Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex (RBMC) is a symbol of Indian freedom, democracy and unity. This museum, officially inaugurated on July 25, 2014 is the culmination of President Pranab Mukherjee’s initiative to preserve and display the numerous gifts that the Presidents of India have received over the years. Beyond these gifted artefacts, the museum’s collection also includes arms, furniture, sculptures, textiles, photographs, archival material and more.
Words of Hon’ble President Pranab Mukherjee’s, whilst inaugurating the museum were, “I hereby dedicate the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum to the nation. I am sure this Museum will enable the people of our nation obtain an inside view of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, its art, architecture and vibrant community as well as educate them on the lives of various Presidents.”
Previously, the gifts received by the Indian Presidents since independence were stored in the Toshakhana, a storage space within the premises of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and were put on display in the gift galleries. President Pranab Mukherjee, however, felt the urge of dedicating an exclusive space for these invaluable memorabilia. For this purpose, heritage structures, The Stables and The Coach House were conserved and converted into a magnificent state-of-the-art museum. Gates of the Stables and the windows have horse-shoe patterns on them even now. It is indeed fascinating the way each stall has been converted into an enclave and decorated with gifts and art pieces. There are 22 such enclaves for display in phase I of the museum.
The Stables is divided into three corridors, the Left Corridor, the Long Hall and the Right Corridor. Whilst the gifts and paintings are displayed on the Left and Right corridors, the Long corridor is further divided into three parts, War Scene Gallery, Furniture Gallery and the PBG Gallery. In addition to the corridors, there is also a Coach House that forms part of the Stables of RBMC.
Enclave 1: The first enclave of the Museum is a representation of the President’s Estate Stable, before it was converted into the Museum. It showcases a horse with a horseman, a hunting box, a saddle and related items.
Enclave 2: This gallery displays some of the finest gifts received by various Presidents of India including the gold Chonma Chong Crown presented to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by H.E. Mr. Roh Moo-Hyuh, President of Republic of Korea. A picture of White House presented to President K.R. Narayanan by US President William J. Clinton, and an exquisite jar of blue cut glass with etched portrait of Dr. Rajendra Prasad is also displayed here along with other exhibits.
Enclave 3: Silver and silver plated plaques received by the Honorable Presidents of India are displayed in this enclave.
Enclave 4: This enclave displays a gorgeous silver surahi engraved with floral designs presented to Hon’ble President Shri Pranab Mukherjee by Asianet News, along with Dilmun Seals that were discovered in Bahrain and presented to President Abdul Kalam in the year 2006. This invaluable gift is an evidence of the ancient ties between India and Bahrain. A silver bowl presented to President R. Venkataraman by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during President’s State Visit to London in the year 1990 also finds place on the shelves of the Museum, along with a metal vase with central golden colour floral pattern that was presented to Hon’ble President Pranab Mukherjee by H.E. The Emperor and Empress of Japan. A fine specimen of Jewelry art by Simon Shone in his 2 D representation of African continent on an elephant is also exhibited in this enclave.
Enclave 5: Etchings and drawings by Emily Eden, sister of Governor General of India George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland (1836-1842) and Alok Sen’s water colour on paper painting, A Mogul Prince, are amongst the few specimens that are displayed in this section.
Enclave 6: This enclave mainly exhibits gifts received by the Honorable presidents of India from military institutions. Also put on display is The President’s Standard, which is made up of four quadrants with the national emblem, an elephant, a scale and a lotus. They represent authority; justice and equality; equality and fraternity; peace and plenty respectively. This flag was flown above the Central Dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan till the year 1971, after which it was replaced by the tricolor.
Enclave 7: Enclave number 7 also displays silver plaques received by the Hon’ble Presidents of India.
Enclave 8: Gifts that have been received by Indian Presidents from foreign dignitaries form part of this enclave. Two water colour paintings by B.N. Jijja,A View from Manali (Kullu Valley) and Temple of Vashisht are displayed here along with a painting presented by the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Enclave 9: Also known as the spiritual enclave, it houses the replicas of temples received by the Hon’ble Presidents of India. The soapstone replica of Uttara Malai Temple presented to President R. Venkataraman is displayed here amongst other presents. The paintings in this section include Surya Mandir at Mudhera by Sass Brunner and The Lying Buddha of Dushanbe by Sujit Das. Two beautiful marble plates with floral patterns are also exhibited here.
Enclave 10:This enclave, like the previous one, displays religious gifts that have been received by the Hon’ble Presidents over the years. The right wall has two dimensional gold leaf depictions of Sai Baba, a peacock and Goddess Durga whereas the left wall has on display 24k two dimensional depictions of Lord Ganesha. Replica of Sanchi Stupa in silver colour is also displayed here.
Enclave 11:Commemorative postal Stamps issued by the Government of India on various occasions have been framed and put for display here. This enclave also contains some of the special releases by Hon’ble Presidents of India.
The War Scene Gallery, the first segment in the Long Hall, is a throwback into the country’s history showcasing antique arms and armors used in the Anglo-Sikh and Anglo-Afghan wars. These antiquities have artistically been used to recreate war scenes, synced with modern audiovisual techniques of storytelling.
The second is the Furniture Gallery that exhibits select furniture pieces of Rashtrapati Bhavan’s State Rooms like The Morning Room, Yellow Drawing Room, South Drawing Room, President’s Study and the ADC Room. Royal Court of Arms of the United Kingdom has been displayed in this gallery with full description of the crest and motto. Interactive question answer on digital surface forms a part of this section for information and entertainment of the visitors.
The third segment of the Long Corridor is the President’s Bodyguards or the PBG Gallery. The President’s Bodyguard, raised in 1773, is the oldest and the senior most regiment of the Indian Army. This gallery has on display the silver trumpet and banners that have been used for the Silver Trumpet Banner Presentation Ceremony by the Indian Presidents. On careful observation, one can see that these banners have on them the initials of our Hon’ble Presidents in devangiri script. Summer and winter ceremonial uniforms of the PBG are also displayed. A Commandant’s Chair that had been in use since 1930 is now put on display. It is fascinating to note that the swivel and rocking mechanism of this chair are still functional.
Enclave 16: This corridor begins with an enclave dedicated to the first Indian President Dr. Rajendra Prasad. On display are his photographs spinning and a charkha and one with Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. A colourful furniture set comprising of a cabinet, a table with drawers, a side lamp, a small cabinet etc. that was used by the President himself has been put on display in this enclave.
Enclave 17: This enclave has on display the ceramic and porcelain items received as gifts by the Hon’ble Presidents of India.
Enclave 18:This enclave has on display the items gifted to Hon’ble President Pranab Mukherjee by the Jordanian Senate and Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, Jerusalem and an Olive Tree picture from Palestine, with the label, Gift from the Holyland Bethlehem.
Enclave 19: Paintings and memorabilia gifted to various Indian Presidents have been put on display in this enclave.
Enclave 20: Etchings, lithographs and graphics of various hunting scenes painted by British artists are displayed in this enclave. Evening Ride of H.H. Maharajashere Singh at Amritsar, Panjab, is one of the important lithographs that are showcased here.
Enclave 21: This enclave contains signed photographs of dignitaries who presented the same to the Indian Presidents. We can see signed photographs of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Lady Edwina Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Emperor and Empress of Japan, Prince Charles and Camilia, King of Spain Juan Carlos-I, President of USA John F. Kennedy, Smt. S. Bandarnaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and many more.
Enclave 22: The engraving and lithograph works of Thomas Daniel, G.F. Atkinson depicting monuments of Delhi and Agra, including the Taj Mahal and Juma Masjid are showcased here. A tribal chess set made of wood called Kumbula i Africa which means ‘To remember Africa’ is a unique gift that is displayed here.
Enclave 23: Replicas of ships and boats presented to the Hon’ble Presidents of India are put on display here. Also on display are engravings of Earl of Moira, Portrait of Marquese Wellesly and Portrait of Viscount Cunning amongst others.
Enclave 24: Various engravings, lithographs and photographs that were found in Rashtrapati Bhavan have been displayed here. The central exhibit of this enclave is a table from Afghanistan that was presented to Dr. Rajendra Prasad. What makes this table unique is the stone that it is made of, which changes colour when touched.
Enclave 25: This enclave has been especially dedicated to coins. It has on display commemorative coins issued by the Government of India on special occasions. The main attraction of this section is the seven ancient coins gifted by the Reserve Bank of India.
Enclave 26: The last enclave of the Museum has on display a piano, in working condition, which is estimated to be almost a hundred years old.
The Coach House is a beautifully constructed portion of the museum that was earlier used to house the carriages of Viceroys. It is one of the most important places of the RBMC showcasing important historical occasions of the Bhavan with thematic presentation along with full contextual reference animated by flip books, multi touch digital surface with pinch-and-rotate facility, illuminations with LEDs, infrared sensors, audio isolators and much more for the visitors. Each enclave of the erstwhile Coach House has now been converted into an enclave that showcases important junctures in the history of Rashtrapati Bhavan. As one enters, they are welcomed by the double-decker Hunting Coach on their right that was earlier used by the Viceroys of India. The first enclave displays the history and archival pictures of the seven cities of Delhi in LED transparencies. Further ahead is an enclave with period setting of the famous Delhi Durbar of 1911 that led to shifting of the British Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. It is animated by audio video presentation. The original Delhi Durbar Silver Thrones are also kept on display for the visitors. The King’s throne, which weights 640 kilograms, is engraved with Throne of His Majesty George V King Emperor Delhi Durbar 25 December, 1911. The Silver Throne that was used by the Queen is said to weight 540 kilograms.
The first important event in the Government House (as Rashtrapati Bhavan was then called), the Gandhi Irwin Pact has been displayed in one enclave while the other shows the Historic Meeting of June 2, 1947 wherein the partition of India was accepted by the Indian leaders. The period setting shows Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Baldev Singh, Mohd. Ali Jinnah, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Abdul Rab Nishtar, Archarya Kriplani and Lord Mountbatten. Visitors have access to information regarding the leaders depicted in these scenarios at a simple click. The computer kiosks at these enclaves enable the visitors to click on a particular person’s image and have access to the relevant information.
Further ahead, the visitors can see two enclaves with period setting, one showcasing Freedom at Midnight, Oath of Pandit Nehru on August 15, 1947 and the other showcasing Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s Oath as the First President when India became a democratic republic on January 26, 1950. Also seen in these enclaves are Lord Mountbatten and Chief Justice Shri H. J. Kania swearing in Pandit Nehru and Dr Rajendra Prasad respectively. These enclaves have audio story telling facility as well.
Sculptures of Hon’ble Presidents of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Husain, V.V. Giri, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Shankar Dayal Sharma, K.R. Narayanan, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Smt. Pratibha Patel and President Pranab Mukherjee have been displayed in one enclave with interactive digital presentation of audio-video. One can click on the profiles of the Hon’ble Presidents, view important details regarding their birth date, tenure etc and also watch exciting videos about them. Opposite that we see, President Pranab Mukherjee’s sculpture in Ashok Hall with his aides de camp. One enclave of the Coach House has been used to display select paintings and furniture of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A section has been dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and is called the Gandhi Enclave. Shanti Doot, a portrait of Mahtma Gandhi that was presented to former President, Smt. Pratibha Patil is displayed along with a painting by H.L. Khatri showing Gandhiji in a meditative pose. The latter was a present from the Government of Gujarat. Model of a Charkha that was used by Gandhiji has also been put on display.
Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex is open for visitors on all days of the week except Monday.
Timings are from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m.