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Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune: A Display of Love, Culture and Dedication of 40 Years of a single man!

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune beholds the story of a man who single-handedly collected 20,000 historical and everyday items and dedicated the entire collection to his son.

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Hitanshu Bhatt
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Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum

Credits: BharatVerse - Medium

How far will you go to dedicate your most beloved materials in memory of your loved ones? A common man from Pune dedicated his entire life’s collection of 20,000 objects to his son and opened up a museum in his loving memory. Now regarded as Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum which was first named Raja Sangraha and then changed to Raja Kelkar Historical Collection, in memory of the owner's 10-year-old son who lost his life due to some serious illness. This museum is a repository of India's rich and diverse cultural heritage established by Dr. Dinkar G. Kelkar famously known as Kakasaheb Kelkar.

Kakasaheb was a passionate collector and connoisseur of Indian art and began amassing artefacts in 1920. His collection started modestly with everyday items and historical antiquities such as old coins, discarded locks, and toys. Initially, it was a random collection. There was no specific purpose for this as he was in his college days and practised this as a hobby. As his interest grew, he took great delight in collecting those antiquities and caring for them. He dedicatedly started visiting various places in Pune to collect things and the city gave him a lot of support while he followed his vocation. He mostly obtained the antiques through donations in addition to buying and gathering scrap metal. He had an innate ability to recognize both the items and the locations where he could gather them. 

Dr. Dinkar Gangadhar Kelkar
Dr. Dinkar Gangadhar Kelkar (Source)

The contributors 

He would go to the ancestral homes of those who had formerly been the old city's nobility, and raid their homes for worn-out and abandoned goods. Many individuals like Sardar Dixit Patwardhan and his family helped him by donating their monumental collection of paintings and giving out antiques at an almost negligible rate. Slowly and gradually by doing so, he collected many household items like elaborate jewellery, mirrors, rugs, carved wood, thick tapestries, metal utensils, gadgets, portraits, photos, and even furniture, doors and pillars. He even explored the flea markets of the city. He collected junk made of brass, copper, and iron that was sold by the kilo from one of the famous Raviwar Peth in Pune. In addition, he gathered armaments including spears, javelins, firearms, swords, and handguns created in India. 

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For things of historical relevance, he started travelling out of Pune city. He went to various places such as Belgaum, Bengaluru, the princely states of Gujarat such as Baroda and Junagadh, of Rajasthan such as Bikaner, Bundi, and Dholpur, and even distant places such as Delhi, Tanjore, Thiruvananthapuram, Trichy and Madurai. Kaka’s wife, Kamala, also travelled with him and played a crucial role in building this museum which the couple had not thought would be established in the loving memory of their child. Their child was visually impaired and passed away at the age of 10 due to a high fever and serious illness when all of this was going on. The couple lost hope and Dinker stopped stepping out of his house after his son's death. 

In honour of

No longer, he decided to dedicate his entire collection to his son and build a museum. He actively started for searching places where he could place his artefacts and needed a big one since his collection was vast. He came to know Kamalnayan Bajaj, the owner of the land where Mastani Mahal (Pune’s famous tourist spot which was built by Peshwa Baji Rao I for Mastani - the daughter of King Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand) wanted to dispose of the palace to build a factory. He asked him to sell him the land and Bajaj gave away Mastani Mahal to Kaka for almost nothing. Kaka dismantled the palace brick by brick and, together with his wife, Kamala, and his daughter Prabha, restored it in his museum with the help of a skilled carpenter, Janba Thore. 

Today, the three-storey museum holds almost 21,000 artefacts, antiquities, things of historical remains, everyday household materials, and many such things. But this is now under the Archaeology Department of the Maharashtra government. Dinker decided to give it to the government since he was not sure about the ownership of the museum but the Kelkar family still has the right to the day-to-day governing of the museum.

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What you can see 

The artefacts span various regions, time periods, and art forms, providing visitors with a holistic view of India's past.

Everyday Objects

The museum's collection of everyday objects provides a unique perspective on the daily lives of Indians throughout history. This section includes toys, kitchen utensils, tools, and household items, offering a glimpse into the domestic life of different regions and periods. These objects, though mundane in their original context, are invaluable in understanding the social and cultural history of India.

Furniture and Decorative Items

Another fascinating section of the museum is dedicated to furniture and decorative items. The collection includes intricately carved wooden furniture, ornate doors, and traditional household items such as lamps, vases, and mirrors. These pieces showcase the craftsmanship and artistry of Indian artisans, with many items featuring detailed carvings and inlay work.

Musical Instruments

One of the highlights of the museum is its extensive collection of musical instruments. These instruments, numbering in the hundreds, showcase the diversity of India's musical traditions. The collection includes rare and ancient instruments such as the sitar, sarangi, tabla, various types of flutes, and drums. Most remarkable among the percussion instruments is the "Khol" of Keshavrao Bhole, among the wind instruments the "Flute of Pannalal Ghosh," and among the string instruments, the "tanpura of Sawai Gandharva" and the "Mini Tanpura of Bal Gandharva," as well as the Taar Shehnai of Madukar Golwalkar.

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Paintings and Sculptures

The museum boasts a remarkable collection of paintings and sculptures from different regions and periods of India. The paintings range from classical works of art to folk and tribal art, each reflecting unique styles and themes of their respective periods. The sculptures include stone, wood, and metal works, depicting gods, goddesses, and everyday scenes from Indian life. These artefacts not only highlight the artistic skills of Indian artisans but also provide a glimpse into the religious and cultural practices of ancient India.

Textiles

The textiles section of the museum features a stunning array of traditional Indian fabrics and garments. The collection includes sarees, shawls, turbans, and other clothing items, each showcasing distinct weaving and embroidery techniques of different regions. The textiles reflect the rich tradition of Indian textile art, with many pieces featuring intricate patterns and vibrant colours. Some of the textiles worth witnessing are Paithanies from Paithan of Maharashtra with Jari-work and Embroider, and the Rabari garments with folk style from Kutch and Kathiawad of Gujarat.

Vanita Kaksha

The most fascinating room of this museum is the Vanita ‘Kaksha’ which means ‘A Room for the Lady.’ As the name suggests, this section is purely dedicated to women and their role in shaping the Indian culture. It was Kamala, Kaka’s wife who suggested creating a separate section just for women. A Maharashtrian woman begins her day with daily prayer at the devhara, or house shrine, of her home, according to the traditional Hindu setup. The aarti tabak, a tool for worship, and the idols of several gods and goddesses are essential components of this ceremony. Another element is the tulsi vrindavan, which is a component of the house courtyard. Her vanity box, or fani karanda, contains items like hair pins, kajal, vermillion boxes, ittar bottles, and vajri. In addition, she uses ornaments, jewellery, and textiles in addition to cooking tools including bowls, plates, and pestle & mortar. 

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Library

A library with books on Art, History and Conservation is also present in the museum and just like artefacts, Kelkar's have taken proper care to build up a collection of important books on Art, History, Architecture and so on.

For his notable contribution to preserving the treasure trove of Indian culture and diaspore which ultimately would have vanished, he was honoured by the Indian Centre for Encouraging Excellence, the FIE Foundation of Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra, Pune University and many other notable institutes. He was even made an Honorary Fellow of the Museum Association of India and was also given the membership of the Archives and Archaeological Council of Maharashtra. Dr. Dinkar Gangadhar Kelkar was also awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1981 for his contributions to the field of Science & Engineering.

The Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum is more than just a collection of artefacts, it is a celebration of India's rich and diverse cultural heritage. Through its extensive and varied collection, the museum offers a unique and comprehensive look at the artistic, social, and cultural history of India. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply a curious visitor, the museum provides an enriching and enlightening experience, making it a must-visit destination in Pune.

Where: No. 1377/78, Kamal Kunj, Bajirao Rd, Natu Baag, Shukrawar Peth, Pune, Maharashtra.

Timings: 10.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m (The Museum is open to visitors throughout the year, except for 26th January, 15th August and Anant Chaturdashi).

Fees: Rs. 30.00 for Children below 12 years.

Rs. 100 for Adults above 12 years.

Rs. 300 for Foreigners (Adult).

Rs. 100 for Foreigners (Children).

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