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domingo, 26 de julho de 2015

The Archaeological Section of the Museum is primarily concerned with the acquisition, preservation and display of antiquities of the historic period of South India. -- The Chennai Museum has a good collection of paintings and sculptures, both traditional and modern.

The antiquities consist of sculptures, architectural pieces, metal and stone inscriptions which have a bearing on the past history and social life of the people of this part of India. A significant collection of objects representing the industrial arts such as wood carving, ivory work, metalware, inlay and embossed works for which South India has been famous from very early times, is also dealt with by the Section.

The objects mentioned above have been slowly accumulated and preserved in the Museum since its inception. They were organized into the present form about 1938 AD due to the efforts of Dr.F.H.Gravely. Though prior to the formation of the Section, sporadic research on certain groups of antiquities have revealed the importance of the objects and thus made the Museum well known yet only after the formation of the Section more detailed studies of the antiquities of the Museum were undertaken, and the results of the studies published in a series of Museum Bulletins. Gradually, the scope of research work of the Section, initiated by Dr.Gravely, was expanded so as to include other allied subjects such as temple architecture. The activities of the Section, thus, increased and as a consequence, it grew rapidly in size. 


The collections of the Section may be grouped as follows, each group being important and interesting in its own way: (1) Bronze figures, (2) specimens of sculpture and architectural pieces, (3) inscriptions and (4) industrial art objects. The study of the objects of the first three groups is essential for a proper evaluation of the levels of culture reached by the people of the different periods and localities to which they belong. The inscriptions are, however, the main source for the history of the country as also for its social life. The study of the specimens of the industrial arts reveals how dexterous the South Indian craftsmen were in their application of various art motifs to objects used in daily life or on ceremonial occasions.

Bronze figures

By far the best known objects of the Section are the metal figures. There are over 1500 of them in the Museum, of which about 85 are Buddhist, about two dozen Jain and the rest Hindu. This Museum is perhaps the only institution in the whole world, where such a large collection of metal figures is assembled under a single roof. One must remember here that there are countless figures of this kind in the innumerable temples of South India. This bewildering quantity will itself suffice to show the extent to which the art of casting images or figures in metal had been practiced in this part of India in the past-unprecedented in the history of any other country in the world. As several of them are so wonderfully wrought and are in accordance with the accepted canons of aesthetics, they are amongst the world's best treasures of art.

The collection of bronze figures contains specimens of different periods ranging from the early centuries of the Christian era to the recent times. The four fragmentary Buddha figures excavated at Amaravati in the Guntur district, are the earliest and date from about the third century AD. The style and features of these figures presuppose a considerable familiarity with the art on the part of the people who made them. The other Buddhist metal images come from Nagapattinam, and they vary in date. Of these, the seated Buddha and the small figure of Simhanada in the gracefulmaharajah lila pose are important.

Next comes the Jain bronzes. The large Tirthankara metal image received from near Madurai is noteworthy as the features suggest that it might belong to the early Pandyan period. This figure is unmistakable evidence for the existence of Jainism in the Pandyan Kingdom about the tenth century AD. The other images are comparatively small, in size, all come from the Telugu country and they are of the usual type.

The most important part of the collection of Bronze figures is that representing the Hindu gods, goddesses and devotees. The images collected upto 1932 AD have already been published in the form of a catalogue in which they are treated under two broad categories namely, Vaishnavite and Saivite. Accordingly the images of each group are shown in separate showcases in the bronze gallery which was opened in the year 1963 AD. This is the only Museum wherein the South Indian bronzes in large number are kept in a separate building. The images received upto 1963 AD have been published in the form of a Bulletin of the Government Museum, Madras. Of these images a few date from the Pallava period, a slightely larger number from the Chola period and the rest belong to the Vijayanagar and later periods. Mention may be made of the Pallava bronzes, which include the figures of little Somaskanda (skanda missing), Vishapaharana, Kannappanayanar and Vishnu. The best Chola specimens include the figures of Nataraja from Tiruvalangadu and Velankanni, Kankoduttavanitam etc., the Rama group fromVadakkuppanaiyur, Vishnu as Srinivasa, Tirumangai Alvar , Inscribed Kali, the world famous Ardhanarisvara fromTiruvenkadu and Parvati. In fact some of them, for instance, the Tiruvalangadu Nataraja and Rama group, are so well executed as to be real gems of art, which we can be proud of. The figure representing the Vishnu with two hands in which the attributes are embedded from Komal, and Balasubrahmanyaand dancing Balakrishna belonging to the later periods are of interest as they are essentially in the traditional style though just beginning to get conventionalised. The figures ofVenugopala, Rukmini and Satyabhama from Chimakurti which represent the art of the Telugu country have remarkable grace about them. A figure of Nataraja in the leg reversed pose received as a treasure-trove from Poruppumettupatti in the Madurai district is of interest historically, iconographically and also artistically. There are images representing theayudhapurushas Sudarsana and Kaumodaki which are very rare representations in metal. Sage Vamana is included in the collections, which comes to nearly 1500 bronzes. A colourful Bulletin recording the Jain images (Sculptures, Bronzes and epigraphs) received in the museum upto 2000 AD has been published in 2001 AD.

Hi-tech showcase in the Bronze gallery

Four new hi-tech showcases, frameless with float glass, Dichroic lighting, Yale locks, German Dorma door hinges, Taiwanese exhaust fans and silica gel compartment to absorb Image of Bronze gallery moisture, etc., have been made this year. They house the Jain and Buddhist bronzes on the 1st Floor of the Bronze Gallery. 

Bronze Gallery - Ground Floor and Mezzanine floor - a Panoramic view - Year 2003

Reorganised Bronze Gallery

In connection with 151st year celebrations of the Government Museum, Chennai, the existing Bronze Gallery has been reorganised. In the Government Museum, Chennai most of the objects are displayed in traditional type wooden showcases. The traditional showcases have problems of dust accumulation on the object, insufficient lighting and problems in cleaning the objects and wood deterioration as they are now made of teak board rather than real teak due to high cost of teak. Due to the time constraint, Commissioner broached the idea of quick assembly type showcases with the Bronze Gallery Reorganisation Committee consisting of Curators, engineers of the Public Works Department and co-opted outside experts Dr. K. V. Raman, a veteran professor of Archaeology and K.T. Narasimhan, the Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai. The Web Site of Octanorm Ltd was browsed. At a trade fair some Curators saw these showcases. They were satisfied with it. Brochures of several manufacturers were acquired. These are being developed for displaying them in the ground floor of the Bronze Gallery building. The octanorm type showcases use aluminium profiles. 

The profiles are vapour coated at micron level, so that they also appear as bronze. They have the advantage of flexibility like changing of showcase size, quick dismantling and reassembly with negligible loss of salvage value. Display is made at two levels optimising the use of the vertical space resulting in low cost of display per exhibit. This octanorm type showcases are incorporated with toughened glasses on all sides, neat look and the bases are provided with glasses instead of plywood to focus the light from below. They have been provided with bronze tinted glass mirrors at the back to reflect light. This gives a traditional temple like atmosphere. They are light weight, but stronger and the entire display can be moved frequently. 

Light from the bottom as well as split-level display gives great looks attracting visitor interest. Three independent supports below the load bearing toughened glass on which exhibits are housed. This is a three way redundancy safety measures like NASA of USA does in spacecraft. This is to ensure the safe display of the valuable bronzes.

Improvements in Lighting

All the show cases in the Bronze Gallery building have Dichroic Halogen lamps and in addition to this to give a floating effect to the showcases additional low voltage lamps have been provided at the bottom of the show cases, to give aesthetic effect as if the whole display is floating in a pool of light. 

Dynamic Display

In the reorganised Bronze Gallery, a star display will be the cosmic effect on the Nataraja bronze. A diorama showcase with cosmic background made by vinyl pasted on acrylic material and cosmic effect given by fibreglass light tips with audio commentary is the attractions. 70-watt halogen lamp generator will operate the Fibre optic lights and a changing light pattern of seven colours will enhance the display effect.

In addition to the Nataraja exhibit, a scroller display is being installed. The scroller display will have themes like bronze making, South Indian Bronzes, Chemical Analysis of Bronzes like that. Each theme will have ten transparent photo printed, back illuminated vinyl sheets which will move up and down in a systematic manner. Two revolving displays will bear some important bronzes on them and the entire structure will rotate all the 360° very slowly.
This will make the bronze display dynamic to create visitor interest.

Audio Visual Room

In addition to the presentation of actual exhibits, an audiovisual presentation about the objects in the gallery enhances inter-activity with the exhibits for the visitors. An audio-visual room is being organised in the first floor of the Bronze Gallery building. This room will have an LCD Multimedia projector with all accessories. Videos of the lost wax process of traditional bronze making, the modern Investment Casting Process, the museum in the 1960s and its present state will be presented to the visitors. IT will be of 8 to 10 minutes duration. 


The next best known collection of the Section is that of the stone sculptures. They fall into two broad groups, namely, the early Buddhist, Jaina and Hindu sculptures and the sculptures of the medieval and later periods. The date of the early Buddhist sculptures ranges from about 200 BC to 250 AD, and that of the Jaina and Hindu from about 600 AD to the recent times.

Early Buddhist Sculptures

The collection of the early Buddhist Sculptures includes the large group of sculptures received from the ruined stupa atAmaravati in the Krishna valley in the Andhra country wherein an excavation was conducted in 1801 AD and later Colonel Colin Mackenzie of the Trigonometrical Survey of India first heard of the mound in the area and visited the site and found it was very interesting as it had specimens of early christian era art. Then he drew sketches of the site and left. Later in 1830 AD some of the sculptured slabs were brought to Masulipatnam to beautify a square named after Robertson, the District Collector. During the course of his visit to this place in 1835 AD, Sir Frederick Adam, Governor of Madras, saw the slabs and ordered that these be sent to Madras for preservation in the Museum of the Madras Literary Society. Dr.Balfour, soon after taking charge of the Madras Central Museum, began his efforts in getting the aforesaid slabs and the first batch arrived here in 1856 AD and in 1859 AD, most of them were sent to Her Majesty's Secretary of State for India and lodged in the India Museum. Before sending them to London these slabs were documented by one William Taylor and were photographed by Mr. L.Trippe. These slabs which were sent to London were exhibited in the Museum there and later shifted to the British Museum. Other batches of sculptures were secured during Dr.Bidie's time and they were set up in their present location in the Museum.On the question of the arrangement and display of these Amaravati marbles in the Madras Museum in 1884-85 AD, Dr.Bidie had to cross swords with no less a person than Burgess of the Archaeological Department of the Government of India, but while the distinguished archaeologist demonstrated more of dogmatism and heat, Dr.Bidie showed himself that he was the master of the situation and what he did was only practicable way of dealing with the sculptures. 

Apart from these sculptures, a few fragments of sculptures fromJaggayyapeta a few other sculptured friezes from a dilapidated stupa from Goli are also exhibited here. Total number of these sculptures is about 315. Of these the sculptures received fromAmaravati and Goli have been studied and published.Amaravati sculptures are of interest as they are in at least four distinctive styles showing the development of the art in South India. 

These styles are more or less akin to the contemporary styles of sculptures of North India, such as the Maurya, Sungaand Kushana, which establish the unity of cultures of India from very early times. The most interesting feature of the sculptures from Amaravati is the wealth of details they furnish in regard to the various aspects of social life of those periods. The Golisculptures belonging to a period later than that to which the sculptures of the last phase of the Amaravati stupa belong, show the later developments of Andhra art. The Jaggayyapetasculptures belong to about 200 BC. The archaic features and very low relief work are charecteristic of the art of the period. The figure representing Chakravarti Mandhata and another showing a holy shrine or punyasala are important among them.

Mediaeval Sculptures

There are over 700 specimens of stone sculptures belonging to the period from about 600 AD to recent times in the section. Of these, about 50 are Jain, about 25 memorial or hero stones, about a dozen Buddhist figures, about 10 snake stones and the rest are of Hindu deities. 

It is as much true of stone sculptures as of metallic figures that to whatever faith they may belong, the features of the art of the period are marked in the sculptures of the period, except for minor local variations. Hindu sculptures are shown in two galleries. In the New Extension Gallery typical examples of South Indian Sculptures from Tamilnadu and from other areas are shown in chronological order. In the general section the remaining specimens are shown. The noteworthy specimens from Tamilnadu belong to the Pallava and Chola periods (600-1300 AD). 

Among the Pallava sculptures, the figure of hornedDvarapalaka and Yoga Dakshinamurti shown in the New Extension and the figure representing Virabhadra, six of the seven mother goddesses shown in the other gallery are noteworthy. Of the Chola sculptures, the mutilated figure ofShanmukha and the Parvati figure shown in the New Extension gallery and the group of Vishnu and his consorts and theGajalakshmi figure shown in the other gallery are noteworthy. 

Representing the art of the Pandyan territory of the period are a few specimens of which the figures of Agni and Vayu from Tirunelveli are the best. The sculptures of the subsequent periods are lacking in expression although the figure ofBhikshatana belonging to the Vijayanagara period shown in the New Extension gallery retains some of the beauty characteristic of the figures of the earlier periods.

The sculptures from the Telugu and Kannada speaking areas include specimens of the art patronised by the royal dynasties of these areas such as the Chalukyas, Nolambas, Hoysalas, etc. Here also the sculptures belonging to periods earlier than the Vijayanagar period are noted for their beauty and expression. Of these early sculptures, the Ganesa and Dvarapalaka figures of the Eastern Chalukyan period, the Vinadhara Dakshinamurtifigure of the Nolamba period and the Saptamatrika group of figures of the Hoysala-Kakatiya period, all shown in the New Extension gallery, are works of high artistic merit.

The Jain sculptures of the Section are shown in a room beyond the Buddhist sculpture gallery. They are mostly representations of Jain Tirthankaras in the usual stiff posture. But the figure of a Tirthankara from Tuticorin, the figure of Mahavira from the South Arcot District are in the Pallava style and the figures representing Mahavira and Parsvanatha fromDanavulapadu in the Cuddapah district, in Andhra Pradesh belonging to the Rashtrakuta period, show features characteristic of the art of the period to which they belong.

That Buddhism continued in the Tamil districts long after it ceased to exist in other parts of South India, is proved not only by the Buddhist metal images from Nagapattinam but also by a few stone figures of the Buddha belonging to this part. However, the smallness of the collection is indication of the fact that Buddhism was not followed by many. Of these Buddhist stone images, the more than life-size figures of standing Buddha from Kanchipuram are interesting.

Though there are only a few specimens representing each of the groups of sculptures such as hero-stones, memorial stones, sati stones and snake stones, they are valuable not only because they throw light on the life of the village people of ancient South India but also because of the inscriptions on them. The snake stones, as a group, are specially interesting as they reveal the fact that the people still continue the worship of snakes, an ancient practice, in a modified form. 

Architectural pieces

About 50 pieces consisting of corbels, kudus, gargoyles, gateways, etc. belonging to ruined temples of South India are shown in the New Extension and the general Hindu sculpture gallery. Of these the corbels and the kudus are arranged in series in the Hindu sculpture gallery showing their development during different periods in the Tamil country. Among the pieces of the temples of the Telugu-Kannada area, the piece that shows a miniature vimana with combination of features of the architecture of the Tamilian and Deccani styles, exhibited in the Hindu sculpture gallery, and the doorway in the typical Hoysala style shown in the New Extension Gallery are noteworthy.


There are over 600 copper plate inscriptions and about 100 stone inscriptions in the Section. Their contents are of high historic and social interest. Further, as they belong to different periods and localities, their scripts differ and a study of these grants helps to follow easily, the development of the scripts now obtaining in South India.

The copper-plate inscriptions acquired upto 1917 AD, numbering over 200 have been published in the form of a catalogue. Subsequently about 400 inscriptions have been added. These inscriptions are mostly records of grants of villages or plots of cultivable lands to private individuals or public institutions, by the members of the different royal dynasties that ruled over South India. The grants range in date from the 3rd century AD to recent times. A large number of them belong to the Chalukyas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagar kings. Of special interest are the Maydavolu and theHirahadagalli plates of the early Pallava dynasty and the large-sized grant acquired from Tiruvalangadu, issued by Rajendra Chola I. The latter consists of 31 large plates strung on a ring to which is attached a seal showing the Chola emblems andRajendra's legend in relief. This is not only interesting as an "epigraphical curio" but its contents, especially the genealogical portion are also valuable.

The stone inscriptions include inscriptions in Brahmi, Vatteluttu, Nagari, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada scripts. Of theBrahmi inscriptions, the Bhattiprolu stone reliquary inscriptions are important as the alphabet employed here is considered to be earlier than 200 BC. This suggests that there was a variety of Brahmi script in vogue in the South, long before that period. The Brahmi inscriptions from Amaravati and Jaggayyapeta are important both for showing the further developments of the script and for revealing several technical terms which could not be known otherwise. The Vatteluttu inscriptions include also those on the hero and memorial stones, already referred to; this script was in use in the southern region of the Tamilcountry till a late period and most of the early Pandyan and Kerala inscriptions are in this script. In order to show the development of the scripts of South India from the Brahmiscript, specimens of original inscriptions in the different scripts such as Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Brahmi and Nagari are shown in separate groups, arranged on the mezzanine floor of the New Extensions, in chronological order, headed by a plaster cast of an Asoka inscription and followed by a chart showing clearly the different stages of development of each of the scripts. The remaining stone inscriptions are exhibited in the Archaeological Reserve Collection shed.

Industrial Art

The exhibits of the Section consist of specimens of wood carving, ivory carving, metalware, inlay and embossed works. Their total number is about 1,450. The wood carving of South India is noted for its wealth of details. A great majority of the Museum collection of woodcarving belong to old temple cars. They represent the various deities of the Hindu pantheon. Some of the representations of figures are unique as corresponding representations of the figures in metal are not met with.

The ivory carvings include representations of animals such as cows, deer and deities such as Vinayaka by traditional carvers of Mysore, Travancore and Visakhapatnam. The excellence of workmanship of the carver is revealed by the intricate work on an ink-bottle holder in the collections.

The metalware objects consist of lamps of different types, utensils used in temple and household worship, toys and luxury articles such as betel boxes and nut crackers. Each one of these groups is of great interest. Especially, the collection of lamps is remarkable for the multiplicity of types and the delicacy of workmanship. Of these, the large lamps with festooned branches spreading out, exhibited in the centre of the metalware gallery are noteworthy.

The Tanjore metal vessels and Bidri ware exhibited in the gallery are also of interest.

During 1992 AD the Bronze Gallery was reorganised. The Industrial Art Gallery was reorganised in 1997 AD.

'Fort Tranquebar'

Conservation work of a part of the Danish Fort has been completed recently under the supervision of the Commissioner Archaeology and Museums, Government of Tamil Nadu. The Fort has also been illuminated by modern lighting. 
Tranquebar - Night View

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