The National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum commonly known as the ‘Crafts Museum’ is located on Bhairon Road in Pragati Maiden in New Delhi and faces the ancient Purana Quila or Old Fort. It is easily accessible by local transport and Metro link with Pragati Maidan Metro Station as the nearest point. Managed by the Government of India under the supervision of the Ministry of Textiles, the Museum is a huge complex which homes numerous craft work both traditional and creative ranging from terracotta horses, pottery, wood carvings, metal-ware crafting, image and toys sculpturing, Folk paintings and tribal textiles and handmade jewellery from various tribal states and villages including Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh to name a few.
As you enter the Crafts Museum, it welcomes you with a beautiful setting designed by a famous architect named Charles Correa to imitate the typical Indian village style of architecture seen with huts made of mud and haystacks, unkempt hay roofs, pathways made of mud and covered with sand and craftsmen sitting under these huts and showcasing their skills and art work which are on display and for sale to all visitors that defines the very essence of a village life and thus creating a rural ambience and serene atmosphere that is relaxing and rejuvenating to anyone who visit from the rush hours of the city.
The entrance of the Crafts Museum takes you through a passage opening covered with a sloping tiled roof and fringed with a row of small windows, doors and punctured iron screens running along a huge courtyard fringed with pigeon huts covered with dome shaped roofs. These huts are decorated with arches and filigree designed panels, Temple chariots, A Tulsi (Basil) plant terracotta sanctuary and other styles seen in a traditional Indian Village.
The Museum came into existence post independence of the country when India felt the need to preserve its fading traditional arts and craft work by establishing projects to develop and exhibit them. The Government created a platform like the Crafts Museum to hold a collection of Crafts put together by the craftsmen sometime between the 1950s and 1960s. This museum grew spontaneously and became such a success that it had to increase its size and area space. Since then for the past 30 years, it has amassed a huge collection of tribal and rural textiles and craft dating over 250 years to 300 years old up till the 1980s under one roof and hence has evolved into a perfect crafts destination.
The Crafts Museum is divided into different Galleries that include the Tribal and Folk Arts Gallery, Bhuta Sculpture Section, Ritual Craft Section, Courtly Craft and Textile Section and the Village Complex Section. Within these galleries, you can view an array of 22,000 collections of rare and unique craft work ranging from lamps, incense stick burners, bronze and precious metal-ware images and jewellery, stone and wood sculptures, utensils and accessories for daily use, clay pots, clay dolls and wooden toys, puppets, tribal masks and jewellery, bamboo, cane and terracotta craft work. Others on display include a rare collection consisting of a 300 years old Bhuta sculpture carved of wood and Figures of Goddess and Folk Deities from Karnataka’s Coastal area, Bronze figures from the Tribes of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat Architecture carved in wood depicting Havelis, Jharokhas (Small windows or peep holes), balconies, Wall hangings with exquisite embroidery and bead work, rare and unique Brocade saris, Baluchari saris, Chamba Hankies, Kutch embroidery work, unique textiles with tie and dye prints, Jamdani, Ikat and many more. All these totals to a collection of over 15,000 rare items on display for educational, research and public knowledge purposes used extensively by famous designers, scholars, students and craftsmen.
The Crafts Museum Village Complex was established in 1972 and spans over a massive area of 5 acres with the main purpose to exhibit and recreate the theme of ‘Rural India’. It has 15 architectural structures that depict Villages set with courtyards and Temples imitating all the corners of India that constitute Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa (Northeast India), Himachal Pradesh (North India), Gujarat and Rajasthan (West India), Tamil Nadu (South India) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These Village Huts were made by the masons, carpenters and craftsmen of their respective States in order to retain and maintain their originality and store the exact items within them that are used by the Villagers on a daily basis. There is a huge wall left open to all visiting tribal artists who would paint a small portion of the wall to showcase their inherent skills and hence adding new creative and yet traditional elements to the Village Complex. This complex remains closed from 1st of July to the 30th of September every year so as to allow for renovation and maintenance.
The Crafts Museum also homes a Research and Documentation centre that collects over ten thousand books under one library open to all for reference and reading. These books are based on the Indian Crafts, Arts and Textile Industry, History and Items. The Digital Documentation Technology System stores all data of over 534 rare craft items and others collected under this museum over the years. Other facilities available is an auditorium, photograph and conservation laboratory and Events to supervise Education and Demonstration of craft work that invites over 50 artisans and craftsmen from across the country to teach and share their inherent skills with each other and the students.
The Crafts Museum is opened on all days except Mondays and National Holidays between 0930 hours and 1700 hours with an entry fee of Rs. 10/- for Indian Nationalities, Rs. 1/- for Students and Rs. 150/- for Foreign Nationalities. Photography is prohibited without prior permission to be obtained from the Administrative Officer or the Reception Office.