Friday, November 8, 2013

Gargoti Mineral Museum

What's your earliest memory of a rock? Kicking a small one all the way while returning from a tiring day at school? Throwing a pebble in a still lake and seeing the ripple effect all across? Or using a large one to break a rusted box? Chances are you might not have thought much about it. After all, a rock is plain and uninteresting, right? Now what if you are told that someone has preserved rocks 65 million years old, that too in the heart of a bustling office area? Sounds unbelievable?

As any other major city, Delhi has it's fair share of museums. There is the National museum in Janpath, the Dolls museum in ITO, the Rail museum in Chanakyapuri and even a Toilet museum run by the Sulabh trust in gurgaon. Adding to this list, tucked away in the central hub of Connaught Place (CP) is the National Handicrafts and Design Gallery Museum, also called the Gargoti Mineral museum, a great example of the beauty of nature and how man can do some terrific value addition.

I won't blame you if you can't find it at one go. On the 3rd floor accessible via a nondescript lift in a building crowded with state emporiums on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, the place is not your typical museum. Open all 7 days of the week and with no entry charges, you are warmly welcomed by a guide at the door. There are four corridors in all, and probably the very first thing you notice is a huge Shivling made out of a single piece of pure crystal. Encrusted in a metal base, it is breathtaking to say the least. Leading up to it on both sides are galleries adorned with national award-winning handicraft pieces. There is a wood-carved rendition of the Fatehpur Sikri, Bamboo flutes, Beautiful carpets and human figurines made of clay. Another gallery at the far end has intricate paintings describing the Ramayan, Mahabharat and other such important stories of times gone by. This is what forms the Handicraft part of the museum, and the effort put into each one of these pieces speaks for itself brilliantly.


The second gallery as you enter to your right is where the stones make their presence felt. Neatly arranged in glass shelves adorning all the walls of the place, the 65 million year old rock pieces hardly show any wrinkles to give away their age! Each of the pieces has been carefully catalogued, so you have Pentagonite, Ruby, Cavensite, Pyrite, Topaz, etc., all in mesmerizing shapes, hues and sizes. Though many of them are from the area in and around Nasik in Maharashtra, which was the site of an old volcano, there are unique examples from all parts of the world to give them company. The galleries have been maintained beautifully, with just the right amount of lighting to focus on each of the pieces of rocks. What adds value to the place are some hand-carved statues out of single pieces of gemstones. The Shivling described earlier is joined by a Lord Krishna in Ruby and a Buddha made out of Jade, with all these pieces being amazingly well-crafted. 

Now for some interesting artifacts - There is a fossilized dinosaur egg neatly cradled in a nest, and trust me, it actually looks cute! The other two highlights of the museum are in fact things that are literally out of this world. A piece of moon-rock is attached to a sheet of informative paper in one of the glass cases. There is a similar small piece of crust from Mars. The guide proudly proclaims that they were bought for Rs.20 lakhs each from NASA, and waits to see that awed expression on your face.



As the final leg of the tour, you are left at the commercial side, so if you're actually inclined to take a piece of historical geology, all 65 million years old of it, home, crude pieces of rock are sold for as low as Rs.100, with the prices going up to many lakhs for bigger and more beautiful ones. They come with a proper certificate that guarantees their age. Apart from this, paintings, handicrafts and even jewellery encrusted with gems is up for sale. And don't forget to sign the feedback register on your way out!

How to get there: Get down at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station and walk about half a km

Timings: 10 am to 6 pm (entry closes at 6, they let you wander till about 7)

What else is around: For the devout, the famous pracheen (old) Hanuman and Shiv temples beckon you. There are monkeys in both of them to give you company! You can also drop into the above-mentioned state emporiums showcasing clothes and crafts. And if not any thing else, you can always hang out at CP :)

What to eat: The Kachori subzi stalls right outside the temples do brisk business most times of the day. Or head to Coffee Home along the same pathway for authentic South Indian eats and Filter Coffee

So if you have visited many old museums and have been disappointed by their upkeep or bored of the plain artifacts, give the refreshing and unique amalgamation that is Gargoti museum a chance to take your breath away!