The Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India lies within the ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ or ‘Mumtaz Palace’ which is situated on the southern most Pavilion of the Emperor’s Palace within the premises of the Red Fort complex or Lal Qila (Lal Quila) in New Delhi and is easily accessible by local transport. This Museum was established in 1974 with the main purpose of creating one centre that would house all the rich historical elements and fragments of ancient relics that are reminiscent of the past and form the nodal of Heritage possessions of India’s pride and glory.
The Archaeological Museum was initially a Zenana named as ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ on the extreme south of the Palace pavilion which was constructed as the private chambers of the Royal Ladies and hence was richly decorated with elaborate carvings both on the ceiling and interiors. The women of the Royal courtiers spent most of their free time in this Palace so as to relax and enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the Red Fort. The luxurious art deco and antique handcrafted furniture that once dressed this Palace seems to have disappeared in time; however, today, the Palace is strictly conserved as a priceless Heritage site by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who took the responsibility to retain whatever is left of the Palace as it was during the Mughal reign. This Palace was transformed into a Museum of ASI itself where authorities have carefully preserved and gathered a wide collection of ancient relics and artefacts, manuscripts and numerous antiquities that were hidden through these centuries and have revealed themselves to us only through this medium and thus allowing us to admire the unexplored historical richness of India.
The Archaeological Survey of India conducted various excavations in 1955, 1969 and 1973 on the ancient grounds of the ‘Old Fort’ or ‘Purana Qila’ in Delhi after obtaining permission from the Indian Government. Evidently, they dug out various antiquities like potteries, jewellery, coins, Royal Seals, Order Statements of Royal authorities carved in rocks, manuscripts depicting beautiful and exquisite calligraphic work, maps, weapons, attires or costumes and fragments of ancient palaces and buildings probably used for administrative purposes and preserved in this Museum and a few in the Field Museum in Old Fort. Findings of such significant objects definitely mark the evidence of continuous settlements dating back from the pre-historic Indus Valley Civilisation through to the ancient and medieval periods ranging from the Mauryan era followed by the Sunga period, Kushan dynasty, Chandragupta era, Rajput and Chauhan era and the Mughal period.
The Archaeological Museum is logically divided into different sections dedicated to a certain century or Imperial era. One division is completely dedicated to hosting artefacts dating back to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries like fragments of a 1000 BC grey ware painted pottery to mark as an example while another section is seen completely dressed with antiquities belonging to the Indus Valley Civilisation which are significant items of pre-historic existence and hence provides us all a subtle glimpse into the living conditions of ancient inhabitants who could also probably be our Forebear.
As you walk along, you are welcomed with another section of the Archaeological Museum that displays the personal belongings and memorabilia of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II who once lived within this Fort as Delhi was the capital of the Mughal Empire who conquered India and ruled for over two centuries. The relics of the Emperor consist of all the items and objects used by him during his reign. One main attraction is a Silver Hookah extensively used by the Emperor and probably his favourite one and a Royal Attire and Robe woven in pure Silk dressed with Pearl and exquisite embroidery work revealing the true Royal extravagance of the Mughal Kings during that bygone century. After a stunning view of this section, you arrive at another segment that holds artefacts, maps and weapons used during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 also known by many as the ‘Great Indian Rebellion’ or the ‘Uprising of 1857’ which was the first battle ever fought for the Independence of India between the Sepoys of the British Army and the Indian Freedom Fighters who rebelled against the rule of the British and their suppression.
Another Section within the Archaeological Museum displays an array of hookahs; Swords exquisitely crafted by ancient skilled craftsmen; Set of a Chess board; Ancient Paintings; Textiles with exquisite embroidery; Blue coloured decorated Tiles and many others. The Museum also provides a venue to host Historical and Cultural events including Seminars and Workshops conducted by ASI which invites numerous students and scholars from all parts of the Country to participate, share and exchange resourceful information about the wealth of the Indian Heritage and their findings be it any antiquities or any ancient historical edifices. The Museum is opened on all days except gazetted holidays between 0900 hours and 1700 hours with the entrance fee included with the entry tickets into the Red Fort.