Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nehru Memorial

Slept away the first few days of the holidays. But I was really bored today, so when I read that the Nehru Planetarium has organized a sky show on Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, I dragged my brother to the Teen Murti Bhavan to see it. The complex (huge, around 45 acres) houses the Nehru Planetarium, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, and the auditorium. It's called Teen Murti because of a group of three statues, a WWI memorial to soldiers from Mysore, Jodhpur and Hydrabad. The main building, a classic example of colonial architecture, is designed by Robert Tor Russel, who also designed CP. It was built in 1929-30 as the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army, and after independence, in August 1948, it became the official residence of PM Jawaharlal Nehru. After his death in 1964 it was converted into his memorial.

We went to the Planetarium first. Outside there are a series of pretty awesome educational exhibits, some interactive, on astronomy and the universe, although some don't really work. But they really do explain seemingly difficult concepts easily. They were facing some problems with the Chandra movie, and so they screened 'The Ultimate Universe' instead. This was my first time in a planetarium, and it was brilliant! The movie, about the universe in general, was great and really informative, though slightly too long and boring. The visuals were amazing, and the whole experience was almost 3D.

Very surprisingly, right outside the planetarium, and part of the complex, is a protected monument! The Kushak Mahal was built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq as a hunting lodge. Quaint and surrounded by greens, it's really one of the lesser known monuments of Delhi -I can't even find an appropriate link!

The museum was boring, and most galleries were old and not really maintained. There was a new exhibit called 'Nehru, the Architect of Independent India', which was better, though honestly, still boring. The recorded speeches were interesting. One you had to listen to the normal way, on headphones, but for the other one (Nehru announcing Bapu's death), you lifted the receiver of one of those old-style telephones. Pretty charming. Since it's a personalia museum, parts of the Teen Murti House -the sitting room, study, and Nehru's and Indira's bedrooms- have been preserved. These were also great, and shit! the amount of books they had. The best bit about the museum, though, was undoubtedly the recreated Central Hall of the Parliament as on 14/15 August, 1947 midnight. There are figures of the speaker, and all these people, GB Pant, BR Ambedkar, C Rajagopalachari, etc., at least 12-13 of them, sitting on the benches, all listening to an animated figure of Nehru, complete with head and eye movements, delivering the 'Tryst with Destiny' speech. You could sit with all of them and listen. It was awesome.

We also went to the auditorium, where they had a play going on, which, sadly, we were too late for. The building is nice, one of those which bridge the inside and the outside. Our next stop, the nearby canteen, was pretty dark and dingy, but mostly because greenery covers all the windows! Really weird.

I enjoyed the day, and the planetarium was amazing, but, like I said, I was disappointed with the museum. And considering that it's a stop on the HoHo bus tour as well, I expected better.

P.S. The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library has a whole host of events lined up during the CWG. Unfortunately, I won't be in Delhi for most of them. Damn :/

Update, 06/11/11:
You can read more about the complex in The Modern Architecture of New Delhi: 1928-2007, a brilliant little book. Discovered that the architect of the Teen Murti Bhavan extensions is Padma Shri Mansinh M. Rana, erstwhile Chief Architect of the NDMC.


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