Sitting silently in a corner of the large and sprawling Pragati Maidan is what is called the National Crafts Museum. It is the largest crafts museum in India, and was established long years ago in 1956. As we enter the compound of the museum, we encounter the Lota Shop, run by the Handicrafts and Handloom Exports Corporation of India. Lota Shop is one of the few places in Delhi where you can buy handicrafts from every Indian state. As we stand inside, M. Hussain has just arrived from Kashmir with exquisite papier mache keychains and other articles. Right next to the shop is the Lota Cafe, where you can sit and feel the aesthetic air while devouring whatever you like to eat.

The Crafts Museum is not well known among the local people. Its silent glory must get lost somewhere in the noise of modern life. Its walls are painted with different designs, this with Madhubani and that with Mithila. You can spot Fine Arts students from different universities sitting under the shade of lush green trees, sketching, squirrels circling around them.

As we walk on, we are surprised to see a village complex with some 15 huts, each constructed like the huts in the 15 respective states of India. There’s the Kullu hut, West Bengal hut, Jammu and Kashmir hut, the Rajwar hut. This village complex area of the museum is particularly peaceful, the ideal place for people looking for a way out of chaos.

After this, there is the crafts demonstration area where artisans from various states across India work in residence for a month and also sell their products. You can always watch these artisans demonstrating their crafts and buy their products ? newly made ? at very reasonable prices. Along with artisans, a group of folk singers is also invited to perform for a full month. You will likely listen to some traditional Himachali or Rajasthani music here.

The museum hosts an 18th century chariot which was brought from Maharashtra. The chariot is designed like a temple with deities carved on it. There are different incarnations of Vishnu carved on its shikhara. Such chariots were mostly used for temple processions. This one has huge presence.

The museum galleries are just next to the chariot. These include the Gallery of Courtly Crafts, the Tribal and Rural Craft Gallery, and the Textile Gallery. The museum has gathered more than 36,000 unique and rare pieces of art, including clay works, paintings, textiles, wood and stone works. There are wooden Kinhal dolls from Karnataka as well as the clay works of Sarguja, in Chhattisgarh. In every corridor you will run into a mammoth clay work, a man mounted on a horse or maybe an elephant.

The museum has an audiovisual room, and a reference library where you can sit and read all day long. There are some very rare books available here which might not be easily available anywhere else in the city, or even the country.

The place seems all too natural and beautiful to be a part of Delhi, a city simmering in pollution. As we walk back on the path paved with bricks, and out of the museum, we realise that on entering we had completely neglected its door. It stands with grand stature, looking as old as the fort beside it.

(Mehdi Khawaja writes about books, Kashmir, Delhi, the Middle East and Islam. He studies English literature at Jamia Millia Islamia.)