Renowned as the IT hub of India, Bengaluru is also the country’s cultural capital, and is not surprisingly, home to a number of museums. The city has a rich tradition of culture, but its cultural identity extends beyond its temples and mosques, historic monuments, music concerts, pubs, eateries, and watering holes. While you should revel in the city’s modern culture and visit its most famous museums like Government Museum, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, and HAL heritage and Aerospace Museum, don’t forget to visit its lesser known museums to get a deeper understanding of its historic and cultural legacy.
Here are some of the most underrated and less-known museums in the city of Bengaluru:
1. Folklore Museum
Bengaluru’s Folklore Museum is housed in the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, which sits atop a hillock on the lush green campus of the University of Mysore. The building itself is a sight to behold and was built in 1905 for Princess Jayalakshmi Ammani. To its east lies the Kukkarahalli Lake. After you have been wowed by the surroundings and the exteriors of the palatial structure, you will be just as amazed by the collection of priceless artifacts housed within the museum. This one-of-a-kind museum specializes primarily in folklore and its impressive collection includes artifacts, stone tablets, sculptures, shadow puppets, exotic costumes, and a wooden puppet of Ravana, the 10-headed demon king.
2. Law Museum
A trip to the Karnataka High Court should feature on your itinerary because of its obvious importance in history and also because of the architectural beauty of the structure that houses this highest judicial institution of the state. What most people do not realize is that the building is also home to a law museum that is open to the public. With an original print of the Indian Constitution and innumerable books, seals and documents that trace the history of the legal profession, this museum should be at the top of your list, especially if you are an aspiring lawyer or are simply fascinated with the intricacies of the legal world.
3. Philatelic Museum
As kids most of us have channeled some energy into stamp-collection, as a fleeting hobby or a long-lasting passion. Strangely, most people have never heard of the discipline of philately, which involves the collection and academic study of stamps. Perhaps even more surprising to Bangaloreans, will be the fact that their city is home to a philatelic museum. The Philatelic Museum of Bengaluru is housed on the first floor of the General Post Office or GPO building, just next door to the High Court. Entry at the museum is free, and the exhibits include hundreds of stamps from across the world, from different eras. The museum even boasts of a library that has around 600 books and magazines, most devoted to philately.
4. Karnataka Folk Museum: Janapada Loka
Janapada Loka or Karnataka Folk Museum is one site that you absolutely must visit if you wish to understand the rich history and traditions of the local population, not just of their important rulers and dynasties. This museum celebrates and showcases the tribal and village folk arts of Karnataka. In addition to the museum, the complex also has an open-air theatre that often hosts cultural events. The museum exhibits include daily agricultural, foraging tools, weapons, household goods, puppets, dolls, and lots more.
5. Jayachamarajendra Museum
Jayachamarajendra Museum is an art museum that includes masterpieces from the legendary Raja Ravi Varma, Rabindranath Tagore, the Ukil brothers, and Nikolai Roerich, among other great artists. With such a collection of paintings, it is only fitting for the museum to be housed in a palace, namely the Jaganmohan Palace. The museum also showcases some of the traditional painting styles of India, such as Mysore, Mughal and Shantiniketan. In addition to its art displays, the museum also houses one of the largest collections of South Indian artifacts, including sculptures, weaponry, musical instruments, coins, and more.
6. Mysore Rail Museum
Mysore Rail Museum is just next door to the railway station of Mysore and as the name implies, it gives you an insight into the history of the railways. If you have no interest in the railways too, you should still give it a try and you might change your mind. The museum is not very large, but it is extremely informative and fascinating. The displays include plenty of old coaches and wagons, steam locomotives, carriages, inspection cars, old railway equipment like hand signals, token instruments, and lots more. The Maharani Saloon or the Royal coach is undoubtedly the main attraction, with its luxurious interiors designed specifically for the then Queen of Mysore. The museum also has a toy train ride that will keep the kids busy and entertained.
7. Kempegowda Museum
Kempegowda Museum is a government museum that is situated on the first floor of the iconic Mayo Hall. The museum is dedicated to Kempegowda, the Yelahanka chieftain, who is credited with being the founder of Bengaluru city. In addition to a couple of statues of Kempegowda there are no artifacts or relics to speak of, but it does have plenty of posters and images of various historic monuments and locations from the time of the erstwhile ruler. As pointed out by many visitors, it has a long way to go before it can really be classified as a museum, but it certainly is interesting as an art gallery and information center. Visit it for a unique experience, if you are exploring the various museums of the city.
8. National Military Memorial
This is not your typical museum, but is an open air park that is a tribute to the country’s fallen heroes, who laid down their lives in the service of the nation. It provides visitors with a wealth of information and includes several museum-worthy exhibits, which is why it earns it spot as one of the city’s most underrated museums. The memorial is located just next to the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and it displays the names of fallen soldiers, which are inscribed on the actual stone memorial. Shrouded in greenery, National Military Memorial Park has an atmosphere of tranquility and reverence. It also houses fascinating exhibits that include battle tanks, armored vehicles, DRDO's missiles, a fighter plane, and more.
Bengaluru’s museums are a treasure trove of knowledge, giving you an insight not just into the region’s fascinating history, but also allowing you to explore the folklore, traditions, art, and technology that helped shape the city, making her the buzzing metropolis that she is today. Perhaps, your exploration of these less known museums will give you a better appreciation of this magnificent city.