Archaeological section, Museum of king Shivaji, India

Sculptures and coins transferred from the Poona Museum in Pune and the collections of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society resulted in the development of an archaeological section, with precious sculptures and epigrams.

The Indus Valley Culture Gallery houses fishing hooks, weapons, ornaments and weights and measures from the Indus Valley Civilization (2600–1900 BCE). Artefacts from the excavation of the Buddhist stupa of Mirpurkhas, were housed in the Museum in 1919.

The sculpture collection holds Gupta (280 to 550 CE) terracotta figures from Mirpurkhas in Sind of the early 5th century, artefacts dating to the Chalukyan era (6th-12th hcentury, Badami Chalukyas and Western Chalukyas), and sculptures of the Rashtrakuta period (753 – 982 CE) from Elephanta, near Mumbai.

Archaeological section
This exhibition will showcase some of the most important objects and works of art from the Indian subcontinent in dialogue with iconic objects from the British Museum’s world collection. As part of the commemoration of 70 years of Indian Independence, the exhibition brings together around 200 objects not only from the collections of these three Museums but from around 20 museums and private collections across India. The Indian objects within each section are positioned within a global context and serve to explore connections and comparisons between India and the rest of the world, covering a period of over a million years. What is the earliest evidence of human history in India and how does that compare with other parts of the world? What was happening in India when the pyramids were being built in Egypt? While emperors across the world conquered new lands why did emperor Ashoka make one of the earliest pleas for peace? How have different civilisations pictured the divine? How did rulers promote themselves through court, art and propaganda? What have been the routes of civilizational exchange over land and sea that make India a part of the world? And have those exchanges always been peaceful? How have different countries and communities articulated their quest for freedom in recent history.

The archaeological collections were originally started by pioneering archaeologists Sir Henry Cousens and Sir John Marshall. Amongst the important sculptures are the Gupta period terracotas and bricks from Mirpurkhas excavated by Cousens, a large number of Buddhist images from Gandhara and ceiling panels from a dilapidated temple at Aihole. The early examples are from Pauni and Pitalkhora. Mumbai itself has a rich tradition exemplified by a Shiva and a Matrika from Baijanath Temple at Sewri near Parel belonging to the same phase as Elephanta. Other noteworthy images from Maharashtra are a Vishnu and a Ganesha of the eleventh century CE. Some of the famous culptures are:

Brahma, from Elephanta Caves
Mahishasuramardini, drom Elephanta
Shiva, from Parel
Sculptures from Aihole and Pattadakkal
Dvarapala, from Shamalji, Gujarat
Garuda, from Konark
Yaksha, from Pitalkhora
Buddha and Devotee from Mirpur Khas
Ashthamahesha Replica bust

About AD 800–900
Karnataka, India
Private Collection

The exhibition, with its title India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, is an experiment, the first of its kind in India, and attempts to provide a model for museums to share their collections with people across the world, some of whom may otherwise never have access to them. It gives an opportunity to people from diverse countries and cultures to become partners in the world narrative, and motivates them to reclaim and reposition their own unique regional, national and global identities in the changing cultural landscape of the world. The objects from the British Museum and from Indian museums and private collectors, together in conversation, unlock fascinating stories and histories, and help us understand how we relate to the wider world. Juxtaposed together in the exhibition, these objects illustrate how people from different times and cultures express ideas through objects in remarkably similar ways.
‘India and the World: A History in Nine Stories’ is divided in nine sections –
Shared Beginnings (1,700,000 years ago to 2000 BC)
First Cities (3000–1000 BC)
Empire (600 BC – AD 200)
State and Faith (AD 100–750)
Picturing the Divine (AD 200–1500)
Indian Ocean Traders (AD 200-1650)
Court Cultures (AD 1500–1800)
Quest for Freedom (1800 – Present)
Time Unbound

Olduvai Hand-axe
800,000–400,000 years old
Found in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
The British Museum

This section, Shared Beginnings (1,700,000 years ago to 2000 BC) show how the human story began in Africa where early human ancestors created the first complex tools over a million years ago . It was from here that our distant ancestors travelled into Asia and Europe, bringing with them the same common technology – the hand-axe. Arguably one of the most important piece of technology, these tools were multi-purpose. This striking example of a hand-axe is made of quartz, a difficult material to make tools from as it is hard and unpredictable to work with.

1,700,000–1,070,000 years old
Attirampakkam, Tamil Nadu, India
Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, Chennai

The makers of these tools arrived in India perhaps as early as 1.7 million years ago. They used to prepare food and make shelter using these hand-axes. Attirampakkam in Tamil Nadu is one of the first Stone Age sites to be discovered in the world.

Balochistan Pot
3500–2800 BC
Balochistan, Pakistan
TAPI Collection of Praful and Shilpa Shah, Surat

The emergence of agriculture and the invention of pottery were revolutionary. Pots enabled people to cook food and store excess grain. Sites such as Mehrgarh in Balochistan reveal the transition from the beginning of agriculture to urban settlements. Beyond its merely functional use, pottery also provided a means by which our ancestors could express themselves creatively, through experimentation with form and decoration.

Majiayao Pot
Majiayao culture; 2500–2300 BC
The British Museum

Pottery was developed simultaneously in different parts of the world by both sedentary and nomadic people. Pottery reveal that people could control fire, build kilns, and find and prepare clay. Besides being daily utensils used by the Majiayao culture to store food or drink, pots like this one were also used as burial offerings in ancient China.

Statue of a woman
2400 BC
The British Museum

This section, First Cities (3000-1000 BC) talks about the emergence of the first cities and states, one of the most significant changes to happen in human society after the development of agriculture. About 5000 years ago, urban settlements flourished in the fertile river valleys of the Nile, the Indus and the Tigris and Euphrates. It led to the development of bureaucracy, priesthood, trade and a ruling class.

Humped bull with gold horns
About 1800 BC
Pur village, Bhiwani Khera, Haryana, India
Haryana State Archaeology and Museums

Transport links were established with areas that produced the raw materials and food needed for the cities’ construction and sustenance. This tiny bull from Haryana is made of banded agate, which is quarried in distant places such as Gujarat and Maharashtra. The custom of attaching gold horns to images of bulls was shared in many contemporary ancient cultures.

Bull-like composite creature and ‘script’
2200–1800 BC
Banawali, India
Haryana State Archaeology and Museums

The ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Harappan civilisations created some of the world’s first cities. All three river valley civilisations developed their own systems of writing, initially to aid in administration and trade. Over 400 different signs and 4000 inscriptions on Harappan seals have been catalogued, although they still remain undeciphered. Seals and their impressions are a distinctive part of Harappan culture.

Ashokan Edict No. IX
Maurya; about 250 BC
Nallasopara (near Mumbai), Maharashtra, India
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

This section, Empire (600 BC – AD 200) talks about the age of empires around the world. The empires began around 2500 years ago across the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Rulers conquered large territories and governed subjects of varying cultures, traditions, faiths and languages. Emperors used religious validation and military force to consolidate empire. This inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (reigned 268–232 BC), from the ancient port town of Sopara in Thane near Mumbai is unique. When rulers were trying to consolidate their supremacy through military force, Ashoka tried to unify his subjects by promoting peace and ethical conduct.

Festivities around the relic of the turban
Satvahana; About AD 150
Phanigiri, Telangana, India
Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Telangana

In an age of empires when ideas of kingship were based on the assertion of power, this sculpture reveals a parallel concept from Indian philosophy that endorses surrendering power.

Siguas ornament
AD 1–200
The British Museum

Ancient rulers and warriors would strengthen their authority on earth by associating themselves with divine power. Gold was an important material in ancient South America, prized not for its monetary value but for its symbolic association with the creative energy of the sun. This gold axe-shaped ornament could have been sewn onto a crown or headdress, possibly worn by a ruler of the Siguas people of the south coast of Peru.

Gupta Dinar, Samudragupta
AD 335–380
Central India
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Apart from military strength and administrative control, religion was a defining aspect of empires and states at this time. This section, State and Faith (AD 100-1000) talks about how rulers often chose to associate themselves personally with a particular faith or deity, asserting their legitimacy by claiming descent from a god or having divine sanction to rule. Coinage, circulated widely across empires, was an ideal medium through which to advertise the bond between rulers and their faith. This approach was employed by the Gupta Kings of northern India as well as by Roman, Byzantine, Sassanian and Aksumite rulers. In the 7th century, with the arrival of Islam, coin began to be minted without representations of emperors and religious symbols but with texts from the Qur’an representing the word of God instead.

9th century AD
Karnataka, India
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Religions across the world have sought to represent the divine in order to bring people closer to their gods.This has led to the creation of extraordinary religious objects that served as a focus for worship and meditation around the world. This section of the exhibition deals with the challenges of Picturing the Divine (AD 200-1500) in different faiths across the globe and their belief systems. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism all originated in India and by the sixth century, much of the iconography of these faiths had been established. This bronze sculpture depicts Bahubali (one of strong arms) who was the second son of the first Jain tirthankara, Rishabha in penance.

Kū-ka’ili-moku, god of war
AD 1750–1800
The British Museum

In some faiths objects functioned as either symbolic portals to the divine or the embodiment of the divine itself. Religions such as Hinduism and those of Hawaii shared the concept that religious objects were spiritual in themselves. The process of creating the objects was a spiritual undertaking and the objects were more than just representations. Artists, world over have tried to communicate different emotional expressions through religious art.

Worshiping a chakra
220–180 BC
Bharhut, Madhya Pradesh, India
Indian Museum, Kolkata

Alternatively, objects can be used to focus attention during meditation and worship. In Christianity, the crucifix is meant to encourage contemplation of Christ’s suffering, while in Islam, the written word communicates the message of the Qur’an, however, it also becomes a talismanic charm. In early Buddhism, the chakra, or wheel, symbolised the universal spread of dharma. Depictions of the Buddha in bodily form appear only to have started in the first century AD. Before that, his message was inferred through symbols such as the chakra or wheel.

AD 870–920
Tiruvarangulam, Tamil Nadu, India
National Museum, New Delhi

The idea of the gods being manifest in the object itself informed artists’ attempts to portray the essential characters of the gods in their paintings and sculptures. This sculpture of Shiva is a balancing of opposites. Shiva dances the ananda-tandava – the tandava is the dance of destruction, but ananda means pleasure. One of his four hands hold fire which destroys, but is also the heat that is necessary for life. Another holds a drum, which provides the rhythm or pulse for life associated with Shiva as Nataraja (Lord of the Dance). This dance squashes apasmara, the demon of ignorance, that is below Shiva’s feet.

12th century AD
Java, Indonesia
The British Museum

Religions are not static, just as people and goods move so too do beliefs. While religions such as Christianity and Islam were imported to South Asia from elsewhere, India also exported many faiths. Buddhism and Hinduism spread from India to Southeast Asia, as a result of trade and political contact. The first images of Ganesha materialized in Java in the eighth century as a result of extensive trade and political contact between South and South East Asia.

1st century BC – 1st century AD
Brahmapuri, Maharashtra, India
Town Hall Museum, Kolhapur

This section of Indian Ocean Traders (AD 200-1650) talks about how the Indian Ocean connects a diverse group of people and places, bringing them together as a community connected by the sea. Trade promoted interactions between populations of different languages, religions and cultures, as well as the exchange of ideas and the movement of people. Many Roman and Middle Eastern objects have been found in India. This image of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea was discovered with a group of Romano-Egyptian objects in Maharashtra.

Block-printed Textiles Excavated from Fustat in Egypt
AD 1250–1350
Exported from Gujarat, India
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

India, Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and Europe have, for centuries, traded with one another by both land and sea. For thousands of years the coastal ports of India have been instrumental in maritime trade. Indian textiles were exported to Egypt in Roman times, although the trade links may have been much older. Made in Gujarat these types of textiles reached Egypt between the 11th and 16th centuries when the trade across the Indian Ocean was dominated by Arabs and Indians.

Roman Necklace
4th century AD
The British Museum

Gemstones from South Asia were highly valued and widely traded in the ancient world. Approximately fifty years after this necklace was made, the Roman Emperor Leo (AD 457–474) restricted the wearing of emeralds, pearls and sapphires on certain clothing. This late Roman necklace was found in North Africa, in present-day Tunisia. Its gems are likely to have originated in India or Sri Lanka, before journeying across the Indian Ocean, through the Red Sea to Egypt and then onwards to the wider Roman world.

Futuh al-Haramayn (Revelation of the Two Sanctuaries: Mecca and Medina)
AD 1548 / AH 955
Probably Gujarat, India
National Museum, New Delhi

Vivid accounts of pilgrims and explorers navigating across the sea-provide great insights into their journeys and occupations, and the exchange that took place across the Indian Ocean world. This is one of the earliest known examples of a Futuh al-Haramayn – a guide for Muslim pilgrims embarking on Hajj. It contains the complete sequence of the Hajj rituals and includes stylised illustrations of the holy sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina.

Jahangir holding a portrait of the Virgin Mary
About AD 1620
Probably Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
National Museum, New Delhi

The Mughal dynasty ushered in a period of court life in India that was known for its opulence and sophistication. Similarly, rulers across South and East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa were creating courts that cultivated and celebrated luxury and fine artisanship. This section of the exhibition speaks of the magnificence of the Court Cultures (AD 1500–1800), while also revealing the complexities of etiquette and hierarchy, sought to maintain social and political control.

Rembrandt’s Emperor Jahangir receiving an Officer
AD 1656–1661
The British Museum

This is a drawing of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–1627) copied by the celebrated Dutch artist Rembrandt. Rembrandt was fascinated by these miniature paintings, which reached the European market in the 17th century, the golden age for Dutch maritime trade.

Procession of Abdullah Qutb Shah
Deccani; Mid 17th century AD
Golconda, India
Sir Akbar Hydari Collection, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

It was not just the Mughals who were famed for their court culture in South Asia. The courts of the Deccan sultanates – Islamic kingdoms in southern India, the Nayakas, the older Hindu Rajput courts of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and the hill kingdoms of northern India continued to wield tremendous political and military influence. This long painting depicts the grand military procession, a public display of pomp and pageantry, with bearers of flags, incense-burners and soldiers.

Shield of Maharana Sangram Singh II (On Loan)
About 1730 AD
Mewar, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
National Museum, New Delhi

Swords, shields and armour were not just valued as weapons in the courts, but were also important indicators of rank and status. They were often gifted and passed on as symbolic inheritances of the blessings of the monarch to those whom he honoured.

The Wedding Procession of Prince Aniruddha Chand of Kangra
About AD 1800
Pahari, India
Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

A wedding procession is an opportunity for a public display of pomp and courtly aesthetics. Resplendent in gold, the fifteen-year-old bridegroom Aniruddha Chand is being carried to his wedding in a palanquin.

Balwant Singh Shooting Bustard
About AD 1750–1755
Pahari; Jasrota, India
Sir D. J. Tata Collection, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Here, the artist Nainsukh captured his patron Balwant Singh of Jasrota in an intense moment of hunting. Rajput kings were often shown as arbiters of life and justice, and pictures of them hunting are common devices. None however have been seen in such heightened intensity as Nainsukh renders Balwant Singh in this painting.

Copy of a Ming handscroll Showing the Occupations of the Court Ladies
AD 1644–1911
The British Museum

This scroll depicts an idealised portrayal of Chinese courtly life on a spring morning in the Han palace, where women of the court are at leisure.

Benin Plaque
AD 1550–1650
Benin Kingdom; Nigeria
The British Museum

The Benin City was ruled by an Oba (king), the central figure in this panel, regarded as the Edo people’s highest spiritual and political authority. These plaques offer an insight into their court life.

AD 1915–1948
West India
Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai

This section of Quest for Freedom (1800 – Present), talks about colonialism and the ongoing struggle for quest for freedom, from a national to a personal level. The objects in the section talks about the political and social challenges faced by the people today such as mass migration, human rights and gender equality. The last two hundred years have seen people across the world fight for abolition of slavery, independence from imperial rule and the right for personal freedom. The ‘Quest for Freedom’ is one of the most important stories of our time. The charkha, or spinning wheel, was one of the most powerful symbols of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and politics. It was both a protest against Britain’s attempts to deliberately undermine Indian weaving and also a symbol of self-reliance.

Timeless Pilgrimage I & II
By Betsabeé Romero
AD 2014–15
Mexico City, Mexico
The British Museum

Timeless Pilgrimage I & II explores the contemporary politics of migration on the Mexico/ USA border, where, according to the artist, road signs depict migrants as animals, presenting them as a hazard to local drivers.

By L. N. Tallur
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

The section, Time Unbound talks about our relationship with time, the living world and that which lies beyond, which can be viewed from many different perspectives. LN Tallur’s sculpture draws on the cyclical view of time in Indian traditions. Here, Shiva, who dances the dance of destruction and rebirth, appears to be entombed in a ball of concrete and money.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (translation: ‘king Shivaji museum’), abbreviated CSMVS and formerly named the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, is the main museum in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It was founded in the early years of the 20th century by prominent citizens of Mumbai, with the help of the government, to commemorate the visit of Edward VIII, who was Prince of Wales at the time. It is located in the heart of South Mumbai near the Gateway of India. The museum was renamed in the 1990s or early 2000s after Shivaji, the founder of Maratha Empire.

The building is built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, incorporating elements of other styles of architecture like the Mughal, Maratha and Jain. The museum building is surrounded by a garden of palm trees and formal flower beds.

The museum houses approximately 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history as well as objects from foreign lands, categorized primarily into three sections: Art, Archaeology and Natural History. The museum houses Indus Valley Civilization artefacts, and other relics from ancient India from the time of the Guptas, Mauryas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakuta.