The National Museum spreads out over two floors of the massive National Museum building near India Gate. You enter from Gate No. 3; just before you enter, there’s the ticket counter (charges are Rs 20 per adult for Indians, Rs 500 for foreigners; no camera fee is charged for private photography, though a flash is not allowed). Past security, you turn left and go towards the main museum. On the way, a path leads towards a relatively recently inaugurated annex which includes, among other facilities, a cafeteria and a souvenir shop.
Free guided tours begin from the main foyer of the museum, on the ground floor, at fixed times, and are regularly announced. On our latest visit to the museum, in May 2022, we only wanted to visit two special exhibitions, so we skipped this tour, but if you have limited time and only want to see the highlights of the collection, this is probably a good option.
The museum has many galleries spread over two floors. There is lots of truly breathtaking stone sculpture, in particular, that I have always admired, from ancient and medieval India. Harappa, the Gupta Empire, the Mughal Empire, the great Southern kingdoms of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Vijayanagar, etc: all are represented, and many more, with artefacts of many different kinds. There’s plenty of painting, everyday goods, furniture, clothing, and other objects from all eras of India’s history. There are also some fine collections from overseas, including East Asia, and a recently inaugurated Central Asia gallery.
In addition, the Museum holds frequent special exhibitions, which are invariably carefully curated and worth seeing. The ones we saw in May were an exhibition on Kashi, and a fabulous one, comprising of some 200 paintings, of Company Art.
The museum building has toilets on every floor, drinking water, benches at strategic locations, and—a big draw with the kiddies—little DIY stations in the main corridor, beside the windows, where you can do everything from making paper necklaces (like the ones shown on famous old stone statues, materials and instructions provided) to colouring illustrations of museum exhibits. Our eight-year old had a lot of fun making a necklace. Beyond that, there’s also a little post box, with postcards provided that you can write to yourself and slip into the post box to send.
All in all, a very good introduction to India’s history and heritage. I do wish they hadn’t gone overboard in some places with the electronics; in the foyer and around, for instance, some wonderful statues have been pretty much obscured with obtrusive electronics displays in front of them.
If you live in or around Delhi and can visit the Museum frequently, I’d recommend exploring this over several visits. There’s so much to see, doing more than (say) three galleries at a go can make it too much to absorb at one time.