TIBET HOUSE MUSEUM, 1, INSTITUTIONAL AREA, LODI ROAD, NEW DELHI.
A glimpse of the history of a people in exile.
In 1959 when waves of Tibetan people started pouring into India to escape an anticipated Chinese reprisal after a failed rebellion, they didn’t come alone. Packed among their belongings were family heirlooms, manuscripts and inseparable possessions passed down from generation to generation and jealously guarded within families. Putting their own lives at risk, caravans of men, women and children traversed treacherous mountain trails paved with razor sharp rocks and crossed bottomless gorges in bitter cold weather to bring the cherished objects to their destination, in what was an exhausting and nerve wrecking journey.
If leaving the land of their ancestors was a cruel test of their emotions parting with their cargo would turn out to be an even more painful experience, yet in 1965 on the urging of his holiness the Dalai Lama, the objects so carefully brought over and treasured over centuries for their sentimental value was willingly donated to a somber little room that would come to be known as the Tibet House Museum – all so the outside world could learn more about their ancient culture and history.
Tibet was once a proud martial nation that forged an empire on the strength of its sword arm. Her hardy mountain people roamed free in an untamed land dotted with serene lakes, majestic rivers, snow clad mountains and unmatched natural beauty glistening beneath a benevolent azure sky. Buddhism, on the verge of extinction in the land of its own birth (India) had turned to Tibet for sanctuary and found not disappointment but dedicated nurturing and respect from her generous people.
Tibet’s architects had fashioned for the religion, monasteries rivaling the beauty of their palaces. Her artists had produced masterpieces on cloth and walls to spread the words of the Buddha. While her monks and pilgrims had traveled unending miles to grow its popularity.
The artifacts on display at the museum provide a glimpse of the land that is Tibet. They reveal the phases the civilization underwent. Its transition from a martial society to a spiritual community seeded with the wisdom of the Buddha. The devotion of its monks and holy men. The skill of its artists and artisans. And above all the selfless sacrifice of its people in keeping alive the memories of long gone ancestors and a once free nation.
Tibet House Museum is one of the lesser visited museums in Delhi. Founded in 1965 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the museum is a part of Tibet House – a learning and resource centre that allows for a study of Tibet’s history, culture and dominant religion: Buddhism. The museum is located on the second floor and displays a modest collection of artifacts, once the personal property of men and women before being donated at the urging of the Dalai Lama. To learn more about the institution and its activities explore the Tibet House website.
Collection on display.
The mid size hall is adorned with a small assortment of artifacts dating back to well beyond the 15th century. The modest collection includes weapons of war, household objects, fabled Thangka paintings, sandalwood, stone, copper and bronze gilded statues representing the Buddha and the Bodhisattva, jewelry and traditional garments.
The museum has a reception desk attended by designated caretakers but no curators (as of June 2013) to dispense information regarding the history and nature of the artifacts on display. A library (within the same building) houses over 5000 manuscripts and books for research and study.
Tibet House is located in 1, Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi. Right next to the Airforce Bal Bharti School. Closest metro station is the Khan Market Metro Station and Jor Bagh Metro station. Hired autorickshaws will get you there in minutes but you might need to mention landmarks such as the Indian Habitat Center or the much closer Airforce Bal Bharti School.
The museum is officially open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and closed on Saturday and Sunday. The museum also remains closed on Tibetan holidays and some days without prior notice on their website. Telephone calls can sometimes go unanswered as well on working days. Photography is permitted only with official permission. The museum shuts down during lunch hours: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.
Travel tip: The Tibet House Museum, is in close proximity to the Lodi era tombs at Lodi Gardens and the tomb of Safdurjung, the last great work in Mughal architecture. Visitors can plan their explorations of the historical sites during the cooler hours of the morning then head for the museum.