Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum

It is the citys symbolof pride and the art space that the community values immensely. We are talking of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai or the Mumbai City Museum, the oldest and grandest of its kind. Situated in Byculla East, it has gone from just an exhibition space, to one that hosts performances and also imparts knowledge. Here is all about it, for those who love art and for those who dont.

Image byPratishkhedekar/CC BY-SA 4.0


As with all things great, the erstwhile Victoria & Albert Museum has seen its share of ups and downs. It first opened to the public in 1872, in a building specially constructed to house a museum that would, in the region that was considered as the Gateway to the East, showcase the cultural traditions of the land exotic. The original design was conceived by first curator George Birdwood.

Said Ranjit Hoskote, in an article in a leading national daily, …the Orientalist Birdwood was
viscerally opposed to India’s high classical and courtly arts of sculpture and painting, but devoted himself to India’s arts of ornamentation, detail and texture. He produced, among other works of scholarship, a monumental catalogue of Indian textiles.

Image byMuk.khan/CC BY-SA 3.0

It was not until a 100 years later that the name was changed to Dr Bhau Daji Lad, in 1975, honouring the secretary of the first committee of the museum.

By 1997, it had fallen into repair. In 2003, the Bhau Daji Museum Trust was established and in 2008, it re-opened to glory once again.

In 2005, it was given the Award of Excellence given by UNESCO under its Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Image byPratishkhedekar/CC BY-SA 4.0

This restoration was carried out by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) with funds from the Municipal Corporation (MCGM) and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. This included both architectural and curatorial restoration. The project also marked the countrys first PPP or public-private-partnership.

In 2013, an international architectural competition was rolled out to design the new north wing of the building. Steven Holl Architects won it, with the design Addition as Subtraction. The wing is supposed to have among other things, interpretation centre, a library, an archive and conservation facilities.


The mayor of Mumbai is the chairman of the museum and the city commissioner, the co-chairman. An honorary director is an equal partner, and manages most of the administratives activities like funding and spending.


The museum signed an MoU with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, to collaborate on exhibitions in 2005. Two prominent joint exhibitions have been A Century of Olympic Posters and Something That Ill Never Really See: Contemporary Photography from the V&A.

In 2015, it tied up with Amsterdams CoBrA Museum of Modern Art. It has also collaborated with the Google Cultural Institute on ‘The Google Art Project’, that ensures that the experience of the museum is online and available to the global community.

Image byPratishkhedekar/CC BY-SA 4.0

Works on Display

The two-storeyed museum houses all items that depict the city, its changes, traditions and passage over time, contrasting Bombay with Mumbai and presenting diversity with skillful alacrity. The permanent collection has been curated by Tasneem Mehta. The four galleries are:
Industrial Arts Gallery:Paintings and pottery from the city of 19th century.
Bombay School Paintings:The evolution from islands to city tracked through maps, photographs and lithographs.
Origins of Mumbai Gallery:Tracking the political and social changes that took place, from the Bombay Presidency to Mumbai. Small models and dioramas are used to perfection to illustrate this.
Kamal Nayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery:reminders of the citys past, the occupations, recreations crafts and costumes that the city has seen, loved and sometimes forgotten.

Image byPratish Khedekar/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Elephanta elephant, which gave the caves their name, stands outside the museum, in its magnificent glory.


The range of exhibits at the museum is massive, ranging from historic to contemporary. Some of them are:

Woven Wonders of Varanasi: An Exhibition on the Revival of Indian Textiles – Curated by SHaina NC
Sidhpur: Time present, Time Past by Sebstian Cortes
Migrating Histories of Molecular Identities by Valay Shende


Apart from housing treasures of art, the museum also regularly hosts workshops for young students and adult learners alike. These include museum tours, followed by a disussion on one or more of the exhibitions, and art activities like clay modelling, paper sculpting, photowalks, talks by authors and artists etc.


Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum offers a PG Diploma in in Modern & Contemporary Indian Art & Curatorial Studies since 2012. In 2014 it added Curatorial Studies, to the critical study of Indian Art. As part of the course, there are gallery visits.

You can know more about the course, here.

Ticket Prices: Rs 100 for non-Indian, Rs 10 for Indians.
Photography: Allowed for free.

Image byElroy Serrao/CC BY-SA 2.0

How to reach

By bus: Buses servicing South Mumbai, South-Central Mumbai, Central Mumbai and North-East Mumbai
By train: The nearest railway station on the Western Railway is Mahalakshmi and on Harbour Line is Reay Road.

Its not just a remnant of history, the museum has lived through it, to tell the tales of the eras gone by. It is worth all the time you will spend there, because gazing at art is far more enriching than window shopping.

The main image for this article was sourced from Wikimedia. Image byMuk.khan/CC BY-SA 3.0

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