Vaishali Museum

Vaishali museum was established by Archaeological Survey of India in 1971 to preserve and display the antiquities found during exploration and excavation of sites associated with ancient Vaishali which was one of the oldest and largest cities of India in early historical period. Lord Mahavir is belied to be born here. However Vaishali is best known for its association with Buddha and Buddhism.

The mucleus of this museum was a small collection of antiquities by a local villager in pre Independence days. This collection was subsequently taken over by a local museum controlled by Vishali Sangh. With the establishment of present museum by the Archaeological Survey of India, all the antiquities were donated to it by the Vaishali Sangh. In addition the antiquities found through explorations and excavation of adjoining sites by different agencies over a long span of time are also housed in this museum. The construction of building was completed in 1967 but it was opened for the public in 1971.

The museum faces to the east. It consist of four galleries around a central courtyard. The museum possesses about two thousand antiquities of which about 650 are on display. The antiquities belong to different periods stetaching from 600 B.C. to 1200 A.D. and throw significant light on Maurya, Sunga, Kushan, Gupta and early medival cultures.

In the museum is placed a large fibre glass scale model 0f Kolhua site which was excavated by Archaeological Survey of India during 1988-99 and has emerged as the most revealing structural site of ancient Vaishali. A large schematic section of Vaishali showing its cultural sequence is also displayed for better understanding of the site.

A prize collection of the museum is a sctlpture of Buddha carved out in black basalt stone and is datable to pala period (9th – 10th Century A.D.) The deity is shown seated cross legged over double petalled lotus in bhumisparsh mudra under the bodhi tree representing the enlightenment. He is shown with a beautifully delineated trefoil crown and wears attractive ornaments like necklace, earrings, etc. The stele is also well decorated with fine details.

There is a headless sculpture of Buddha in bhumisparsh mudra on the pedestal of which is shown monkey offering honey to Buddah representing the event of Vaishali Miracle. Another important sculpture is a small votive stupa of black basalt stone at the base of which are carved, in the four directions, Buddha in different mudras. In addition there are sculptures of Brahmanical affiliation like Vishnu, Uma-Maheswar etc. A crocodile faced pranala for draining out water from temple is also interesting.

The collection of moulded bricks and brick tiles from a significant group of collection. On one of the brick tile a beautiful female head is carved with a very fine delineation of features like eyes, nose and lips which enliven the image. The head dress, hair band and ear lobes are also well depicted. Another brick tile depicts a seated crowned Bodhisttva in abhay mudra.

There are a large number of pots and potsherds of which the Northern Black Polished ware are remarkable for its shining glaze sometimes with a reddish or golden shade. A variety of shapes are there like basin, bowl, dish, jar, handi & plate.

Mother goddess, mother & child, naigamesh and other terracoptta human figurines represented by bust and torso of male as well as female are one of the main attractions of the museum together with terracotta animal figureness like elephant, horse, bull, dog, monkey, snake,ram, birds etc. terracotta cart, rattle, weight, bead, ball, dabber, skin rubber, seal & sealing and moulds are also noteworthy. The terracotta toilet pan discovered from the swastika shaped monastery at Kolhua is a unique collection in the museum.

The museum has a rich collection of coins which includes the silver and copper punch marked coins, the copper cast coins and the Islamic coins of silver and copper. The beads made of terracotta and semi precious stones alongwith pendants, ear studs etc. indicate the high taste of ornamentation. Other antiquities include bangles, antler, bone point, antimony rod, dice, stone mould, crucible & casket, ivory objects, iron and copper implements like knife, nail, bell, arrow head etc.

With such a rich collection, the museum enlivens the life style of ancient Vaishali and establishes that museum is not simply a collection of antiquities.