My long cherished dream to visit Napier museum and art gallery in my hometown finally got realized during my recent stay in Trivandrum. This museum was built during British rule in 19th century and designed by a British architect, Robert Chisholm. The museum, which is one of the star attractions of the city was built in a particular architectural style with Gothic roof and minarets. The ceilings are built in such a way to enable natural ventilation and air flow.
But it was not a star attraction for me when I was a child nor for my parents. The adjacent zoological park with lots of flora and fauna, and of course animals and birds, was visited many number of times. The museum is nothing but a building showcasing lifeless objects to drive us to sleep!! I do not have much memory of visiting and 'enjoying' our museum. So it was a visual treat for me when I visited the Government owned museum after ages. The Napier museum, which is the main building, is a storehouse of artifacts like bronze idols of various Hindu deities belonging to various eras, ivory statues, statues made of stones lot of them being Bodhisattva's, artifacts like puppets belonging to Balinese or Indonesian culture, intricately carved temple chariot, dressing table used by royal families, are among few I can remember and not to be missed. Because camera and mobile phones were not allowed to be used, I could not take any pictures and I controlled the urge with great difficulty!
If that is not enough, there is one Sri Chithra Art gallery to the side of the museum, which exhibited different mural paintings depicting ordinary lives, wars, important incidents during the rule of various Travancore Maharajas. This is one place where a visitor has to spend time in depth to study the paintings and read about the history related to that. It will be better if art lovers visit alone and not with families. In the center of the hall, the royal chariot belonging to the Travancore kings stands majestically.
There is another Sri Chithra Art gallery almost inside the zoological park which treasures original and priceless Ravi Varma Paintings, the one which I was looking forward to see and admire. I couldn't believe my eyes when I was seeing this maharaja's original paintings for the first time in my life. Many of his paintings depicting Gods, Goddesses, scenes from the mythological stories, historical battles, ordinary people's lives, queens, contemporary cultures, self portrait, are all somewhat familiar through various prints. But to admire those original ones, is something else! Most of them were done painstakingly with oil paints, and I cannot say all of them are flawless or perfect, but with an eye to the detail. Some paintings which attracted more attention were the portraits of Travancore queens in the traditional attire wearing jewelry and their royal beauty captured through the eyes and the form. There were a handful of paintings done by other members of the royal family. There was another separate area where more recent and contemporary paintings were displayed in addition to Japanese and Chinese paintings. The highlighted ones were those done by Roerichs- Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetoslav Roerich who is more well known as a painter and also happens to be the husband of one of the first female film stars, Devika Rani. The paintings captured the beauty of nature, namely sky and water, and so many of them were in different shades of blue but are striking to the viewer's eye. Rest of the more recent paintings were abstract ones, each beautiful in its own way. Aspiring artists or painters need to visit these art galleries repeatedly to study the depth of all these art works.