Visiting a city that claims to be the cultural capital of a state without stepping into its most celebrated museum would be a crime! Alright, that’s a bit of an overstatement, so let’s put it differently – visiting a city that claims to be the cultural capital of a state without stepping into its most celebrated museum would be extremely uninsightful, to say the least. That’s why I made sure to include Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery into my list of things to do in Vadodara, even though my visit to this city in the western Indian state of Gujarat was very brief. As a person who claims to appreciate all things art and culture, could I skip a place that, according to Wikipedia, exhibits the original works of Turner and Constable?
So there I was, in front of a grand red stone building constructed in the best traditions of Indo-Gothic architectural style. The museum looked so promising that I immediately regretted having so little time in hand – I was supposed to catch my train back to Mumbai in a couple of hours. If I ever revisit Vadodara, I’ll make sure to start my city exploration from revisiting this wonderful museum, full of the most interesting exhibits and hidden treasures.
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Commissioned by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1887, the construction of this museum was completed in the 1890s. The stately building was designed by some of the most prominent architects of that time, including Major Charles Mant, also known for constructing the opulent Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, and Robert Chisholm, whose genius resulted in the construction of Presidency College in Madras (present-day Chennai) and Napier Museum in Trivandrum.
The Baroda Museum has been opened to the public since 1894. The Picture Gallery was added 20 years later, but didn’t open until 1921 as the transfer of some European works of art was delayed because of World War I.
About the building of the museum
As mentioned above, the buildings are constructed according to the norms of Indo-Gothic architecture. It was the architects’ intention for the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery to bear a significant resemblance to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Indo-Saracenic elements define the original look of this building, with all the arches, towers, jaalis (stone latticework), and domes adding a special charm to the all-embracing European design.
The museum was also constructed with a lot of consideration regarding natural ventilation and lighting. The building features some rather innovative skylights and structural punctures to keep it cool and well-lit.
Speaking of the interiors, I was amazed by the most imposing and masterful woodwork – if the museum had nothing else but these lovely pillars, and arches, and screens, it would have been worth visiting nonetheless.
Galleries of the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery
There are twenty eight galleries in the museum representing exhibits not only from India, but also from various European countries, Egypt, Tibet, China, Japan, Nepal, Persia, and so on. Each country’s exhibits are displayed in a separate room, and one can lose themselves among the vast variety of handicrafts, statues and figurines, porcelain and ceramics, national outfits, paintings and showpieces.
The museum’s galleries encompass a rich collection of artifacts representing Palaeontology, Osteology, Archeology, Zoology and Botany, History and Fine Arts. Some of the most notable exhibits include a Egyptian mummy, a skeleton of a baby blue whale, Akota bronzes dating the 5th Century AD, and oil paintings of renowned European artists.
I believe one could easily spend the whole day in the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery, or maybe even a couple of days, but when you’re strapped for time, it’s best to prioritize your interests and make your choices accordingly. As I said before, my time in the museum was very limited, so I skipped the collections of stuffed animals and birds, handicrafts, clothes, armour, and weaponry, but made sure to visit galleries of European paintings, glasswork, marble statues, ceramics, Japanese bronze and ivory sculptures.
The Picture Gallery
In the Picture Gallery, one can find an interesting collection of oil paintings, watercolors and drawings of various artists from different art schools, including some British, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese masters. Some of the paintings are original, others are authentic master copies. I was surprised to see Illya Repins’ “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks” amongst the exhibits of this gallery – yes, a painting depicting my Ukrainian compatriots was the last thing I expected to see in an Indian museum.
Apart from Turner’s and Constable’s works, some of the most treasured exhibits of this gallery include a master copy of Tiziano Vecellio’s painting “The Death of St. Peter”. The original was lost in fire in the end of the 19th century in Venice, making the exhibit in the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery the only surviving master copy of the painting.
Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery photos
Sorry for the quality of these photos – flash is not allowed in the museum due to the obvious reasons, and my photography gear is very basic.
Some useful tips
Vadodara is well connected with other Indian cities by trains and buses, and there is also an airport in the suburb of Harni which handles both domestic and international flights.
Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery address:
University Rd, Dak Bunglaw, Sayajiganj, Vadodara, Gujarat 390018
The museum is open from 10:30 am till 5:00 pm on all days, except for governmental holidays.
The entry fee is Rs 10 for Indian visitors and Rs 150 for foreigners. Photography is allowed if you pay Rs 100 extra.
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