Address: Chhauni, Kathmandu
Preserved: Ancient weapons, clothes, coins, gifts of ancient kings
Establishment: BS 1985
Creator: Bhimsen Thapa
Of course, a museum is not a centre for instilling love in the mind like a cinema hall. But the museum is definitely an essential destination for remembering the past of one’s ancestors. Among all other museums in Nepal, National Museum located in Chhauni, Swayambhu is one of the oldest museums in Nepal. The building of this museum was built for the private residence but was later turned into a museum with the collection of arms. Its founding name was Chhauni Shilakhana. Initially it was known as the Arms Museum. In this museum, which is the oldest and largest in Nepal, various materials reflecting Nepali people’s life, art-culture and history can be observed.
In addition to the first and contemporary museum opened to the public during the time of the then Prime Minister Judd Shamsher in BS 1995, the museum concept has been expanded to include three more museums. There are three special buildings in this museum. Juddha Artisan Art Gallery, Buddha Artisan Art Gallery and Main Building (Historical National Museum Building). In this museum we can observe ancient weapons, clothes, coins, and gifts of ancient kings.
The National Museum is the first museum in Nepal. The museum was established in BS 1985 as a museum of arms by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa at his residence. The National Museum was not accessible to the public until BS 1995. After the fall of Bhimsen Thapa, the Rana collected and displayed local and foreign weapons. It was only open to the Rana Prime Minister, his family, and guests of the Rana.
Juddha Shamsher opened it to the public after the 1990 earthquake. The museum was opened to the public in BS 1995. Since then, it has been renamed as Chhauni Silkhana and Nepal Museum. In BS 1999, Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher built a building for art at the Nepal Museum. He named the building the Juddha Artisan Art Gallery. It was opened to the public in BS 2000. In BS 2024, the Nepal Museum was renamed as the Nepal National Museum by King Mahendra.
This museum is located near the Swayambhunath temple. Entering from the main entrance of the museum, there is an art gallery on the left side in which sculptures, handicrafts and paintings are displayed. The building in front of the main entrance is called the Buddha Artisan Art Gallery, which houses things related to Buddhism. To the right of the main entrance is the Natural Museum.
Three Major Buildings
After walking about 100 meters from the main entrance, an artistic eagle statue greets all the visitors. Standing next to the statue of the eagle sprinkled with water from all sides, one can find different museums on three sides
- Juddha Artisan Art Gallery
In this art gallery, we can see the patterns of carvings made especially of metal, wood, and stone. Among the figures, there is the iconic Licchavi king Jayavarma of the second century. In this art gallery, we can see the sculptures stolen from a craftsman living in Los Angeles. The statues are Saraswati, a 12th-century vinadharini stolen from Pharping, a 9th-century Buddha stolen from Bhinche Bahal, a 14th-century sun stolen from Triveni Ghat in Panauti, and a 10th-century Garudashan Vishnu stolen from Hayumat Tol, Kathmandu.
Apart from this, the statue of Vishnu Vikrant placed by Mandev in Lazimpat, various artistic statues of Lichhavi period and medieval period can also be found in this hall. In addition to marble, Judd Art Gallery has a collection of woodwork, pottery, bronze art, and various paintings.
- Buddha Artisan Art Gallery
Built in BS 1936 with the help of the Japanese government, the building was inaugurated by the then prince as a museum of Buddhist art and exhibits art and culture related to various Buddhist religions. In the Buddha Crafts Art Gallery, we can see Buddha paintings, sculptures and materials reflecting Buddhist culture. To present this art in a better way, this art is divided into three parts, Terai, Kathmandu Valley and Uttar Himal. In the Terai, we can see the birthplace of the Buddha, a picture of the Chaitya, and in the Kathmandu Valley, the image of the Buddha is carved in Bodhisattva copper. In the northern Himalayas, we can see many developed cultures about Tibetan Buddhism. Thangka paintings, Tibetan religious objects, and 19th-century Manjushri paintings are among the masterpieces of the art.
- Historical Museum
The historic museum building was built by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa in the 18th century. The building houses materials related to various species of animals, birds and kiraftangra found in Nepal. Here we can observe the bones of tigers, leopards, red pandas, rhinos, and whales. Within this, the costumes and art of different castes of Nepal have been depicted and the basic costumes of most of the countries of the world have also been included in it.
Another feature of this building is the military department located here. Under which we can see old and new weapons. The building houses the hats, crowns, and Thompson submachine guns seized during the First Nepal-Tibet War in 1792. Another major attraction of the building is the paintings made by Napoleon III using the sword and tiger hunting as a royal game.
The adjacent coin museum is one of four museums in the same courtyard. Within it, one can find the entire history of coins from the 6th century BC to the present.
This museum can be visited for twelve months. In the summer months from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, on Mondays from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, and in the winter months from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. The museum is closed on Saturdays and public holidays.
-By: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal