, etc. Look out for the gun of General John Nicholson (the East India Company officer who played a crucial role in the 1857 war), his letters and binoculars too. Delhi has his tomb and a cemetery named after him as well and once upon a time, his statue too, until it was dismantled and shipped to Northern Ireland.

If only all this information was disseminated a little more in detail through some interestingly designed captions — because the museum has so much to offer to kids.

Better still, if Narrowcasters, the audio tour company providing an audio tour of the Red Fort, could include this and the other two museums in the vicinity too. Their audio tour is just mind-blowing.

The other two museums are of arms and weapons, and the Indian War Memorial Museum. The museum ticket priced at Rs.5 has to be bought separately in addition to the Fort’s.

Timings: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except on Government holidays