‘India and the World, a history in nine stories’, is an ongoing exhibition at Delhi’s National Museum that is much needed today. It is a conversation between objects from different places and times, between cultures and nations.

The fact is, though India has an exceptionally rich treasure of heritage of its own, our museums do not have anything of the world civilisation. So, in a way we live in isolation immersed in the richness of our own past. On the other hand, British Museum, thanks to British colonial era, has possessions from all over the world. That is why we needed a collaboration with the British Museum to find our own place in the world history. This exhibition does exactly that in an innovative and thought-provoking manner.

The exhibition has been weaved around nine stories, which are most interesting in their details. “Every room, or a section, in the exhibition, is a sort of a dialogue between India and the world. A lot of thought and effort has gone into creating this unique experience for the Indian audience,” says Naman Ahuja, Co Curator, of the exhibition.

This historic conversation between the India and the World begins right at the first step (or the first of the nine stories) of the exhibition. There are stone hand axes with their tear drop shape placed next to each other, one found in Africa and other in India. The theme continues unravelling one surprise after another. A small sculpture of a lady from Mesopotamia (2400 BC), placed in the same space with the famous dancing Girl from Indus Valley (2500 BC) seem to have a conversation after centuries.

One of the most fascinating display is of twin miniature works in Mughal Style. One made by an Indian Artist in India shows Mughal Emperor Jahangir holding a painting of Virgin Mary in his hands and another shows Jahangir receiving an Ambassador in his court. Only that the second miniature was made by the great Dutch master Rembrandt. This delightful conversation continues in other sections.

We have a fierce looking bronze of God Narsihma from Vijay Nagar (1600 AD) sharing space with a fierce looking Hawaiian war God, Kuka ili Moku (1750 AD). There is a head of a Kushan King from Mathura 150 AD in the company of a head of Roman King Hadrian (AD 117-138).

Then there are surprises with poignant meaning. Like I saw a delightfully done stone Ganesha that comes from Indonesia (12th century) and a beautifully carved wooden Chirst from 16th century Goa. Hindu god from Indonesia and Christ from India! Interesting. Also, seeking attention is a sitting Buddha from China sharing display space with one of the earliest Buddha sculpture from India.

Such dialogues between India of the past and the world continues through out. What it does is to put things in perspective for us and also proves in clear terms that India was an active part of the world civilisation from time immemorial.

Even the Indian pieces on display brought from around 20 museums in the country have been chosen with a lot of care. You except to see lot of gods and goddess in Chola bronze (there is an exquisite Chola Natraj on display too) but here on display is a beautiful Chola bronze Buddha.

One of the most fascinating piece is a sculpture in the form of a turban, that uses the object of turban to tell the story of renunciation Buddha. Naman Ahuja, the curator goes to great detail in explaining this sculpture, that he admits to be his favourite. It is from Phanigiri, Telangana and dates back to 150 AD, Satvahana Dynasty.

In the exhibition over 200 objects from British Museum, London and 20 museums and private collections from India are on display. The exhibition chronologically encapsulates the evolution of Indian civilization since antiquity and its interconnectedness with the outside world through a treasure trove of exquisite artefacts from India and abroad. It is a collaborative effort of the British Museum, London; National Museum, New Delhi; and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai. Overall, there are 104 important works of art from the Indian subcontinent in dialogue with 124 iconic pieces from the British Museum.

The exhibition is travelling to the national capital from Mumbai (CSMVS) where it drew an enthusiastic response. The Mumbai exhibition was better displayed in Mumbai owning to more available space as compared to Delhi’s National Museum.

The exhibition is spread over nine sections, each representing a pivotal moment in history: Shared Beginnings (1,700,000 years ago to 2000 BC), First Cities (3000–1000 BC), Empire (600 BC – AD 200), State and Faith (AD 100–750), Picturing the Divine (AD 200–1500), Indian Ocean Traders (AD 200-1650), Court Cultures (AD 1500–1800), Quest for Freedom (1800–Present), and Time Unbound. Beginning with the Indus Valley Civilisation and coming down to the present, the artefacts range from stone sculptures, terracotta, coins, tools, inscriptions and manuscripts to textiles, jewellery, Mughal miniatures and contemporary paintings, demonstrating the common threads of human history.

The setting up of the exhibition according to the people involved was anything but easy. One of the most time consuming and tricky thing was to come up with a name for the exhibition. According to people involved much deliberation took place before a name which satisfied all the parties involved, including the current prevailing sentiments in the country, could be decided upon.

Many Indians have also reacted to the exhibition with a renewed demand for getting back many priceless art objects which were taken away to Britain from India during Raj era such as the famous Amravati Marbles form the Great Stupa in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, now housed in Britsih Museum, London.

Curatorial walks and talks, besides educational activities like stone tool, Harappan seal and bead making, currency design, scroll painting, clay moulding, blindfold photography and sculpture making will be held on the side lines of the event. In addition, there will be theatre workshops, guided tours, thematic walks for kids.

The exhibition will remain open for public viewing from 6th May, 2018 to 30th June, 2018 (10 AM to 6 PM) except all Mondays and National Holidays Entry with museum ticket.